It happens when you’re getting dolled up for a night out. You put on your makeup, take out your jewelry, and peel back your hair to put in a sexy pair of hoops, only to notice tiny little dots which appear to be blackheads in your ear.
Often, blackheads in the ear go unnoticed because they are a milder form of acne that causes less discomfort, and most of us don’t spend much time checking out our ears. If you’re starting to second guess your personal hygiene practices, don’t worry. We tend to be so hyper-focused on what’s going on in our faces that we forget to check out parts of the body that may need a little extra care.
|Pimple||Description||Inflammatory vs Non-Inflammatory|
|Blackhead||Small Black pimples
Clogged with dead skin and excess oil
Exposed to and oxidized by air
|Whitehead||Small white pimples
Clogged with dead skin and excess oil
Not exposed to or oxidize by air
Sensitive to touch
|Pustules||White or yellow pimples with a red ring
Inflamed, pus-filled pores
Sensitive to touch
Blackheads can appear anywhere on our skin, especially in areas with crevices that are more prone to accumulating dirt and oil. Ear blackheads are usually not problematic unless the pore opens up and it becomes infected causing pain, redness, pus or swelling.
If you’re wondering what to do about blackheads in the ear, you’re in the right place. From cleansers to unclog your pores, to revolutionary pore vacuums, we’ve got all the current information to treat your nasty ear blackheads and prevent them from returning!
What Causes Blackheads in Ear?
Blackheads are caused by the accumulation of dirt and oil inside an open pore. Blackheads on your outer ear and ear canal are common; your ears are especially vulnerable because they’re lined with hundreds of tiny hair follicles which secrete a waxy oil called cerumen, in addition to sebum oil, produced by the sebaceous glands which contribute to the oiliness on your face. Yuck!
But what did you do to get blackheads in your ear? Surely you, someone who takes half-hour morning showers and spends a quarter of your paycheck on premium makeup and skincare products, wouldn’t be prone to clogged pores?
Well, honey, there are a lot of possible causes for why you all of a sudden have anything but sexy ear canals.
The most common reasons for blackheads in ear:
- Dirty pillowcases
- Cell phones
Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Neglect is a common reason people develop blackheads and pimples in their ears. Due to the shape of the ear, it’s very prone to accumulating oil and dirt. Since our ears don’t stare at us dead-center in the mirror like our other facial features, we tend not to notice blemishes, and it’s easy to forget that our ears need cleansing too. Shampooing your hair alone isn’t always enough; often, a build-up of shampoo, which wasn’t properly rinsed off, and other hair products can cause bacteria to form in our ears too.
As gross as it sounds, after just a few days of use, sheets and pillowcases accumulate enough oil, dirt, and bacteria to cause breakouts on your face. If you’re familiar with this, you’ll know that cotton pillowcases are being tossed out and swapped for satin pillowcases and other materials that are favorable for acne-prone skin. The same idea is true for blackheads. Your pillowcase may be the largest hub for the dirt and oil causing nasty ear blackheads. While silk is recommended for acne breakouts, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to change pillowcases every few days. The more time you spend sleeping, watching TV, or working remotely from under the covers, the more filthy pore-clogging substances your bedding will acquire.
Check out Silvon Anti-Acne Silver Infused Pillowcase:
Oil and Dirt on Cell Phones
These days, since most of our communication takes place over social media, most of us recoil in horror at the sight of an actual phone call and avoid placing a phone to our ear. However, the transfer of dirt and bacteria from our phones to our faces happens in the most innocent of transactions.
You know when you’re holding your phone, trying to do subtle duck lips in a Snapchat selfie, you decide this pose would look better if you show off your new anniversary earrings from Bae? Chances are you won’t wash your hands before touching your ears. A few years ago, many news outlets published findings that the average cell phone is seven to ten times dirtier than a toilet seat. Just think of all the times you touch your phone and your face in a day!
Covering the skin, or occlusion, is another reason ears are prone to developing blackheads. Wearing earbud headphones or earplugs regularly prevents the skin from shedding dead skin cells and favors extra oil production. Using wireless earbuds during intense cardio sessions may be the most convenient way to listen to music at the gym, but one of the most welcoming ways to invite ear blackheads!
Swap your earbuds for a pair of over-ear headphones when you're at the office or working from home. Take them off whenever you're not using them to allow your pores to breathe.
Ear Blackhead Removal
Fortunately, blackheads are a milder form of acne and are easier to treat. The tricky part is, due to the structure and size of our ears, extracting ear blackheads isn’t as easy as tackling the ones in our t-zone: the forehead, chin, and nose.
Proper Hygiene for Ear Blackheads
Similar to blackheads in the nose, you may find that properly rinsing and cleansing with warm water will be a sufficient way to treat them in the ear. Soak a cotton ball or Q-tip in warm water and gently wash the inside and outside of your ear after you shower to ensure you’ve removed all the remaining dirt and product buildup you may have missed.
Cleanser with Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is a member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) family, a group of organic acids that naturally occur in fruits, sugar cane, and milk and are often found in skincare products. It promotes the skin’s cell turnover, making it a favorable ingredient in products that improve skin tone and texture. In high concentration, it is used in chemical peels to treat acne, oily skin, and even fine lines and wrinkles. For blackheads, it works by penetrating clogged pores to remove oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. The exfoliating process further prevents blackheads from reoccurring by shrinking the pore size and regulating oil production.
Neutrogena Bright Boost Resurfacing Micro Polish With Glycolic and Mandelic Acid
Treat those ear blackheads while simultaneously polishing your skin with Neutrogena Bright Boost Resurfacing Polish. Part of the Neutrogena Bright Boost collection, the resurfacing polish is a facial scrub and cleanser intended to brighten your skin and improve its tone and texture. The gentle exfoliating properties remove dirt, oil, and impurities from your pores.
Along with Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid is another member of the AHA family, which helps to regulate sebum production, unclog pores, and reduce inflammation, resulting in fewer blackheads and acne breakouts.
- Dual-action chemical and physical exfoliation
- Naturally derived skin smoothing agents
- Glycolic & Mandelic AHAs to support skin cell turnover
- Unclogs pores by cleansing away dirt, oil and bacteria
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser with Glycolic Acid
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal is a daily scrub facial cleanser with Glycolic Acid. The exfoliating gel can be part of your morning skincare regime to help treat and prevent blackheads in the ear and elsewhere on your face. Its gentle exfoliating properties resurface the skin for a smoother, brighter, more youthful appearance.
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Glycolic Acid to brighten skin and reduce wrinkles
- Exfoliating micro-pearls
- Purifies skin by dissolving impurities.
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to using a cleanser with glycolic acid, you can manually exfoliate your ears using an exfoliating washcloth or facial buffer. Exfoliation involves removing the dead skin cells which clog pores and lead to blackheads and pimple breakouts. Take a dry washcloth or exfoliating pad, dampen it with warm water, and gently rub the crevices of the ears.
Exfoliation should not be performed daily, especially on sensitive and delicate skin. Over-exfoliation can aggravate the skin, leaving it dry, flaky, and irritated. It can also lead to acne and oily skin, as it strips away the skin’s defense against bacteria and depletes its natural oils, causing it to produce more oil.
Remember having sleepovers when we were younger and doing those cheap drugstore facial masks? We’d each choose a packet and have no idea what the type of mask was actually for. Well, clay and mud-based masks are an effective way to treat and prevent blackheads, including the ones in the ear. Clay masks open clogged pores, absorb excess oil and dirt, and reduce inflammation. While applying a clay mask to your ear is trickier than the t-zone, the same basic steps apply.
How to get rid of blackheads in the ear using a clay mask:
- Wash your face and ears with cleanser and a washcloth soaked in warm water to remove excess dirt and oil and allow pores to open
- Apply a thin, even layer of the clay mask to the affected areas of your ear
- Leave the mask applied on the skin for 10-15 minutes; leaving clay masks on your face until they are completely dry will dry out your skin and cause irritation
- Rinse your ears thoroughly with a lukewarm washcloth or cotton ball soaked in warm water and pat dry with a clean towel
- Repeat once or twice a week, depending on your skin’s sensitivity.
Acne Medication and Skin Care Products with Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide
Over-the-counter topical acne medications and skincare products can also be used as an effective way to remove blackheads in your ear. Products that target acne often contain Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid, ingredients which work on the deeper layers of the skin.
Salicylic Acid vs. Benzoyl Peroxide for Blackheads
|Salicylic Acid||Benzoyl Peroxide|
|Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)||Organic acid in the peroxide family|
|Penetrates pores to remove excess dirt and oil||Penetrates pores to remove excess dirt and oil|
|Exfoliating properties||Antimicrobial properties|
|Does not kill acne-causing bacteria||Kills acne-causing bacteria|
|Best for blackheads and whiteheads||Best for red, pus-filled pimples|
|Recommended for sensitive skin||Recommended for oily skin|
Neutrogena Stubborn Blackheads Daily Serum Salicylic Acne Treatment with Salicylic Acid
As its name suggests, Neutrogena Stubborn Blackheads Daily Serum is designed specifically for targeting blackheads; even hard-to-treat ones in the crevices of your ears. This lightweight serum can be applied daily to help treat blackheads and pimples and prevent future breakouts. It contains 0.5 % Salicylic Acid to penetrate the pores and remove the debris causing blackheads, along with a blend of other acids, including Glycolic Acid, to exfoliate the skin and shrink pores.
- 10% blend of Glycolic + Mandelic + Polyhydroxy Acid
- 0.5 % Salicylic Acid
- Suitable for oily and acne-prone skin
- Targets existing blackheads and pimples
- Prevents future breakouts
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant with Salicylic Acid
Paul’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a best-selling skincare product for blackheads, blemishes, enlarged pores, and fine lines and wrinkles. The gentle exfoliant can be left on the skin and used daily to reveal radiant, toned, youthful skin. It contains highly effective BHA Salicylic Acid, which mimics the natural exfoliation process to shed dead skin while unclogging and clearing pores.
- Unclogs and clears pores
- Smooths and evens skin tone
- Suitable for all skin types
- Green tea extract to soothe skin
- 2 % Salicylic Acid for exfoliation
OXY Advanced Care Maximum Strength Rapid Spot Treatment with Prebiotics and Benzoyl Peroxide
If you’re looking for a maximum-strength topical treatment for stubborn blackheads and acne, OXY Advanced Care Maximum Strength Rapid Spot Treatment with Prebiotics may be for you. Its powerful formula contains 10% Benzoyl Peroxide, clinically proven to kill acne-causing bacteria within 8 hours of application, and skin-balancing, plant-based prebiotics to help restore your skin barrier and prevent future outbreaks. The cream can be applied to the affected ears of your face and ears to unclog pores and reduce redness.
- 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
- Improved formula with skin-balancing prebiotics
- Kills acne bacteria
- Clears clogged pores
- Suitable for blackheads and inflammatory acne
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel with Benzoyl Peroxide
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel is clinically proven to reduce the size and redness of acne pimples within a few hours of application. Its key ingredient, benzoyl peroxide, not only kills bacteria contributing to acne but also prevents and clears out clogged pores, making it an effective treatment for stubborn ear blackheads.
- 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
- Dermatologist recommended
- Rapidly reduces the size of blemishes within 2 hours
- Clears pores and prevents future breakouts
Oral Prescription Acne Medication
Most people who are prone to blackheads in the ear find over-the-counter, topical medication and cleansers to be effective. However, your dermatologist may recommend an oral prescription medication if you have recurring blackheads or blackheads along with more severe, inflammatory types of acne. These medications kill bacteria that cause blemishes or regulate hormone changes that lead to breakouts.
- Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics treat acne blemishes rooted deep in the pore and caused by a bacterial infection beneath the skin.
- Birth Control Pills: Prescription birth control pills containing estrogen may be prescribed if your doctor believes the cause of your blackheads is hormonal.
- Oral Isotretinoin: For more severe acne, your doctor may prescribe oral isotretinoin, a retinoid that clears clogged pores by reducing the oil production of the skin glands and killing bacteria.
For some people, there’s nothing more satisfying than popping a pimple or squeezing out the contents of a blackhead or whitehead. While both methods can lead to scarring and are not recommended, sucking up a blackhead with a professional at-home extraction tool may be a satisfying alternative!
Blackhead Remover Vacuum by Luluu
With so many pore vacuums to choose from to treat blackheads, the Blackhead Remover Vacuum by Luluuu is one of the highest-rated on Amazon. It features a hot compress function to allow you to gently massage and open up the pores before sucking the blackheads out. With five levels of suction allowing a more delicate suction level for sensitive skin, it makes it great for removing blackheads in the ear.
- Hot compress function
- 5 suction levels for all skin types
- Remove whiteheads and blackheads
- Exfoliates skin
- Tightens and refines pores for firmer skin
Steps to using a blackhead vacuum at home:
- Wash and rinse your face with a mild cleanser and warm water to open pores and loosen debris
- Disinfect the tip of the vacuum with hydrogen peroxide
- Plug in your charged device
- Position the vacuum tip directly over the ear blackhead
- Turn on the vacuum
- Gently Slide over the blackhead and surrounding area in circular motions for a few seconds
- Repeat for a maximum of three times in one area
CLINIQUE Blackhead Solutions Self-Heating Blackhead Extractor
The Blackhead Solutions Self-Heating Blackhead Extractor by CLINIQUE is a gentle and effective treatment to reduce blackheads without pain or damaging the skin. Its unique formula activates when combined with warm water, creating a warming sensation that allows the clogged pores to open up and release dirt and oil, causing blackheads.
- Thermal Active Technology loosens dirt to unclog pores
- Features a potent blend of Salicylic Acid and Glucosamine
- Gentle and effective way to extract ear blackheads
- Works in 15-30 seconds
Blackhead Extractor Tools
If you’ve been searching for the best ear blackhead removal tool, you may have come across sets of stainless steel extractors which look similar to those used by your dental hygienist. Dermatologists use these stainless steel comedone extractors to remove blackheads and other types of pimples. Most dermatologists do not recommend using these tools at home; however, if you feel confident to do so, it is crucial to sterilize your tools before using them and treat the area with rubbing alcohol after to prevent infection.
Pros and Cons of Using Extractor Tools at Home for Ear Blackheads
|Stainless steel tools are easy to sterilize||Must be sterilized properly before use|
|Lightweight and portable||Not recommended for beginner use|
|Less expensive than blackhead and pore vacuums||Can leave scarring or infection when performed improperly|
|Quicker way to remove blackheads than cleanser or medication||Does not prevent future blackheads and outbreaks|
|Easy to use on blackheads and whiteheads on the face||Hard to use on ear blackheads|
When to See a Dermatologist for Ear Blackheads
Most blackheads in the ear can be treated at home with cleansers, exfoliation, and proper cleaning. If you suspect your blackhead has become infected, you attempted extraction, and it failed, or you have recurring blackheads in your ear, or any pain and swelling, it may be time to visit a dermatologist.
Infected Blackhead in Ear
While most blackheads in the ear can be safely and effectively treated at home, too much tampering, especially with removal tools or your fingers, can cause the blackhead to become infected. Attempting to remove an infected blackhead at home will likely worsen the condition.
Pain, redness, swelling, and pus at the site of the blackhead are all signs of inflammation. You should immediately stop attempting to treat the blackhead yourself and call your dermatologist or a healthcare provider! Trained professionals can safely remove blackheads and pus and prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading
Painful Blackhead in Ear Canal
Blackheads in the ear canal are particularly painful because of the presence of cartilage. Any inflammation around cartilage, such as in the nose or ear, will be notably sensitive. When a blackhead is painful, that’s a sign of inflammation. The ear canal is not easily visible or accessible to treat ourselves, which is why if you have a blackhead or pimple deep in your ear canal, it’s a good idea to visit your dermatologist.
Recurring Blackheads in Ear
If your ear blackheads won’t respond to treatments performed at home or if you have frequent blackheads, a dermatologist will likely be able to suggest an effective solution. Dermatologists can perform surgical and cosmetic procedures, diagnose skin conditions, and prescribe medications accordingly. They may also recommend adjusting your hygiene and skincare routines to prevent future blackhead outbreaks.
How to Get Rid of Blackheads in Ear: Esthetician vs. Dermatologist
Understanding the difference between the roles of estheticians and dermatologists is essential when it comes to skincare. While both are considered skincare professionals, estheticians focus on the cosmetic appearance of your skin, while dermatologists treat the health of the skin while also offering cosmetic solutions to skin-related problems. Of course, price is a big difference if dermatologists are not covered under your healthcare insurance; a trip to the salon is typically cheaper than to a healthcare provider.
Estheticians can certainly remove blackheads as part of a facial treatment. So if your issue is that the blackhead on your ear is in an awkward spot, they have the proper tools to get at it. However, if your blackhead is in your ear canal or painful, it may be best to see a dermatologist.
We hope this article has provided you with a strong understanding of what causes blackheads in your ear and ear blackhead removal techniques. Here is a couple of final ear blackhead FAQ:
Blackheads in Ear: FAQ
How to Pop Blackheads in Ear
Blackheads can drive us nuts when we are so close to extracting the little buggers out of our skin. Popping blackheads is never advisable, especially in sensitive areas like the inside of our noses and ears. Gentle ways to unclog the pores, such as exfoliation or medicated cleansers, are a much safer way to treat ear blackheads at home.
How to Prevent Ear Blackheads
- Cleanse your ears as part of your daily beauty routine
- Swap your earbuds for over-ear headphones
- Disinfect your headphones after the gym or all-day use
- If you sleep with earplugs, discard them nightly
- Change your pillowcase every few days
- Avoid touching your ears with unclean hands
- Disinfect your cell phone regularly
- Clean your ears and face after workouts
- Exfoliate your ears and face at least once a week
Products which may trigger comedones are called comedogenic. Choose makeup labeled non-comedogenic, as they are less likely to clog pores and contribute to acne.
Stop! Don’t pop! Effectively Take Care of Your Ear Blackheads
They happen to the best of us; blackheads in the ear aren’t always a sign of poor hygiene or improper skin care. As tempting as it may be to pop or squeeze a nasty ear blackhead, there are many safe ways to treat blackheads and prevent clogged pores. Remember to incorporate your ears into your daily skincare hygiene routine! Interested in the best acne treatments for teens? Read on to find out more!