Uh, Did You Know Wearing Headphones Can Lead To Ear Blackheads?

Woman Enjoying Music In Headphones

Sometimes, what you put on your skin can come with annoying skin irritation. It’s why derms often advise you to peel off your exercise clothing as soon as you can post-workout, as those sweaty fabrics can lead to clogged pores and body acne. It’s why they suggest you apply a soothing emollient under a fitness tracker to prevent chafing. And, of course, we can’t forget about masks: Since the face covering can create a humid environment for breakouts, pros recommend you avoid heavy and potentially comedogenic products under the mask area. All that to say, what you wear and use can absolutely affect your skin.

Even something as innocent as headphones: “Blackheads or open comedones can absolutely happen inside the ear canal, especially if you wear AirPods for long periods of time,” says board-certified dermatologist and mbg Collective member Whitney Bowe, M.D., in a recent TikTok

Ear blackheads don’t exactly spark the most glamorous image, we know—but we’re not ones to shy away from a sticky situation, are we? Ahead, find out what to do about these tech-induced breakouts. 

How do ear blackheads happen?

You can get blackheads and pimples anywhere you have a pore—yes, this includes your ears. They may be less common than pimples on other surface areas (like your face, back, chest, and even on your hairline), but ear zits can certainly happen, and it’s nothing to worry about! 

As for Bowe’s AirPods bit (or any other sort of earbud): When you wear these headphones for a long time, the buds can block airflow into your ear canal, which can contribute to a buildup of wax, oil, and grime—and buildup, as we know, can easily lead to clogged pores and blackheads. It’s not the only reason the pores in there can clog, but it’s a likely culprit for many headphone-wearers, especially those who may work from home with their earbuds in all day. 

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Bowe lends her stamp of approval to professional blackhead extraction: “Extraction is so effective there,” she notes. Big, big caveat: You never want to attempt extractions at home. Leave the squeezing to the professionals, especially near the sensitive ear canal. We should note, most blackheads will actually crop up in the conchal bowl (the hollow space in your ear) rather than in the actual ear canal itself; so make sure whoever does perform extractions around the delicate opening is extra careful. 

However, you can (gently!) approach an ear blackhead just like any other clogged pore: Celebrity esthetician Shani Darden recommends you apply a “very thin, thin, thin layer” of AHA serum for ear zits, which can help unglue dead skin cells and encourage cell turnover. If you’re especially prone to clogged pores in the area, you’ll also want to make sure you’re cleansing the ears regularly. Nothing too intricate or product-heavy—a good rinse in the shower should be A-OK. 

To prevent the ears from becoming an oily breeding ground for blackheads, perhaps give your ears a break from the buds to encourage airflow. It’s not a perfect science, but if you wear the headphones for hours and notice your ears are more waxy and oily all of a sudden, it might be worth the tweak. 

Ear blackheads: Yes, they’re gross, but yes, they happen. It may be more common if you wear earbuds constantly since the headphones can block airflow and lead to buildup. Not to worry: There’s plenty you can do to keep the blackheads at bay. 


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