Pimples can form on any area of skin that has oil-secreting pores, including the earlobes.
Beneath the skin’s surface are glands that produce an oily substance that keeps the skin moist. This substance is called sebum.
Sebum travels to the surface through pores in the skin. When the glands produce an excess of sebum, it can collect and mix with dead skin cells to clog the pores. This can lead to blemishes, such as pimples.
Clogged pores can be ideal homes for Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria. Growing numbers of these bacteria can lead to inflammation, causing blemishes to become red, painful, or otherwise uncomfortable.
Sometimes, this process occurs in the skin of the earlobe.
Below, we look at what other factors contribute to pimples forming on the earlobe, as well as how to get rid of them and prevent them from returning.
Clogged pores can lead to several types of pimple, including:
- whiteheads — closed blemishes with white or yellowish centers
- blackheads — open plugged pores with black tops
- papules — small red bumps that may feel tender
- pustules — small red bumps with white, pus-filled tops
- nodules — large, firm bumps deep within the skin
- cysts — large, painful, pus-filled lumps within the skin
These pimples form when dead skin cells, sebum, and sometimes bacteria clog the pores.
In the case of papules and pustules, the blockage includes bacteria and breaks down the walls of the pore, so that the pimple forms deeper within the skin and becomes larger than a whitehead or blackhead.
Nodules and cysts form due to severe irritation of the pore, resulting in a bigger, deeper, more inflamed bump or lump.
Certain factors make pimples more likely to form, on the earlobes or other areas:
- Age: Pimples are most common in teenage years, but they can develop at any age.
- Hormones: Fluctuations —during pregnancy or from birth control, for example — can affect sebum production.
- Medications: Any that contain corticosteroids, androgens, or lithium can trigger pimples.
- Family history: Genetics can play a role.
- Oily products: Grease, skin creams, hair products, and cosmetics can clog the pores.
- Pressure or friction: Contact from clothing and things like headbands, helmets, and even cellphones can contribute to pimples.
Treatment for pimples, on the earlobe or elsewhere, depends on their severity.
Most whiteheads and blackheads go away without treatment. However, for other types of pimple, or for severe or persistent pimples,
Over-the-counter creams, gels, and lotions can reduce mild outbreaks of blemishes. Effective treatments may contain:
- benzoyl peroxide, which can reduce sebum production and kill P. acnes bacteria
- resorcinol, which may break down whiteheads and blackheads
- salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation
- sulfur, which can unblock pores and kill P. acnes
A doctor can prescribe treatments for more severe or persistent pimples. These treatments may be:
- antibiotics, which can reduce bacteria populations and inflammation
- retinoids, which help unplug pores
- drainage and extraction, a procedure to remove cysts
- steroid injections, which help treat nodules and cysts
Some home remedies and care strategies can help get rid of a pimple on the earlobe or at least reduce its size. A person might:
- Apply a warm compress: The heat can help open the pore and support the release of the buildup.
- Use tea tree oil: Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties can help, but make sure to dilute it before applying it to the skin.
- Apply an ice pack: The cold can reduce any inflammation and pain after pore is unblocked.
Never pop or squeeze a pimple. Doing so can push the blockage further into the skin and worsen inflammation. It can also lead to:
- a more noticeable pimple
To prevent pimples from forming, on the earlobe or elsewhere:
- Wash the area twice a day: This will help keep a lot of dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria from building up.
- Shampoo the hair regularly: Greasy hair can cause excess oil to spread to the earlobe and nearby skin.
- Be gentle with the skin: Avoid harsh or rough exfoliants, astringents, and toners.
- Use oil-free products: These skin, hair, and cosmetic products may be labeled “non-comedogenic.”
- Remove makeup before bed: Even non-comedogenic makeup can contribute to pimples forming if worn for longer periods.
- Keep hairsprays and gels away from the skin: They can clog the pores around the earlobes.
- Wash hats and pillowcases regularly: This prevents bacteria and dead skin cells from collecting and coming into contact with the skin.
- Make sure sports gear is clean and comfortably fitting: Helmets and other protective equipment can trap sweat and bacteria against the skin, especially if the fit is too tight.
A pimple on the earlobe develops when the pore is clogged by sebum, dead skin cells, and sometimes bacteria.
Many treatments, remedies, and home care strategies can help reduce pimples and prevent future breakouts.
Keeping skin clean is always important, but some types of acne require professional treatment.