Dry skin on ears


Why Do I Have Eyebrow Dandruff?

Depending on the cause of your eyebrow dandruff, the treatment might vary. Sometimes what works for one person might not work for another, so don’t get discouraged if one treatment doesn’t seem to be working well for you. There are a variety of at-home treatments you can try.

To treat seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is sometimes exacerbated by cold and dry weather or stress. A topical antifungal cream can be helpful, as can medicated dandruff shampoo. If home remedies don’t help your symptoms, talk with your doctor about prescription topical treatments.

To treat Malassezia

Treatment for Malassezia is usually anti-dandruff shampoo or topical treatments like moisturizers or anti-itch cream. If symptoms don’t abate, you might need something stronger from a dermatologist.

Dandruff shampoos can help treat your eyebrow dandruff — work it into a lather and rub it on your brows when you’re in the shower, leaving it on for a few minutes before rinsing. Shampoos containing selenium sulfide, like Selsun Blue, can help with Malassezia, and shampoos containing ketoconazole are good to keep in mind if other dandruff shampoos don’t work. While some of the ketoconazole shampoos are prescription only, there are others, like Nizoral, that are over-the-counter. Just make sure it’s not overly drying; you don’t want to dry out the skin around your eyebrows because that can lead to flakiness, which you are trying to get rid of.

Tea tree oil has antifungal properties, and its effectiveness in treating dandruff has actually been studied. One study found that individuals who used tea tree oil shampoo (5 percent strength) showed a reduction in dandruff symptoms.

You can mix 5 percent tea tree oil with lotion or aloe gel, and simply rub it into the affected area every other day or so. As you see your symptoms improve, you can use it less often. Eventually, you can use it once or twice a week to keep symptoms at bay.

To treat contact dermatitis

If the culprit was contact dermatitis, avoiding the product that caused the irritation should help to resolve it. In the meantime, keeping the skin around your eyebrows moisturized can help reduce the irritation and flakiness. Using anti-itch cream or taking an antihistamine like Benadryl can help cut down on the itch, and applying cool, wet compresses for 15–30 minutes at a time can help alleviate irritation and itching.

Call your doctor if:

  • you suddenly develop a painful rash
  • the symptoms interfere with daily activities
  • the symptoms don’t start resolving in about three weeks
  • you notice any pus coming from the irritated skin areas
  • it looks infected
  • you have a fever

Although infections are uncommon, you want to make sure you don’t have one.

  • Anti-Flake Relief Shampoo, £38, Philip B

    This luxurious shampoo boasts a blend of zinc omadine and coal tar, which work in tandem to deeply soothe and calm an itchy and dry scalp. As if that wasn’t good enough, aloe vera, tea tree oil, sage, juniper berry and chamomile collaborate to prevent the growth scalp-irritating organisms.

  • Serene Scalp Soothing Leave-On Treatment, £46, Oribe

    Call upon this leave-on treatment whenever you need an instant fix for a flaky scalp. The blend of potent botanicals are lightweight and instantly absorbed, acting to defend from oxidative stress and pollution, while the beta hydroxy acids help to exfoliate any build-up of dead skin and product.

  • Low Key Cleansing Walnut Scalp Scrub, £31, IGK Hair

    Think of this mask as a superfood salad for your scalp, providing all the essential nutrients necessary for it to thrive. Apple cider vinegar helps to seal the hair cuticles and walnut shell powder helps to remove impurities from the skin’s surface.

  • Bb. Scalp Detox, £25, Bumble + Bumble

    Not only is this fizzing, foam treatment super fun to use, it also uses micellar water technology to thoroughly yet gently cleanse the scalp as well, as salicylic acid to remove dead skin and impurities.

  • Flaky Itchy Scalp Toner, £21, Philip Kingsley

    The fact that this intelligent scalp treatment was designed by one of the world’s leading trichologists shows that it means serious business. Its anti-microbial and anti-flaking formula provides both instant and lasting relief.

  • Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, £18.50, Christophe Robin

    Part shampoo, part mask, this sea salt hair scrub is the perfect weekly treat for distressed scalps to detox all impurities, as well as provide a splash of hydration.

  • Cure Apaisante 4-Week Treatment, £43.70, Kérastase

    Apply this cutting-edge, intensive four-week treatment three times per week for long-term relief of itchy and sensitive scalps.

How To Treat Dandruff On Eyebrows

Dandruff on eyebrows may sound random, but it is no laughing matter. This condition is typically caused by the same issues that cause dandruff on the scalp, and the majority of people that suffer from eyebrow dandruff tend to have scalp dandruff as well. Fortunately, treating dandruff on eyebrows is similar to the way you would treat dandruff on your scalp. Use a medicated shampoo specially for dandruff on your brows, but be sure not to get the shampoo in your eyes and rinse thoroughly afterwards. Read 8 Best Dandruff Shampoos for a list of products that readers swear by for treating dandruff.
Another way to treat dandruff on eyebrows is to apply a good moisturizer to the affected area every night before you go to bed. Simply dip a qtip in some moisturizing cream or apply it with your index finger, being careful not to get the product in your eyes. By moisturizing the dry skin you will help prevent more dryness from occurring, which in turn affects how much flaking of the skin there is. Check out 19 Best Face Moisturizers for a list of moisturizers that will keep your skin fresh and help get rid of dandruff on eyebrows.

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What Causes Dry Ears?

Finding the right treatment for your dry ears depends on the cause of your symptoms. If your ears are dry from lifestyle or other environmental factors, you can likely treat them at home. If you suspect that a chronic skin condition might be the cause, you may need to visit your doctor.

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.

Shop for lactic acid cream

Switch soaps

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.

Shop for moisturizing soaps

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

Combat itching

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.

Shop for hydrocortisone cream

Avoid allergens

Do you think you might be allergic to a piece of jewelry? Once you develop a sensitivity or allergy to nickel, it becomes a chronic or a lifelong condition. If you suspect you’re allergic to nickel, stop wearing jewelry and let your ears heal. When they’ve healed, switch to jewelry made from a different material, like stainless steel, sterling silver, solid gold, or polycarbonate plastic.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

What is seborrheic dermatitis?

Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammation of the upper layers of skin, characterized by red, itchy skin that sheds scales. Seborrheic dermatitis may be a hereditary condition. It is often aggravated by hormonal changes and cold weather conditions.

Seborrheic dermatitis is most common during:

  • Infancy. In infants, the condition is also called cradle cap, because of its characteristic scaly appearance on the scalp. However, cradle cap can also happen in the diaper area. Seborrheic dermatitis in this age group usually clears up on its own within the first year.

  • Middle age. When seborrheic dermatitis happens at this age, the condition is usually more intermittent and called dandruff.

  • Old age. When seborrheic dermatitis happens at this age, the condition is usually more intermittent. It becomes less common after 60 years of age.

People with oily skin or hair are also more at risk for developing seborrheic dermatitis.

What are the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis?

The following are some of the other symptoms associated with seborrheic dermatitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Itching scalp

  • Dry or greasy scales on the scalp

  • A yellow or red scaly rash along the hairline, behind the ears, in the ear canal, on the eyebrows, around the nose, in creases on the arms, legs, or groin, and/or on the chest.

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis may resemble other skin conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is seborrheic dermatitis diagnosed?

A complete medical history and physical exam helps the healthcare provider in diagnosing seborrheic dermatitis.

Treatment for seborrheic dermatitis

Specific treatment for seborrheic dermatitis will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

Although the condition responds to treatment, it may happen again. Treatment depends on the inflammation’s location. It is usually effective in relieving symptoms. Treatments may include:

  • Antiinflammatory creams or lotions, such as corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors

  • Antifungal topicals

  • Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos

  • Medicated shampoo for adults, as prescribed by your healthcare provider

There are some things in life that you never expect: a free upgrade on a flight, stretch marks on your boobs, dandruff coming out of your eyebrows. Yes, you read that right—eyebrow dandruff. When my eyebrows suddenly appeared dry and flaky, I immediately reached for my exfoliating pads and my thickest moisturizer. But it turns out, exfoliating isn’t the best way to treat what derms call seborrheic dermatitis.

“Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory condition caused by a yeast that is everywhere on the body, but some people that are sensitive to that yeast have a reaction,” dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D., tells SELF. This yeast is called malassezia furfur, and it’s the same one that causes dandruff on the scalp. You can tell that it’s seborrheic dermatitis and not just dry skin because the the flakes are large and oily (think: bran-sized scales), and it’s a bit harder to get rid of than run-of-the-mill dry skin. Also this skin looks a bit red and irritated under the flakes. Dry skin will be more uniform, affecting the whole face or body, generally doesn’t have underlying redness, and usually has a very fine scale, according to dermatologist Monique Chheda, M.D.

The primary cause of seborrheic dermatitis is genetics. However, it can also be a result of certain medications, including some psychiatric medications. And like most skin-related conditions, stress can make it worse.

Seborrheic dermatitis can be anywhere there is hair on your body: the pubic area, your face, your scalp, under the breasts, around your belly button, on your butt, or the chest. Henry says seborrheic dermatitis tends to happen in dark, moist, oily areas, where yeast can thrive. “Hair-bearing areas that are greasy or have more oil glands,” she says. “Each hair has an oil gland attached to it so that oiliness definitely plays a role.” If you have seborrheic dermatitis in your brow, you could also have it on your scalp, or it can be an isolated case.

When trying to treat seborrheic dermatitis on your eyebrows, you can reach for some of the same things that you use on your scalp. “You can use an anti-dandruff shampoo, such as Head & Shoulders or Selsun Blue, and gently lather the eyebrows and rinse, taking care not to get it into your eyes,“ says Chheda. Henry recommends using moisturizing cleansers like Cerave Hydrating Cleanser and to look for ingredients like niacinamide in your moisturizer to help reduce the inflammation. Sometimes stronger treatments are required to treat seborrheic dermatitis. Your derm might prescribe an anti-fungal cream that you can apply on a daily basis. If it is really bad, derms will often prescribe cortisone creams to help calm down the inflammation and scaling.

What you don’t want to do is attempt to exfoliate those flakes away (like I tried to do). “Excessively scrubbing the skin or using harsh exfoliants might inadvertently make the scaling and redness worse,” says Chheda. You also don’t want to remove the flakes by force. “You have to be very careful—removing the flakes can irritate the skin and leave you with open skin,” says Henry. “It’s not going to heal quicker. Aggressively removing the flakes is not going to get rid of the source.” Henry also says that waxing and threading should be avoided when you have a flare-up. Also make sure to apply a moisturizer before you put on makeup to get a smoother finish (adding brow powder on top of dry or greasy flakes can actually make them look more noticeable).

Unfortunately, seborrheic dermatitis isn’t something that you can cure, but it is something you can treat. Flaky brows, begone.

Why are my eyebrows itchy?

There are a variety of health conditions and other factors that may cause someone’s eyebrows to itch. These include:

Seborrheic dermatitis

Share on PinterestSeborrheic dermatitis can cause itchy patches of skin.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a form of eczema. It is a common skin condition, affecting an estimated 1 to 3 percent of the otherwise healthy population, which rises to 34 to 83 percent of people with compromised immune systems.

It is a skin condition that affects parts of the body where there are a lot of oil-producing glands, including the eyebrows.

Seborrheic dermatitis appears as round, red areas that may be slightly scaly and tend to be itchy. People often notice these patches appear on the scalp, but it is not contagious.

People with neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s, or conditions that affect the immune system, such as HIV, are more likely to experience seborrheic dermatitis.

The most common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include:

  • patches of yellow or white crusty, flaking skin
  • itching or burning skin
  • redness
  • swollen skin
  • greasy skin


Psoriasis is a skin condition that can affect the face. This is called facial psoriasis, and it usually appears on the eyebrows, the skin between the nose and the upper lip, the top of the forehead, and the hairline.

For some people, this may look or feel like eyebrow dandruff.

Psoriasis causes thick, red patches of skin with silvery scales. It is an autoimmune condition. This means it is not contagious but happens when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues.

People with psoriasis usually find the condition comes and goes. Specific things that happen in a person’s life can trigger psoriasis. These triggers vary from person to person, but they might include:

  • stress
  • skin injury
  • taking certain medications
  • infection


Shingles is a painful rash that can develop on one side of the face or body.

Before the rash appears, people often experience pain, itching, or tingling in the area. This may include one of the eyebrows.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the itch usually happens between 1 and 5 days before the rash breaks out.

A shingles rash consists of blisters that scab over in around 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks, according to the CDC. In some cases, shingles can affect the eyes and cause vision loss.

The chickenpox virus, called varicella-zoster virus (VZV), causes shingles. Once a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body and can reactivate later on in life. Older people are more prone to shingles.

Symptoms of shingles include:

  • itchy skin rashes
  • fever
  • a headache
  • chills
  • upset stomach

Allergic reaction

Share on PinterestItchy skin, sneezing, and coughing can be symptoms

Itchy eyebrows may be a sign of an allergic reaction to a facial beauty product or treatment. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies every year.

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to a specific substance. Someone having an allergic reaction may experience:

  • itching
  • sneezing
  • coughing

A mild allergic reaction will usually calm down by itself. A severe allergic reaction, however, can be life-threatening. This is called anaphylaxis, and the symptoms include:

  • tingling in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or the lips
  • light-headedness
  • flushing
  • tightness in the chest

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a form of eczema that develops when the skin touches an irritating substance.

This is a form of allergic reaction that can cause inflammation and dry, flaky skin either immediately or several hours after contact with the irritant. Common irritants include fragrances and metals.

Contact dermatitis can cause itchy, flaking eyebrows if the skin around the eyebrows has come into contact with:

  • shampoo or body wash
  • specific cosmetic products
  • an eyebrow piercing or other jewelry


The American Diabetes Association state that people with diabetes may experience more skin problems than otherwise healthy individuals. In fact, skin conditions can be the first sign of diabetes.

Common skin issues that may cause itching in people with diabetes include:

  • folliculitis, which can cause irritation and itchiness around the hairs in the eyebrow
  • fungal infections, such as Candida, which cause itchy rashes, tiny blisters, and scaling skin
  • poor circulation, which can cause widespread itching, though this usually affects the legs

Head lice

Head lice, or Pediculus humanus capitis, usually live on the scalp.

In some cases, they make their home in the eyebrows or eyelashes. Head lice are more common among children, affecting between 6 and 12 million children in the United States every year.

These parasites feed on human blood and spread by head-to-head contact.

The bites can be itchy.

The other signs to look out for are:

  • a tickling feeling of something moving in the hair
  • difficulty sleeping because head lice are most active in the dark
  • sores on the head caused by scratching

The official term for that white, flaky stuff on your eyebrows is seborrheic dermatitis, which is basically dandruff. The hallmark features of it are yellowish, greasy scales or patches on top of red, irritated skin.

Usually, the condition will show up around or after puberty in areas of your skin where there are lots of oil glands—that’s why many men get dandruff on their scalps.

Other common locations include your eyebrows, the skin between your eyebrows, your eyelashes, around your nose, inside and around your ears, and the area around your moustache or beard.

Related: 12 Common Skin Problems—and How You Can Fix Them

It can also occur below the neck, on places like the center of your upper chest, under your arms, in your bellow button, or around your groin.

Doctors aren’t quite sure what’s behind the condition, but it seems like a specific type of fungus from the Malassezia family is involved.

When this oil-loving fungus feeds off the products of our oil glands, it can cause irritation or allergic reactions in some people. This leads to inflammation, which results in the flaking and the red, itchy skin seen with dandruff.

As a dermatologist, I treat this dandruff by working to decrease the amount of this fungus and minimizing the inflammation.

Related: How to Treat Toenail Fungus

An anti-dandruff shampoo that contains ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, sodium sulfacetamide, salicylic acid or coal tar is one of the easiest and simplest treatments for clearing up the condition on your scalp.

And you can use the same shampoo to fight the condition on your eyebrows or elsewhere on your face, too.

Related: The Big Book Of Uncommon Knowledge From Men’s Health—Thousands Of DIY-Hacks and Skills the Modern Man Must Master

Simply use the shampoo as a face wash: Work it into a later, and then massage into the affected areas on your face. Let it soak in for 3 to 5 minutes before washing off, so it can effectively reach the fungus and decrease the inflammation.

Try your best not to get it into your eyes—many of these shampoos can cause irritation. If you do, simply rinse well with clean water.

Related: The Best Shampoo For Your Hair Type

If the scaly skin on your face is very thick, you can massage oil on it—I like coconut oil best—to soften and remove the scale before treating it with the shampoo.

You can also apply a hydrocortisone 1 percent cream after washing to help with the redness and the inflammation, especially if there is itching.

Related: How to Stop Bug Bites From Itching

If you want to take the natural route, rubbing tea tree oil into the affected area can be effective, too. You just need to be careful about using undiluted tea tree essential oil directly on your skin, since it can cause allergic or irritant reactions.

So stick to concentrations between 5 and 20 percent. Most products don’t list a percentage, so you can make your own to be sure you’re not using too harsh a concentration.

Make a 5 percent solution by diluting straight tea tree oil: Just add 15 drops of the tea tree oil to a tablespoon of coconut oil, aloe gel, warm water or any cream of cleanser you like.

In fact, mixing it with aloe is my favorite home remedy because aloe is both soothing and can help minimize the inflammation.

Initially, you should treat this daily until your skin starts to calm down and you begin seeing an improvement—then you can back off to treating once every other day, and slowly decrease it until you’re treating once or twice a week.

Related: The Fastest Ways to Get Rid Of Zits, Ingrown Hairs, and 5 Other Annoying Skin Problems

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition, so it tends to require long-term maintenance. So the options above will treat it and control it, but they won’t actually cure it.

That’s because the condition will flare up at times, especially during periods of stress or during the cold winter months.

If you have tried these options and haven’t seen an improvement in your flakes, check in with your dermatologist.

Related: 6 Surprising Reasons to See a Dermatologist

He or she may recommend more aggressive treatment options like prescription-strength creams or oral medications for very severe cases.

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health Apple A. Bodemer, M.D., is an integrative dermatologist at UW Health and an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dry and Itchy Ears

Timothy C. Hain, MD, and Bulent Mamikoglu, M.D.

Most recent update: November 6, 2016 .

Many people complain that their ears itch. There is relatively little academic literature on the subject, and seemingly little interest by dermatologists to publish paper about this small pocket in the body.

Itching is usually due to a disturbance in the skin of the external auditory canal (see figure above). Studies in humans and non-human primates have demonstrated that slow conducting unmyelinated nerve fibers (i.e. C-fibers) detect and signal itch information to the central nervous system. C fibers are responsible for pain, warmth and the itch.

Here we will look at causes and treatment of dry and itchy ears.

Causes of itchy ears:

Ear canal skin is sensitive. The slightest accumulation of debris, even a hair clipping, may be felt as an itching sensation. Thus one cause of itching is loose skin or foreign bodies. These can usually be best handled by seeing a doctor who can clean the ear.

We have seen interesting situations where insects found their way into the ear canal. This is fortunately very rare. These can usually be easily removed by the ear doctor after making sure they the organism is dead (usually by using alcohol). Small children are sometimes fascinated by the possibilities of putting small objects in their ears, such as beads, pebbles or small beans. These can be very troublesome, especially if a secondary infection occurs, and are best handled by an ear doctor (otologist), and not a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Dry ears

A normal ear has a thin layer of natural body oil. Some ears produce no ear wax which results in dry and itchy ear skin. Sometimes people compulsively clean their ears and dry them out by removing the natural wax. Dry ears tend to accumulate flakes of dry dead skin.

For people who just lack ear wax, occasional insertion of a few drops of vegetable oil can be helpful. For people who compulsively clean out their ears, we advise scheduled appointments for ear cleaning, usually every 6 months, and avoidance of use of ‘q’ tips, or similar instruments in between.

Hearing aids and itching of the ear :

Sometimes the plastic of a hearing aid or polish on the surface of the plastic will cause an allergic reaction in the ears of the wearer. The polish can be removed or the hearing aid mold plastic changed. Hearing aids of the “BTE” type, where the main processor is behind the ear, have far less issues as there is very little contact between the hearing aid and the skin of the ear. This is not always possible however.

When hearing aid users get water in their ear, the hearing aids can trap the water in the ear causing irritation. Keeping the external ear free of water is advisable.

Hearing aids may have a bump which puts pressure on the ear canal. This can be irritating and cause itching. The solution here is to have the hearing aid mold revised.

Skin problems in the ear:

Skin diseases such as allergic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis can cause itching in the ear just as they do elsewhere. These are treated in the same way that they are treated elsewhere in the body. Generally they are diagnosed by otoscopy (looking inside the ear). Steroid creams are used in persons with allergic skin diseases affecting the ear (see below).

Infectious causes of itchy ears

Like the skin in general, the skin of the ear can get an infection.

  • The most common cause is “swimmer’s ear”, where generally speaking, bacteria start growing in an ear canal causing irritation and drainage.
  • Occasionally ears can be infected with fungus (Jia et al, 2012; Abdelazeem et al, 2015). This usually results in a chronically irriated ear that appears infected but does not respond to ordinary antibiotics.
  • The ear can also be infected with ear mites (Al-Arfaj et al, 2007; Cevik, 2014) a parasite similar to the dust mites that live in your pillow. Ear mites in particular, are common in cats, and are probably underdiagnosed in humans. Cevik (2014) found an ear mite (demodex) in about 6% of itchy ears. These mites are extremely common in humans– some studies report them in 100% of adults. Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids can also be caused by these mites.
  • Viral infections are rare — the most common one is recurrent herpes zoster (i.e. chickenpox) where small blisters are seen in or on the ear.

Swimmer’s ear (external otitis) is discussed separately.

Psychological disturbances causing ear itching:

Sometimes people get very nervous and start to scratch themselves. This can also occur in the ear. This is likely an amplification of normal sensation that the person would otherwise ignore. Yilmaz et al (2015) reported that 43% of patients with itching ears had a “Type D” personality, as compared to 15% of controls. Type D personality is a psychological term describing the “distressed” type of person who tends to have negative feelings and avoids social contact. We are a bit dubious about this — we think itchy ears are mainly associated with skin disorders in the ear.

Treatment of dry or itchy ear:

General principles are to avoid aggressive cleaning and keep the ear dry. For the most part, as your ear canal is usually just a blind pocket of skin, you can treat it similarly to skin on other parts of your body. However, if there is a perforation of the ear drum, then it is generally best to avoid self-treating and see an ear doctor, because some preparations may damage the inner ear should they go through the perforation. Perforations are fortunately rare, and also generally easily detected because they can be seen by a general physician using an “otoscope”, and because they often drain. Similar considerations apply to people with open mastoid cavities – -this is a type of surgery where a hole is left between the ear canal and a sinus.

Although patients are often admonished not to stick things into their ear, especially sharp instruments such as bobby pins or pencils, many individuals use ‘q’ tips on a daily basis, and their health care provider may suggest that these preparations be administered by dipping the ‘q’ tip into them, and then gently applying them to the lateral walls of the ear canal. It is not a good idea to touch the ear drum with the ‘q’ tip however.

Drying preparations such as alcohol, and irritating preparations such as hydrogen peroxide or vinegar (acetic acid) or boric acid are usually not very helpful for dry ears, but may be helpful for itchy ears , perhaps because they alter the baterial, fungal or other flora in the ear canal (see below).

Treatments for non-infectious causes of dry or itchy ear

Dry ear: A few drops of a vegetable oil such as olive oil every day or two may help keep the ear from getting too dry and also protect it from water. You can use cooking oil (such as olive oil), or you can buy “ear oil”, such as “Wally’s Ear Oil”. Another brand name for olive oil is “Sweet oil”. We think just using olive oil as found in your kitchen is the more sensible option.

Steroids creams or drops are sometimes used for itchy ears that are presumed to be non-infectious (e.g Babakurban et al, 2016) . The creams combine both an oily base as well as the steroid that reduces inflammation. Some of these are available over the counter, and some require prescriptions (such as triamcinolone cream (Kenalog)). Steroids have the potential to make infectious causes of itching worsen as they reduce one’s defenses to infection, particularly fungus. Overly frequent use (i.e. daily), can make the skin more fragile. Some have proposed using steroid nasal sprays to treat allergic ears (Bernstein, 2012). We don’t see any advantage to this over using creams.

Dermotic oil is a steroid containing oil — having fluocinolone as the active ingrediant. It is typically used as drops in the affected ear, once or twice a day, for one to two weeks. It is not intended for permanent use. If an itchy ear does not respond to this powerful treatment for inflammation, one should be thinking that it might be infectious.

Treatments for infectious causes of itchy ear

Many hand sanitizers contain ethylene alcohol. An old remedy for itching is to apply hand sanitizer to the itchy ear canal with your finger tips or with q-tips. After few minutes of application of the alcohol the C fibers will be occupied and will not transfer the itching sensation. As alcohol kills most bacteria and fungi, this is also a method of treating some infections. Of course, this remedy should not be used in an ear with a perforation in the ear drum or with an open mastoid cavity.

Castellani’s paint — contains a number of antiseptics including alcohol, boric acid, resorcinol, and fuchsin has been reported to be effective for an itchy ear canal (Babakurban et al, 2016). The “modified” paint does not contain fuchsin (which can stain the clothes). The instructions for use are: Apply to affected areas at night with a cotton-tipped applicator daily at night. Then dry and dust with talc. (Sha et al, 2003)

Castellani’s paint is available over the counter, sold as a “first aid antiseptic”. It would seem certain that should this preparation enter the middle ear through a perforation, inner ear damage would result. It should be safe, however, when applied in the ear doctor’s office using a microscope, even if there is a perforation.

A similar preparation to the non-modified Castellani’s paint is Gentian violet. This is used specifically for fungal infections in the doctor’s office. Gentian violet stains skin, and when used in open wounds, can cause tatooing.

Fungal ear infections are also sometimes treated with preparations approved for athletes foot, such as clotrimazole cream. (Abou-Halawa et al, 2012)

There’s No ‘X’ in Ear Eczema (and More Fun Facts!)

Doctors and researchers haven’t determined the exact cause of eczema yet.

One possible factor may be filaggrin, a gene mutation that creates a protective barrier on the skin — increasing skin vulnerability. This is thought to be an underlying genetic cause of atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is essentially due to a dysfunctional immune system. People with this disorder may be more apt to react to irritants or allergic substances on the skin including:

  • soaps, detergents, disinfectants, baby wipes, and scented products
  • certain metals like nickel
  • rough fabrics like wool
  • heat
  • stress

The cause of ear eczema depends on which type you’re dealing with. There are four major causes of an itchy eczema-like rash on the ears.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when your ear comes into contact with an allergen such as:

  • perfumes
  • nickel (found in some jewelry)
  • antibiotic creams, such as Neosporin

It can take 12–72 hours following exposure for the allergy to appear.

The main symptoms of allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • blisters that ooze
  • red skin
  • swelling
  • itching and scaling

Irritant contact dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when your ear comes into direct contact with an irritant such as:

  • harsh chemicals including soaps
  • cleaning products

The main symptoms of an irritant contact dermatitis are almost identical to allergic contact dermatitis, except patients may be more likely to report a burning pain in the area.

  • tight feeling skin
  • mild swelling
  • dry, cracking skin
  • blisters

Asteatotic eczema

“Help me Princess Leia buns, you’re my only hope.” We know that YouTube tutorial search all too well! Winter must be coming, putting uncovered ears at risk.

Asteatotic eczema typically shows up when humidity levels are low, such as in heated indoor spaces. Other factors include overwashing and hanging out in high winds.

Seborrheic eczema

Seborrheic eczema, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, occurs on the oilier parts of the body, like your scalp and the skin behind your ears. Doctors aren’t 100 percent sure what causes it, but it seems to be related to a yeast overgrowth.

It’s more common in men and can be more severe in people with:

  • oily hair and skin
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Parkinson’s disease

Signs of seborrheic eczema include:

  • dry, flaky skin
  • greasy, yellow scales
  • itchy skin

Dermatologist’s Recommendations for the Best Products for Itchy, Drusty, Scaly Ears

Foaming Zinc Cleanser (for the scalp and oily and/or hairy skin)

Calming Zinc Soap (for the face and dry and/or sensitive skin)

A thin wash cloth

Lotrimin Cream and/or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream

Note: if you have dandruff on your ears, you may well have it on your face. It often manifests there as a dry scale on your eyebrows and around your nose.

My Calming Zinc Soap and Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy are my favorite treatments for facial dandruff! Also, I have combined them in my Facial Redness Relief Kit since both work together to calm and reduce seborrheic dermatitis.

Distribution of facial flaking and redness from seborrhea.

I invite you to visit my Advice Pages for Seborrheic Dermatitis to see my in depth advice for seborrheic dermatitis on other areas of your skin. If you have seborrhea of the ear you may have it on your face, scalp etc.

My Seborrheic Dermatitis Blog Series Articles:

Dermatologist’s Tips for Dry Flaky Skin on Your Face and Scalp

Remedies for the Dry Itchy Scalp of Seborrheic Dermatitis

Remedies for the Dry Itchy Scalp of Seborrheic Dermatitis-Part 2

Remedies for Really Stubborn Scalp Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dermatologist’s Tips for Treating Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis: It Looks Like Dry Skin, But It’s a Rash!

Dr. Cynthia Bailey’s Tips for Facial Seborrheic Dermatitis Control

Photo Attribution: CC BY 2.0


What is intertrigo?

Intertrigo describes a rash in the flexures or body folds, such as behind the ears, in the folds of the neck, under the arms (axillae), under a protruding abdomen, in the groin, between the buttocks, in the finger webs or toe spaces.

Although intertrigo may affect one skin fold, it is common for it to involve multiple sites.

Who gets intertrigo?

Intertrigo can affect males and females of any age. It is particularly common in people that are overweight or obese (see metabolic syndrome). Other contributing factors are:

  • Genetic tendency to skin disease
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

What are the clinical features of intertrigo?

Intertrigo can be acute (recent onset), relapsing (recurrent), or chronic (present for more than 6 weeks). The exact appearance and behaviour depends on the underlying cause or causes.

The skin affected by intertrigo is inflamed, ie reddened and uncomfortable. It may become moist and macerated, leading to fissuring (cracks) and peeling.

What is the cause of intertrigo?

Intertrigo is due to genetic and environmental factors.

  • Flexural skin has relatively high surface temperature
  • Moisture from insensible water loss and sweating cannot evaporate due to occlusion.
  • Friction from movement of adjacent skin results in chafing.

The microorganisms that are normally resident on flexural skin, the microbiome, include corynebacteria, other bacteria and yeasts. These multiply in warm moist environments and may cause disease.

We can classify intertrigo into infectious and inflammatory origin but there is often overlap.

  • Infections tend to be unilateral and asymmetrical.
  • Inflammatory disorders tend to be symmetrical affecting armpits, groins, under the breasts and the abdominal folds, except atopic dermatitis, which more often arises on the neck, and in elbow and knee creases.

Infections causing intertrigo

Candida albicans (thrush)

  • Rapid development
  • Itchy moist peeling red and white skin
  • Small superficial papules and pustules
Candida albicans

Erythrasma: Corynebacterium minutissimum

  • Persistent brown patches
  • Minimal scale
  • Asymptomatic

Tinea: Trichophyton rubrum + T interdigitale

  • Tinea cruris (groin) and athletes foot (between toes)
  • Slowly spreads over weeks to months
  • Irregular annular plaques
  • Peeling, scaling
Tinea cruris

Impetigo: Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes

  • Rapid development
  • Moist blisters and crusts on red base
  • Contagious, so other family members may also be affected

Boils: Staphylococcus aureus

  • Rapid development
  • Very painful follicular papules and nodules
  • Central pustule or abscess

Folliculitis: Staphylococcus aureus

  • Acute or chronic
  • Superficial tender red papules
  • Pustules centred on hair follicles
  • May be provoked by shaving, waxing, epilating

Common inflammatory skin conditions causing intertrigo

Flexural psoriasis

  • Well-defined smooth or shiny red patches
  • Very persistent
  • Common in submmamary and groin creases
  • Symmetrical involvement
  • May fissure (crack) in the crease
  • Red patches on other sites are scaly
Flexural psoriasis

Seborrhoeic dermatitis

  • Ill-defined salmon-pink thin patches
  • Common in axilla and groin creases
  • Fluctuates in severity
  • May be asymmetrical
  • Often unnoticed
  • Red patches on face and scalp tend to be flaky
Seborrhoeic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis

  • First occurs in infancy
  • Common in elbow and knee creases
  • Characterised by flares
  • Very itchy
  • Acute eczema is red, blistered, swollen
  • Chronic eczema is dry, thickened, lined (lichenified)
Atopic dermatitis

Contact irritant dermatitis

  • Acute, relapsing or chronic

Irritants include:

  • Body fluids: sweat, urine
  • Friction due to movement and clothing
  • Dryness due to antiperspirant
  • Soap
  • Excessive washing

Contact allergic dermatitis

  • Acute or relapsing

Allergen may be:

  • Fragrance, preservative or medicament in deodorant, wet-wipe or other product
  • Component of underwear (rubber in elastic, nickel in bra wire)
Allergic contact dermatitis

Hidradenitis suppurativa

  • Chronic disorder
  • Boil-like follicular papules and nodules
  • Discharging sinuses and scars
Hidradenitis suppurativa

Hailey-Hailey disease

  • Intermittent painful shallow blisters that quickly break down
  • Rare inherited condition
  • Often starts age 20–40 years
  • Most troublesome during summer months
Hailey-Hailey disease

Granular parakeratosis

  • Red brown scaly rash
  • May be itchy
  • Rare
  • Biopsy essential for diagnosis
Granular parakeratosis

Fox-Fordyce disease

  • Dome-shaped follicular papules in armpits
  • Often persistent
  • Asymptomatic or itchy
  • Reduced sweating
Fox-Fordyce disease

Toe-web intertrigo (athlete’s foot)

  • Common in people wearing tight fitting shoes
  • Bacterial infection sometimes due to Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Mild form presents with erythema and scaling
  • May cause burning pain, exudation, maceration
  • Predisposes to streptococcal infection and cellulitis of lower leg.
Toe-web intertrigo

What investigations should be done?

Investigations may be necessary to determine the cause of intertrigo.

  • A swab for microscopy and culture of bacteria (microbiology)
  • A scraping for microscopy and culture of fungi (mycology)
  • A skin biopsy may be performed for histopathology if the skin condition is unusual or fails to respond to treatment.

What is the treatment for intertrigo?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause, if identified, and on which micro-organisms are present in the rash. Combinations are common.

  • Sweating may be reduced with a gentle antiperspirant.
  • Physical exertion should be followed by a bath and completely drying the skin folds using a hair dryer on cool setting, soft towel and/or corn starch powder.
  • Triple paste contains petrolatum, zinc oxide, and aluminium acetate solution to reduce friction, irritation and sweating.
  • Bacteria may be treated with topical antibiotics such as fusidic acid cream, mupirocin ointment, or oral antibiotics such as flucloxacillin and erythromycin.
  • Yeasts and fungi may be treated with topical antifungals such as clotrimazole and terbinafine cream or oral antifungal agents such as itraconazole or terbinafine.
  • Inflammatory skin diseases are often treated with low potency topical steroid creams such as hydrocortisone. More potent steroids are usually avoided in the flexures because they may cause skin thinning resulting in stretch marks (striae) and even ulcers. Calcineurin inhibitors such as tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream may also prove effective.

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