In colloquial terminology, the words “pimple” and “acne” are often used interchangeably. However, this synonymity is not entirely accurate. While the two are definitely related, acne is a far broader term that includes a variety of skin conditions, whereas pimples are a symptomatic manifestation of acne. A pimple can range from a whitehead or a blackhead to a cyst or a nodule, all of which fall under the purview of acne.
Contrary to popular belief, acne is common among but is not exclusive to adolescents and can afflict people of all ages. In fact, acne is the most common skin problem in the United States with about 40 to 50 million Americans being afflicted by it at some point in their life, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Although pimples, also referred to as zits, can show up anywhere on the body, they often tend to form in areas with increased skin cells, hair follicles, and oil-producing glands. All these three elements are found in the ear wattle, ear canal, and ear cartilage and behind or near your ears, making them common sites for a pimple to take root. However, because your ear is largely devoid of fat, a pimple in your ear can be very painful. Moreover, the tricky and concealed location of an ear pimple makes it quite inaccessible compared with the pimples on your face, neck, chest, and back. Thus, treating such a pimple requires extra caution and care because, if popped incorrectly, the discharge from an ear pimple can get lodged further into the ear canal, resulting in obstruction and inflammation.
Pimples occur when the pores in your skin get blocked with excessive oil or sebum, dead skin cells, or bacteria. When this debris is covered by a thin layer of skin, it gives the appearance of a pus-filled whitehead. On the other hand, when the sebum gets exposed to oxygen in the absence of a skin covering the pore, it turns dark and forms a blackhead. If the whiteheads and blackheads remain unresolved for long enough, the sac under the skin can rupture, become irritated, and even infected, giving rise to inflammatory acne. This progression of the condition is characterized by the occurrence of red and tender papule and pustules, nodules, and even fluid-filled cysts.
Some common reasons behind the development of a pimple in the ear include:
- Poor hygiene
- Extreme winter and summer weather
- Wearing hats or helmets
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Infection or keloid bump due to ear piercing or injury
- Using low-quality cosmetics
- Getting beach sand in your ear
- Certain medicines (specifically corticosteroids and contraceptive pills)
- Poor diet
- Excess stress
- Overactive oil glands that produce too much sebum
Signs and Symptom
- Pimples in the ears can be very tender and cause mild pain. They can also give a false impression that your ears are dirty.
- When the infesting bacteria multiply within the affected skin pore, there can be swelling, redness, and pus.
- Clean your ears regularly to prevent the buildup of oil, grime, and dead skin cells.
- Avoid touching your ears with dirty fingers.
- Choose your hair and face care products carefully, as they can be reasons for pimples in your ears. Conventional cleansers can be too harsh on your skin, and it’s therefore recommended to use a pH-balancing cleanser.
- Always keep your cell phone and earphones clean, as they can contribute to the development of acne in your ears.
- However, avoid scrubbing your ears as it can irritate the sensitive skin. Instead, wash your ears gently, and pat them dry with a towel after taking a shower and after exercising.
- Eat less processed foods and fast foods.
- Include more whole foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
When to See a Doctor
See your doctor if the pimples do not heal within a week or two or there are signs of infection.
Whether huge or little, you can treat pimples with acne medications, antibiotics, and over-the-counter acne medications. Also, pimples in your ears can be treated with some simple and effective home remedies.
Here are the best home remedies to deal with pimples in the ear.
1. Warm Compress
To take care of a pimple in the ear, a warm compress can be extremely useful in opening the jammed pore, thereby allowing the pimple to dry out on its own. The warmth from the compress also helps reduce any pain associated with pimples.
Heat also helps reduce inflammation and irritation, which in turn can soften a pimple to bring the pus to the surface. Once the discharge oozes out of the pore, the affected area should be carefully and thoroughly disinfected with a mild soap or cleanser to prevent the recurrence or spread of bacteria.
- Soak a washcloth in warm water and squeeze out the excess water.
- Apply the warm compress on the ear for 5 minutes.
- Use a gentle cleanser, like witch hazel or alcohol, to wash the ear.
- Use this remedy twice daily for a few days.
2. Ice Pack
If your agonizing ear pimple is puffy and causing a lot of pain, an ice pack can be highly beneficial.
The cold temperature will slow down the blood flow and reduce the inflammation by tightening up the skin temporarily. It also helps reduce the redness.
Even the American Academy of Dermatology recommends ice compress as an effective treatment for pain due to pimples.
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a thin, clean towel.
- Rub the pimple with the ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat a few times a day.
3. Honey and Cinnamon
Both honey and cinnamon can help alleviate acne due to their antimicrobial properties.
Also, both ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties that help deal with the pain and swelling associated with a pimple.
A 2017 study published in Scientia Pharmaceutica reports that the combination of cinnamon bark extract and honey is effective against acne-causing bacteria.
- Thoroughly mix 1 teaspoon of honey and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder.
- Apply it on the acne-affected area.
- Allow it to sit for 10 minutes, and then wash it off with warm water.
- Repeat once or twice a day.
4. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is excellent for treating pimples in the ears. Its potent antibacterial properties help combat the bacteria at the root of this skin problem. Plus, it also engenders a soothing effect to reduce the redness and inflammation caused by pimples.
A 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology reports that topical application of 5 percent tea tree oil is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
- Dilute 1 part tea tree oil with 10 parts water.
- Mix well and dip a cotton ball in it.
- Hold the soaked cotton ball on the pimple for 10 minutes.
- Wipe off the area using a clean cotton ball.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
Widely acknowledged as a panacea for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments, turmeric has earned a reputation as a recuperative agent for acne.
It prevents pimples from forming by proactively killing the bacteria that cause it. It is also a good anti-inflammatory agent that reduces the inflammation caused by pimples.
A 2013 study published in the Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin reports that the curcumin in turmeric exhibits antimicrobial activity that inhibits P. acnes bacteria that are often responsible for acne.
- Mix equal amounts of turmeric and honey, and then apply the mixture directly on the pimple. Leave it on overnight. The next morning, rinse it off with cool water. Do this once daily.
- You can also add 1 teaspoon of turmeric to 1 glass of warm milk, and drink this mixture regularly before going to bed to prevent pimples.
6. Aloe Vera
Another good remedy for treating pimples in the ears is aloe vera.
It has antibacterial properties and can treat the redness, swelling, and inflammation of the affected skin.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found aloe vera to be very effective for the treatment of mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
- Cut open a leaf from an aloe vera plant.
- Extract the gel and apply it on the pimple and the inflamed area.
- Leave it on for 20 minutes before cleaning it off with a cotton ball soaked in water.
- Repeat twice daily for several days until you get positive results.
7. Neem (Indian Lilac)
Neem, also known as Indian lilac, has antifungal, antibacterial, and blood-purifying properties that make it one of the best remedies for pimples anywhere on the body, including your ears.
Neem kills the bacteria that cause pimples and can prevent them from coming back.
A 2014 study published in the Indian Journal of Research in Homoeopathy reports that neem has a role in the early and recovery phases of acne when inflammatory changes are minimal. However, further study on a larger sample size is warranted.
- Grind a few neem leaves thoroughly to form a paste. Mix a pinch of turmeric powder into the paste. Apply it on the pimple. Leave it on for 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water. Do this once daily.
- Alternatively, you can apply neem oil on the pimple twice daily to help it heal quickly. Make sure to dilute the neem oil in 2 teaspoons of any carrier oil, such as coconut oil, before applying.
User Recommended Remedies
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Despite the lack of adequate scientific backing, apple cider vinegar has emerged as a time-trusted anecdotal remedy for pimples.
However, there is one study that gives credence to the antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.
Thus, apple cider vinegar works as a natural astringent and antibacterial agent that open up the clogged pores and eliminate the infection-causing bacteria, helping expedite the recovery process.
- Mix 1 part raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 3 parts water.
- Dip a cotton ball in the solution.
- Apply it directly on the pimple.
- Leave it on for 10 minutes, and then clean the area thoroughly using a few cotton balls dipped in water.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times daily for quick results.
Aspirin, which relieves headaches, can also be used to treat pimples.
The salicylic acid in aspirin helps treat pimples by removing the oil and dead skin cells that are clogging the skin pores. It also helps reduce pain and inflammation.
- Crush 2 or 3 aspirin tablets and mix them with a little lemon juice or just plain water to form a paste.
- Apply it to the affected area.
- Leave it on for a few minutes before washing it off thoroughly.
- Repeat once daily.
3. White Toothpaste
Your regular toothpaste can also be used to treat pimples quickly. It is most effective when used following the ice pack remedy.
However, only use white toothpaste and avoid using gel or flavored toothpaste.
- Apply some white toothpaste on the pimple before going to bed.
- The next morning, clean it off using a damp washcloth or a cotton ball soaked in water.
- If you wish, you can repeat the process in the daytime also.
- Do not squeeze a pimple as it can lead to the transfer of the infected discharge onto other areas of the skin, worsening the problem.
- Do not scratch or scrape a pimple with your nails, as it can cause scarring.
- Acne. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/acne.
- Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/orthopaedic_disorders/ice_packs_vs_warm_compresses_for_pain_85,p00918.
- Pimple popping: Why only a dermatologist should do it. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/pimple-popping-why-only-a-dermatologist-should-do-it.
- Julianti E, Rajah KK, Fidrianny I. Antibacterial Activity of Ethanolic Extract of Cinnamon Bark, Honey, and Their Combination Effects against Acne-Causing Bacteria. Scientia Pharmaceutica. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5489923/. Published April 11, 2017.
- Enshaieh S, Jooya A, Siadat AH, Iraji F. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Indian journal of dermatology, venereology, and leprology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314442. Published 2007.
- Liu CH, Huang HY. In vitro anti-propionibacterium activity by curcumin containing vesicle system. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23546001. Published 2013.
- Hajheydari Z, Saeedi M, Morteza-Semnani K, Soltani A. Effect of Aloe vera topical gel combined with tretinoin in treatment of mild and moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, prospective trial. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23336746. Published April 2014.
- Miglani A, Manchanda RK. Azadirachta indica in treatment of acne vulgaris-an open-label observational study. Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy. http://www.ijrh.org/article.asp?issn=0974-7168;year=2014;volume=8;issue=4;spage=218;epage=223;aulast=Miglani. Published December 18, 2014.
- Yagnik D, Serafin V, Shah AJ. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans ; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific Reports. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-18618-x. Published January 29, 2018.
- Thomsen JS, Benfeldt E, Jensen SB, Serup J, Menné T. Topically applied aspirin decreases histamine-induced wheal and flare reactions in normal and SLS-inflamed skin, but does not decrease itch. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled human study. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12013195. Published 2002.