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Dry Skin in Ears? Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Causes of Dry Skin in Ears

Many people experience dry skin at one time or another in their lives. It can happen due to a lack of moisture in the skin, sunburns, medical predisposition, and so on.

However, dry skin in the ears can cause quite a significant amount of pain and discomfort and is often the result of a medical condition. Let’s review a few causes of dry ears and these skin conditions.

Environmental Factors

Where you live and what you’re surrounded by can greatly impact your skin. Environmental factors typically include air quality in your area and your house, as well as allergens that can irritate your skin.

Dry skin often appears in flaky patches.

But other environmental factors include the hair products you use, cosmetics and perfumes, and body washes and soaps. Any of these can create irritated skin and impact sensitive skin.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Weather (humidity and drastic changes in temperature)
  • Frequent bathing
  • Harsh chemicals and skin products

This is more prone to happen when you switch or try new products. You could even be allergic to the metal used in your ear jewelry!


Age plays a large role in many skin issues as we get older, including a variety of risk factors that contribute to dry skin development and itchy skin. It’s most common to see people aged 60 and up struggling with dry skin, but other risk factors can lead to dry skin.

  • Smoking
  • Treatments for cancers
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Diabetes

There are a few causes that lead to dry skin as a result of aging.

Preexisting Skin Conditions

Other skin conditions can be a cause of your itchy ears and ear irritation. Chronic skin conditions especially can result in this, including:

Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that causes inflammation that also leads to painful, itchy patches of skin. In this case, you may see it appear in the folds of the ear, the backs of your ears, and around the earlobes.


With psoriasis, skin cells will grow faster than the average rate, more than the body can naturally shed on its own. This is also known as an autoimmune disorder that can result in scaly patches of skin on the body, including near the neck and ears.

Seborrheic Dermatitis (Seborrheic Eczema)

As an inflammatory skin condition, seborrheic dermatitis causes dry patches of skin and flaking of yellow or white skin.

This skin condition will typically appear on the scalp and face but can also appear in the inner ears. While the direct cause isn’t known, professionals do know that it can be triggered by oily skin, heavy alcohol use, and nervous system disorders.

Asteatotic Eczema

This type of eczema is also known as xerotic eczema, or a type of eczema that develops due to dry skin. This can happen due to a number of reasons, including dietary and environmental issues.

Eczema is a noticeable skin condition that causes irritation and itching

When Should You Call a Doctor?

When you first notice the irritation, and it causes you to become concerned, you can check in with your doctor. It is also recommended to call your doctor if at-home treatments yield no positive responses.

If you do not have a preexisting skin condition, like the few mentioned earlier, then it is also a good idea to get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.

A dermatologist will be the most knowledgeable in helping your skin condition

If you also begin to notice the appearance of any discharge, blood, or other fluids from the affected area, call your doctor immediately. It is possible to over-clean dry skin, so you may want to consider having your doctor clean the area for you.

Treatment Options

At-Home Treatments

At first sight of dry skin on your ears or ear eczema, there are ways to take care of it at home. At-home treatments align with prevention measures, such as pausing the use of any new skin or hair products.

If you notice that the irritation doesn’t begin to improve or heal entirely, then you can use an emollient. Emollients are skin softening products that are often found in moisturizers. Make sure to use an emollient that doesn’t contain harsh fragrances or colors.

In addition to avoiding harsh soaps, you will want to use cleansers containing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide sparingly, or avoid using them at all. These may be good for cleaning, but they typically do not treat dry skin well and can cause further irritation.

Sensitive skin moisturizers will be gentle and effect on dry ears

Other home remedies you can try to ease the symptoms include:

  • Oatmeal: You might notice that some skin lotions and creams will contain oatmeal for soothing properties. Colloidal oatmeal is useful for a variety of skin conditions, including xerosis and dermatitis. Overall, it’s a great remedy to use to ease inflammation.
  • Plant-based Oils: Oils, including sunflower oil, have been studied and found to help improve the condition of the outermost layer of skin. The same effects have been found when using coconut oil too.
  • Herbal Remedies: Essential oils have been used to treat and ease symptoms of eczema, including tea tree and calendula oils. However, remember to mix these oils with oils, such as sunflower oil, to avoid discomfort. Also, essential oils can also result in allergic reactions, so using indirect herbal preparations is typically the safer option.

Medication Options

There are a few over-the-counter medication options you can use:

Topical Steroid Creams

Topical steroid medication can also come in lotions, gels, and more forms to treat any allergic reaction and allergic eczema. Your doctor or dermatologist can prescribe this to you, but they will often recommend an over-the-counter version first before prescribing prescription-strength versions.


You can use an antibiotic cream from your local drug store or discuss antibiotic options with your doctor. Your doctor may also consider prescribing an anti-fungal treatment.

Medicated Shampoos

If you’re experiencing seborrheic dermatitis, then a medicated shampoo may be the better option for you. It’s important to be gentle while using this type of shampoo and to avoid rubbing the irritated skin as much as possible while doing so.


The use of ultraviolet light (UV rays) is common in treating psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis. In the case that your doctor or dermatologist recommends this approach, you will most likely need treatment at least three times per week. Oral steroids might be prescribed alongside this therapy.

Methods of Prevention

The best way to prevent ear itchiness and dry skin is through consistent cleansing and the use of sensitive skin cleansing products and mild soaps.

You can also stop the use of any new products to help eliminate possibilities as to what is causing dry skin.

Constant use of heat tools, such as a hair dryer and other styling tools, can lead to dryness on the outer ear. Limiting your showers to ten minutes can help limit the amount of hot water that can impact ear eczema. You will also want to avoid using scalding hot water on the ear eczema.

Moisturizing is also key in keeping ear eczema at bay. Using a gentle moisturizer on the skin, itchy patches should begin to ease shortly after.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Causes of Dry Skin in the Ear Canal?

Allergic eczema, ear eczema in the ear canal, and other skin allergies can lead to dry skin in the ear canal. A chronic skin condition, including the different types of dermatitis, can also cause dry skin in the ears.

However, cases of asteatotic eczema are going to be more common in people ages 60 and older.

How Do I Get Rid of Ear Eczema?

The first step in getting rid of your ear eczema is determining the cause of it. Think about what products you use and what could be triggering the ear eczema and worsening it.

Avoiding excess touching, rubbing, and picking will prevent potential scarring and additional irritation. Avoid common allergens as well, such as certain metals, including copper and nickel.

After addressing the triggers and irritants, you can then begin treatment and control your condition with moisturizers. A cream or ointment are the best types of moisturizers to use, and a hydrocortisone cream can help expedite the healing process.

After decreasing the condition to a manageable level or getting rid of it entirely, you can prevent further outbreaks by using hypoallergenic and sensitive cleansers and washes for both your face and body and for your clothing.

What Does Ear Eczema Look Like?

Ear eczema often appears as dry, flaky patches of skin within the ear canal and ear folds. Because ear eczema disrupts the ear canal and skin barrier function, ear eczema makes your ear more sensitive and prone to infection.

Eczema often leaves patches of bloody or red sections due to scratching

Healthcare professionals have noted that those who develop ear eczema often also have these other conditions:

  • Family history of eczema
  • Asthma
  • Hay fever
  • Other environmental allergies

In order to diagnose ear eczema, your doctor will take note of any discoloration, bumps, leathery dry skin patches in the ear canal, and swelling.

How Do I Reduce the Risk of Ear Eczema?

In order to minimize the risk of reinfection and breakouts of ear eczema, it’s important to maintain a skincare routine with the products mentioned earlier.

You may also want to remove certain materials from your wardrobe, including wool and silk, that can dry skin out. Swap out your laundry detergent for a hypoallergenic or sensitive skin detergent instead as well.

Bath only using lukewarm water, and remember to drink water throughout the day to decrease the risk of skin splitting and cracking. Also, be mindful of the weather and drastic changes in temperature. Exposure to drastic changes in humidity and temperature can lead to skin cracking.

Can I Cure My Ear Eczema?

Unfortunately, ear eczema, like other chronic skin conditions, does not have a complete cure. Instead, proper management is the best course of action for keeping breakouts at bay. These are even acknowledged as “remission” periods.

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