- Blackheads are a result of blocked pores, caused by a build-up of oils and keratin.
- Adopting a skincare routine that cleanses and exfoliates the ear region will help prevent and treat the condition.
- Persistent blackheads – especially those in the ear canal – can be safely extracted by a dermatologist.
If you have skin, you have blackheads – they’re that common.
Blackheads are caused by a build up of oil that clogs the skin follicles or pores. Clogged pores can be closed in by skin, which results in whiteheads, or open, which results in blackheads.
Blackheads typically occur on the face and neck, but can also be found in and on the ears.
What Causes Blackheads in the Ear?
Blackheads in the ear arise the same way as those that typically develop on the face. Our skin follicles contain sebaceous glands that produce natural oils known as ‘sebum.’ Over time, sebum combines with dead skin cells, blocking skin follicles.
The resulting bump on your skin caused by this build up is referred to as a ‘comedo.’ The dark appearance of blackheads is due to the exposure of the comedo to the air, which causes oxidation.
Although blackheads and pimples are typically viewed as an adolescent condition, for many, they can persist through adulthood.
Blackheads are caused by a combination of factors, including your skincare routine and diet. Those that occur in ears are often more tricky to remove due to the sensitivity of the skin in this area and the natural folds of the ear that can make it awkward to clean.
How to Get Rid of Them
Blackheads on the ear can be treated and prevented with a rigorous daily skincare routine. There is a wide variety of skincare products designed to target blackheads on the face that can also be used on the ears.
Although most of us cleanse our faces daily, the ears are often a neglected region in our skincare routines.
Step 1: Cleanse
Cleansing the face and ears in the morning and evening can reduce the amount of oil build up on the skin. Most gentle cleansers can be used twice a day. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of cleansers in the morning after waking up and just before going to bed.
Following up with a moisturizer can prevent the skin from drying out after cleansing – just make sure you select one that is non-comedogenic if your skin is naturally oily. This class of moisturizers have been formulated with ingredients that don’t block pores, including culprits such as coconut oil and cocoa butter, which should be avoided if your skin is prone to acne.
Step 2: Exfoliate
Exfoliants are also effective at treating blackheads. They can be used 2-3 times per week in combination with cleansers as part of your skincare routine. Always check the packaging instructions to confirm the recommended frequency of use, as exfoliating too often can lead to skin damage and irritation.
Exfoliating scrubs typically contain a variety of ingredients to treat and prevent blackheads, including charcoal, jojoba beads and ground fruit shells. These components buff away and remove dead skin cells, preventing their build up in the pores.
You should also consider using an exfoliator with ingredients that prevent acne. Look for salicylic, glycolic and alpha-hydroxy acids that work by breaking down the oils within the skin’s pores, removing and preventing build-up.
Depending on which area of your ear is affected by blackheads, using a cotton ball or swab to cleanse and exfoliate can make it easier to treat the area more accurately – although cotton swabs should never be used within the ear canal.
If Blackheads Persist…
It may be tempting to try and remove blackheads yourself by squeezing them out. Although it may feel satisfying in the moment, it’s best to refrain as this can push the inflammation deeper, resulting skin damage and infection.
Extraction is the answer, but it’s best to consult a professional. Dermatologists have the appropriate tools and expertise to safely remove persistent blackheads effectively and efficiently.
Dermatological blackhead extraction
Consulting a dermatologist to treat blackheads ensures that the removal will be performed in a sterile, hygienic environment. At the hands of a professional, the risk of skin damage during the process will be minimized.
A blackhead extraction tool or comedone extractor is typically used to remove blackheads within the ear. This tool is comprised of a metal loop which is pressed onto the skin to release the oils and skin cells within the affected pores.
These tools can be purchased for home use, but this is ill advised, as navigating the angles and folds of the ear alone could prove quite tricky.
A dermatologist will know which angles and how much pressure to apply to the skin during the removal process. A trained professional will also ensure that the tools are thoroughly sanitized to minimize the risk of infection.
For severe and recurrent blackheads, acne medication can help treat existing comedones and prevent new ones from developing.
For women, the contraceptive pill has been shown to effectively reduce the appearance of acne and blackheads by altering hormone levels within the body, resulting in reduced sebum production within skin follicles.
Alternatively, topical antibiotics can be applied to the skin to remove bacteria and reduce inflammation in affected areas on the ears. However, to reduce the risk of bacterial resistance to the treatment, antibiotics should not be used for more than three months.
Blackheads in the Ear Canal
If you have blackheads within the ear canal, ensure that you visit a dermatologist to treat the area safely and effectively.
Attempting to treat blackheads within the delicate ear canal by yourself can result in damage to the surrounding skin tissue and cartilage. It’s best not to risk infection and endanger your hearing in the process.
Preventing the Recurrence of Blackheads
Aside from a rigorous cleansing and exfoliating skin care routine, certain lifestyle changes can help prevent blackheads from occurring on the ears and face, such as practicing good hygiene and altering your diet.
Good hygiene – make it a habit
Greasy hair can transfer oils onto the skin. Wash your hair regularly and make sure that all hair products that can add to a build up of oil have been completely rinsed off the ears.
If you have a favorite hat or toque that you wear often, make sure you throw that in the wash every week as well. Similarly, change your pillowcase and wash your bedding and sofa cushions regularly.
Research published in Advances in Dermatology & Allergology revealed that our diets can have an impact on our skin’s appearance. Diets high in carbohydrates were found to exacerbate acne as these foods elevate insulin levels, which in turn increases sebum production within follicles.
Blackheads in the ear are a common skin complaint. However, there are very practical and simple measures that you can take to treat and reduce the likelihood of them occurring.
Cleansing and exfoliating the ears as part of your daily skincare routine removes excess oil and dead skin cells. This cornerstone of your skin regime will help treat existing blackheads and prevent new ones from cropping up.
For persistent and severe blackheads, removal by an expert dermatologists is recommended for safe and effective results.
Lastly, diet and hygiene can play a part. Routinely wash anything that comes into regular contact with your ears – hair, hats, pillowcases. Cutting down on carbohydrate-rich foods may also help prevent the occurrence of blackheads.
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