What Causes Dry Skin in Your Ears?


Check your routine

Before you try anything else, look through your soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products to find any that might be causing your irritation. Think about environmental factors that could have contributed to your symptoms. Have you been in the sun recently, taken hot showers, or swam in chlorinated pools?

Keep a diary of any symptoms you have and any products or situations that might be causing them. Discontinue use of cleansers or avoid any activities that make your skin worse.

Treating your dry ears usually involves finding a way to restore moisture to your skin. Choose from ointments, creams, or lotions.

  • Ointments contain a mixture of water in an oil, like lanolin or petrolatum, and they provide the best layer of protection.
  • Creams contain oil as well, but their main ingredient is usually water. They need to be applied more often than ointments.
  • Lotions feel cooler on the skin, but they’re mostly water mixed with powder crystals. You’ll need to apply lotions very frequently to relieve your symptoms.
  • Most of these products can be used liberally for as long as you have symptoms. It’s best to apply these moisturizers right after bathing and toweling off.

    Try other over-the-counter topicals

    If simple moisturizers don’t work, you may want to try over-the-counter (OTC) creams that contain lactic acid, or lactic acid and urea. These products are particularly helpful if your skin is very dry or very scaly. Follow instructions printed on the product, or ask your pharmacist to clarify how much to use and how often to use it.

    Even if you don’t think your symptoms are caused by the products you’re using, it’s a good idea to switch to gentler personal care items until your ears heal. Try using mild moisturizing soaps and shampoos, which won’t dry out your skin when you shower or wash your face.

    Don’t know what to buy? Check the labels. Stay away from antibacterial soaps or those containing alcohol and perfumes.

    Dry skin often itches, but itching can invite bacteria into your skin and lead to infection. Use a cool compress on your ears if they’re particularly itchy. A hydrocortisone-containing cream or ointment can help with inflammation. Find one that contains at least 1 percent hydrocortisone for the best results.

    Dry ears: Causes, treatment, and prevention

    The outlook for dry ears depends very much on the underlying cause.

    Preparations containing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar are not usually helpful for dry ears but may help relieve itchy ears.

    The goal of any treatment plan for dry ears is often to stop any itching first and then to re-establish a healthy moisture balance in the ear.

    Steroid creams or drops should only be used as a temporary treatment, because long-term use can cause the skin to thin and to become fragile.

    People can reduce the risk of dry ears by making some simple changes to their daily routines and lifestyles.


    The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown. It may be due to a combination of factors:

  • Oil gland activity
  • Yeasts called Malassezia, which live on the skin, mainly in areas with more oil glands
  • Changes in skin barrier function
  • Your genes
  • Risk factors include:

  • Stress or fatigue
  • Weather extremes
  • Oily skin, or skin problems such as acne
  • Heavy alcohol use, or using lotions that contain alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Nervous system disorders, including Parkinson disease, traumatic brain injury, or stroke
  • Having HIV/AIDS
  • In this Article

    Ear eczema is when you experience itchiness or dry skin around, on, or inside of your ear. Eczema can range from only slightly noticeable to very painful or irritating.

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