A number of things can cause dry ears. This includes heat exposure, harsh soaps, or a possible chronic skin condition. Several treatment methods can help, such as using lotions, creams, and ointments to keep your ears moisturized.

There are many reasons why the skin around your ears may feel dry, itchy, or irritated. Common causes can include your daily environment, such as your home, as well as the weather.

Keep reading to learn more about dry ears, including causes, treatments, and tips for prevention.

Close-up of man with his finger placed inside his ear scratching, to depict dry ears.Share on Pinterest
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Your environment may cause dry skin in and around your ears. Hot or cold weather, for example, can dry out your skin. Your home is also an environment. If the temperature is too warm or the air is too dry, it can affect your skin.

Exposure to harsh soaps, perfumes, and cleansers may also contribute to dryness as they strip oil from your skin.

Allergic reaction is another possibility. If you have an allergy to nickel, for example, you can develop dry and crusty skin on your ears if you wear earrings made from the metal.

Other causes include:

  • sun exposure
  • hot bath
  • swimming in a chlorinated pool
  • dehydration
  • smoking (if you smoke)
  • stress

If you have a chronic skin condition, your ears may also feel dry and irritated. Conditions that could cause this symptom include:

  • psoriasis, which may cause a buildup of skin cells or wax on your ears or on other parts of your body
  • eczema, which may start as slight dryness and progress to skin loss, soreness, or infection of both the inner and outer ear
  • seborrheic dermatitis, which can cause inflammation and painful cracks on or behind your ears

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

Treatment options that may help include:

Checking your routine

It can be helpful to look through your soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products to see if they may be causing irritation in your ears.

It can also be helpful to 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?

Consider keeping a diary of any symptoms you have and when they are being triggered. This may help you to identify if any products or situations are causing dry ears.


Treating your dry ears usually involves finding a way to restore moisture to your skin. This can include the following methods:

  • Ointments contain a mixture of water in 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. You need to apply them 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 more frequently to relieve your symptoms.

You can use most of these products liberally for as long as you have symptoms. It’s best to apply these moisturizers right after bathing and toweling off.

Trying other over-the-counter topicals

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

Switching 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. Consider using mild moisturizing soaps and shampoos, which won’t dry out your skin when you shower or wash your face.

It can be helpful to check the labels when buying soap and avoid antibacterial soaps or those containing alcohol and perfumes.

Managing scratching

Dry skin often itches, but itching or scratching can invite bacteria into your skin and lead to infection. If your ears are particularly itchy, try using a cool compress.

A hydrocortisone-containing cream or an ointment can help with inflammation. For best results, try to find one that contains at least 1 percent hydrocortisone.

Avoiding allergens

Do you think you might be allergic to a piece of jewelry? Once you develop a sensitivity or allergy to nickel, it can become chronic or lifelong. If you suspect you’re allergic to nickel, it can be beneficial to stop wearing jewelry and let your ears heal.

Once they’ve healed, try switching to jewelry made from a different material, like stainless steel, sterling silver, solid gold, or polycarbonate plastic.

There are many things you can do to help prevent dryness and irritation to your ears. This includes the following:

  • Use a humidifier to increase moisture in the air in your home.
  • Turn the temperature down on your bath water. Water that’s too hot can dry skin.
  • Use mild soaps and cleansers, and stay away from heavy perfumes or dyes.
  • Consider bathing less frequently to allow your body’s natural oils to protect your skin.
  • Moisturize your skin when you first notice that it’s drying out.
  • Cover your ears with a hat or apply sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Wear clothing or hats made of natural fibers, like silk or cotton.
  • Avoid nickel if you wear jewelry. Instead, choose earrings made from hypoallergenic materials, like sterling silver, solid gold, or stainless steel.

Your symptoms should reduce after you restore moisture to your skin and make simple lifestyle changes. However, if moisturizers aren’t helping your skin or your ears are getting worse, consider checking in with a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist.

You can book an appointment with a dermatologist in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool. People with skin diseases like psoriasis may need prescription creams and ointments.

If left untreated, dry skin can lead to discolored, itchy skin known as dermatitis. A doctor can recommend or prescribe lotions that contain hydrocortisone to treat your dermatitis.

People who are more prone to conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitis may be more likely to develop an infection. These conditions can cause cracks in the skin and become infected if not treated.

There are several reasons why you may be experiencing dry skin behind or in your ear. A common cause is your environment, as hot or cold weather, for example, can dry out your skin.

Another common cause is the product you are using around your ears. Harsh soaps, perfumes, and cleansers can contribute to dryness by stripping oil from your skin.

Treating your dry ears usually involves finding a way to restore moisture to your skin. This typically involves using lotions, creams, and ointments until the dryness goes away.

Consider speaking with a healthcare professional if moisturizers aren’t helping your skin or the dryness in your ears is worsening.