Dry skin in the ears: causes and treatment


Dry skin in and around your ears can be uncomfortable, itchy, and even painful. The skin may appear red and scaly. In severe cases, the skin around the ears can even become infected. Dry skin has a variety of causes, and the skin around the ears can become dry due to environmental factors like cold, dry air or chronic skin conditions like psoriasis.

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There are several possible causes of dry skin in your ears, and most can be categorized as environmental, part of aging, or resulting from a chronic skin condition.


Dry outer ears can be caused by allergens or environmental irritants. Once the skin is irritated, it can become dry, red, and itchy. If you have sensitive skin, you may be at a higher risk for contact dermatitis.

The following are examples of environmental irritants that can affect the ears:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • moisturizer
  • Soap
  • Perfume
  • Hair care products

If you have dry skin in your ears, think about all the products that may have come into contact with your ears. Did you just switch to a new shampoo? The first step may be to stop using the new product and see if your skin improves.

It is also possible to experience dryness and irritation of the skin from the pierced earrings. Newly pierced ears may be irritated. Many people find that they cannot tolerate nickel earrings due to a nickel allergy. Try switching to earrings labeled “hypoallergenic” to see if you notice any relief from dry skin.


Dry skin can also be related to age. By the time they reach the age of 60, almost everyone has dry skin somewhere on their body.

Other risk factors for dry skin include:

  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid or kidney disease
  • Cancer treatment
  • Anorexia
  • Smoking
  • Take statins or diuretics

Skin diseases

Chronic skin conditions that cause dry, itchy skin include eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis. All of these conditions can appear in and around the ears:

  • Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is an inflammatory disease that causes painful, red itchy skin. It can affect anyone, but it is more common in young children. When eczema affects the ears, it usually appears on the folds of the ears, the backs of the ears, and areas where the earlobes connect to the face. Eczema sores can also be found on the earlobes, conch bowls, ear openings, ear canals, and eardrums. Signs of eczema usually include red, inflamed skin that is dry and itchy. Dry patches can bleed when scratched. When the skin is cracked, infection can occur.
  • Psoriasis: This is an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to grow too quickly. When this happens, the old skin cells are not able to break off and build up into thick, itchy patches of skin. The spots usually start in pink or red, then progress to a silvery-white patch. It is common for the plaques to itch and feel uncomfortable. Psoriasis can occur on the outer ears or the skin surrounding the ears.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, scaly patches of the skin. The spots may flake off into white or yellow scales. It usually appears on the scalp, face, or inner ears. Seborrheic dermatitis often occurs on the scalp of an infant and is also known as cradle cap. The skin may itch, especially if it becomes infected. Doctors don’t know the exact cause of the disease, but they do know that it can be triggered by oily skin, stress, fatigue, obesity, extreme weather conditions, heavy drinking, or disorders. of the nervous system.

When to call a doctor

It is important to see your doctor any time you are concerned about the skin on your ears. Some causes of dry skin in the ears, such as eczema, can affect your hearing if left untreated. See your doctor if the skin on your ears is red and itchy. If home treatments don’t provide relief, see your dermatologist.

See your doctor immediately if the skin on your ears appears to be infected. An infection can occur when dry skin is scratched or cracked, allowing bacteria to enter. Symptoms of a skin infection include pain, swelling, crying, discharge, or a foul odor.


Treatment for dry skin on your ears will depend on the severity of the dryness, as well as its underlying cause. If your dry skin is due to an allergy or an environmental irritant, the only way to treat it is to get rid of the irritant itself. Chronic skin conditions can be treated with medication from your doctor, as well as with good skin care at home.

Home Care

To treat dry skin on your ears at home, take the time to consider whether you’ve tried any new hair or skin products recently. If you’ve recently pierced your ears or changed your earrings, your ears may react. If you can, stop using new products and watch your ears.

If the dry skin improves, be sure to avoid this product in the future. If taking a break from the product doesn’t seem to make a difference, see your dermatologist, who can help you determine the underlying cause of your dry skin.

Once you’ve done your detective work to find the cause, treat your dry skin with a quality emollient. An emollient is a skin softener found in moisturizers. Look for a gentle moisturizer without artificial fragrances or colors.


Medicines can be used to soothe the pain of dry skin and treat the underlying causes. Some options include:

  • Topical steroid: A topical steroid can be used to treat the redness and inflammation that accompany dry skin in the ears. It can also help with the itching. Your dermatologist will likely recommend that you start with an over-the-counter medication and then switch to a prescription steroid if necessary. Be careful not to apply steroid creams or other creams inside the ear canal as this may cause blockage of the ear canal.
  • Antibiotic: If the dry skin on your ears has become infected, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to kill the infection. This can be a topical antibiotic cream or an oral pill.
  • Medicated shampoo: If your dry ears are caused by seborrheic dermatitis, your dermatologist may recommend that you gently cleanse the area with a medicated shampoo. Use gentle, gentle movements and avoid rubbing the skin while washing. Once cleansed, dry the area thoroughly with a clean towel and moisturize it.
  • Phototherapy: Light therapy uses ultraviolet (UV) rays to treat psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. Talk to your doctor to see if this therapy might be helpful for the dry skin on your ears.


To help prevent dry skin in your ears, practice good skin care routines at home. Try to keep your ears clean and dry by washing them daily. Limit showers to 10 minutes and avoid boiling water. Dry your ears thoroughly after a shower. Using a hot hair dryer can help you dry them completely; just make sure you don’t use the hot setting. Once your ears are dry, apply a mild, fragrance-free moisturizer to prevent cracking.

Chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis cannot be prevented, but can be managed with treatment. Watch out for any irritants or triggers that always seem to lead to dry skin for you and stop using them if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Dry Skin In Your Ears?

Dry skin on your ears can be caused by a chronic skin condition or an irritant in your environment. Skin conditions that can affect the ears include eczema, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Environmental irritants can include shampoos, conditioners, hairspray, lotion, soap, laundry detergent, perfume, or makeup. Pierced earrings can also cause irritation, especially if they are made of nickel.

How to get rid of dry skin on your ears?

The treatment for dry skin in your ears depends on the cause of the dry skin in the first place. If your skin is irritated by a substance, such as perfume or shampoo, it is important to stop using it immediately. If your dry skin is caused by a chronic skin condition such as eczema, see your dermatologist to develop a treatment plan. Your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid to improve swelling or an antibiotic if the skin has become infected.

What does ear eczema look like?

Ear eczema looks like patches of red, inflamed, dry skin on the outer ear or even inside the ear canal. The skin is usually irritated and itchy. Scratching can cause dry patches to bleed and ooze a clear liquid.

A word from Verywell

Having dry skin in your ears is uncomfortable, and you’re probably anxious to deal with it as quickly as possible. The first step is to determine the cause of dry skin, and your dermatologist may be able to help. Once you know the cause of your dry skin, treatment may include stopping an irritant or starting a new medication like a topical steroid or antibiotic. Call your doctor if your dry skin becomes very itchy and painful, or if you develop symptoms of a skin infection, including swelling, discharge, or a foul odor coming from the ear.

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