If you are noticing dry, scaly skin in or around your ears, you may be suffering from ear seborrheic dermatitis. This is a form of eczema (AKA atopic dermatitis), affecting adults and babies alike, which may lead to infection and inflammation of the ear canal if left provoked and untreated.
Fortunately, prescription ear drops are not the only way to go about alleviating this condition. There are a variety of natural treatments that can be employed to prevent irritation, soothe itchiness, and calm symptoms of ear eczema, including seborrheic dermatitis. Read on to learn about them!
Please keep in mind that we are in no way medical professionals and the comments and suggestions below are not intended to replace professional medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes.
What is Ear Seborrheic Dermatitis?
Ear seborrheic dermatitis is an itchy, red rash that appears inside the ear canal or on the outside of the ear. In other words, it’s a type of ear eczema. For most people, the symptoms will range from mild to moderate, but in some unfortunate cases, they can become more severe.
ILW Recommends: Suffering from other forms of seborrheic dermatitis? Check out our post 4 Natural Remedies for Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you suffer from ear seborrheic dermatitis, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Itchiness in or around the ear canal
- Dry, flaky skin around or inside the ear
- Redness or inflammation
- Clear discharge from the ear
What Causes Ear Eczema?
Although doctors are not 100% sure what exactly causes ear eczema, many factors are believed to play a part in its development. It’s possible that ear eczema can develop without any triggers but typically certain irritants, such as jewelry, soaps, hair dyes, or other beauty products, are the main causes. The list also includes some metals (such as nickel), rough fabrics, cigarette smoke, stress, and even heat.
While experts can’t determine the causes of seborrheic dermatitis with complete certainty, there are certain risk factors that we can point to which contribute to the development of this skin condition. The overproduction of oil is one of the most commonly identified causes of itchy skin all over the body, including the area within and surrounding the ears.
Excess oil is a big contributor to irritated skin, making it inflamed and greasy. Once it dries up, it makes your ears crusty, which, without proper treatment, can lead to the development of ear eczema. Your skin can produce abnormal amounts of oil due to poor diet and lifestyle choices, but hormone production is also a major factor that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Secondly, you might develop seborrheic dermatitis due to Malassezia, which is a naturally-occurring yeast in the human skin. In certain people, this yeast can multiply much more rapidly than it should, and too much of it can easily trigger inflammation, ramping up the skin’s oil production and increasing the risk of getting seborrheic dermatitis.
One of the most common demographics affected by seborrheic dermatitis are infants. This is because during pregnancy, the woman’s hormone levels tend to fluctuate much more than normal. These hormones are capable of stimulating the child’s oil glands, causing the overproduction of oil in the months following its birth, potentially irritating the skin and giving rise to seborrheic dermatitis.
Other Types of Ear Eczema and Their Causes
Seborrheic dermatitis is not the only kind of ear eczema that can affect you, especially if you have pre-existing skin conditions or highly sensitive skin.
Once your doctor is able to diagnose ear eczema, the very next step is determining the subtype of this condition. Below you can find two of the most common ones, not including seborrheic dermatitis.
Although it tends to affect the elderly much more frequently than other age groups, it doesn’t mean that children, teenagers, and adults are immune to this eczema type.
Asteatotic eczema is the skin’s abnormal reaction to weather changes and therefore occurs most commonly as fall turns into winter or spring into summer. It also explains why older people are at an increased risk of developing this condition, as the skin barrier gets weaker with age.
While the elderly may find themselves struggling with this type of eczema without doing anything out of the ordinary, younger demographics may get it by overusing indoor heating, not protecting their ears when it’s windy outside, and overwashing.
As the most common type of ear eczema, it is also the easiest one to treat. Of course, treatment difficulty also depends on one’s skin type, as individuals with particularly dry skin may find it harder to get rid of allergic eczema.
Luckily for those who develop it, its root causes are also the easiest to identify, and in many cases, adopting your lifestyle to this newfound allergy is the only treatment you’ll need for this particular eczema type to clear out.
With allergic eczema, you may get crusty ears via contact with irritable materials. They can include earrings, certain soaps and shampoos, and even mobile phones.
Another extremely common culprit behind allergic eczema are headphones, especially those that go directly into your ear canal. Should you find yourself developing allergic eczema, an allergist may help you identify the products you should avoid.
Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms
Developing ear eczema in the form of seborrheic dermatitis can be an annoying and painful experience. The “crusty ears” that arise as a result of this condition can also bring up plenty of self-esteem issues, making you hesitant to go to work and show up in public.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis:
- White or yellow scaly patches of skin that can be peeled off, also known as dandruff. Most people think that the scalp is the only place on your body that can be affected by dandruff, but this is far from the truth!
- Erythematous plaques. These are solid patches of irritated skin with a thick crust. They are usually elevated above the normal skin levels, forming scary-looking bumps. In the most severe cases of seborrheic dermatitis, these are prone to turning red or yellow.
- Abnormally greasy and oily skin in the affected areas.
- Severe itchiness in and around the ears.
If these symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis in or around your ears are painful or annoying to the point of disturbing your day-to-day activities, you should head to your general practitioner. They will recommend the best course of treatment, and in more severe cases, redirect you to a dermatologist.
Home Remedies for Seborrheic Dermatitis Relief
If you’re only experiencing mild seborrheic dermatitis symptoms that don’t disturb your daily routine, it is entirely possible to safely treat this skin condition on your own, with the use of natural remedies.
Here are some of the most common easily available remedies for seborrheic dermatitis:
- Dandruff shampoo. Using this around your ears might prove helpful with treating this kind of ear eczema, as long as you make sure to fully rinse it off. Otherwise, residual shampoo around the affected area will make your dry skin problem much worse.
- Hypoallergenic soap and laundry detergent. Seborrheic dermatitis often arises as an allergic reaction, more severe than regular allergic eczema. You can try using hypoallergenic alternatives to your regular soaps and detergents to see if they bring about any improvements. Tallow soap is one of nature’s most simple, gentle soaps and it’s naturally hypoallergenic. For laundry detergent, get away from harsh, liquids that are very alkaline and not skin friendly. Instead, try a mineral laundry ball as an alternative your skin will love.
Should you decide to follow the home treatment course of action, be mindful of monitoring your skin multiple times per day, and don’t hesitate to contact a specialist if you find that instead of improving, your symptoms get gradually worse.
In some unlikely cases, home remedies for seborrheic dermatitis can cause an allergic reaction, leading to your crusty ears getting worse.
Seborrheic Dermatitis Risk Factors
As we already mentioned, there is no set-in-stone rule that determines who is more likely to develop seborrheic dermatitis. As you look through this list of risk factors, keep in mind that this form of atopic dermatitis can affect you even if none of them match your particular situation.
With that out of the way, here are some of the factors that are considered to put you at a higher risk of developing seborrheic dermatitis.
- living in a polluted environment,
- some pre-existing health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease or HIV,
- living in an area with a dry, cold climate,
- hormonal fluctuations,
- poor hygiene and/or skincare routine,
- using alcohol-based skin products,
Even if you’re not affected by seborrheic dermatitis, but can identify some of these risk factors in your daily routine or the environment you live in, it might be worthwhile to eliminate as many as possible from your life.
Of course, you might not be able to just move out of the polluted city or cold region they live in, but introducing natural products to your skincare routine that help counteract the negative effects of the pollution.
Other changes are much easier to implement and can improve your life beyond mere avoidance of atopic dermatitis.
For example, starting to exercise more in order to combat obesity will not only lower your ear eczema risk but also bring about plenty of other health benefits to your life.
Natural Treatments for Ear Seborrheic Dermatitis
We truly believe that natural, toxic-free products are the safest and most effective way of treating eczema and nourishing sensitive skin. It goes without saying that chemicals are unhealthy for your body and may lead to further irritation or even provoke a bad reaction.
Here’s a list of some of our favourite, organic products to help you soothe and nourish your body when dealing with seborrheic dermatitis in or behind your ears.
This itchy eczema treatment by Emily Skin Soothers provides relief for both adults and babies. Free from colorants, artificial fragrances, preservatives, and chemicals, this smooth cream contains just three Chinese herbs in a base of olive oil and beeswax. All the natural ingredients are of the highest quality making it an ideal remedy for itchy rashes around the face.
This Organic Aloe Vera for Eczema Skin Soothing Spray is great for the face and body – including on or around the ears! Made with calendula and aloe vera, it’s a cool and soothing spray that calms the most irritating of rashes. Hint: store in the refrigerator between uses to experience an extra cool delight!
Lastly, this Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream is 100% natural and can be used on the most sensitive areas. Not only is it nourishing and soothing, but its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help protect skin and reduce inflammation.
Combat Eczema Effectively with Itchy Little World
Crusty ears and inflamed ear canals are some of the most annoying and painful symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. Hopefully, this article has helped you understand this condition better and given you some ideas regarding the best way to alleviate it and mitigate further risk.
It is important to remember that ear eczema is not the only condition that can make your skin itchy and painful. Eczema comes in many shapes and forms, and affects children and adults alike. When looking for help, don’t hesitate to visit Itchy Little World, where we publish eczema-related content on a regular basis, making our site the best one-stop shop for tips, tricks, and strategies for combatting this irritating skin condition.