Dry Skin

Dry Skin Behind Ears Causes, Flaky, Crusty Outer Ears, Baby, White Flakes in Ear Canal

Dry skin behind ears causes

Dry or rush skin as you may call it may not be serious most of the time, but experiencing it is not comfortable. You can experience dryness anywhere on your body: the arms, face, and legs. And then there’s behind the ears. This is usually a serious condition, but dry skin behind your ears is nothing more than a common problem that many people face. It can also occur within the ear canal.

Dry skin behind ears causes

Dry skin behind ears

You can handle the dry skin behind ears if it is a result of environmental factors, but if it becomes serious or is persistent, you might need to see a doctor and get a diagnosis. There are many different kinds of dry skin, which can include red patches, patches with flakes or scales, or even areas that develop fissures that bleed.

Below are some things that could be causing the dry skin, how you can treat at home, and what kind of medical treatment is available. There are also some general tips on keeping your skin in good condition.

Seborrheic dermatitis

This is a common, inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form on oily areas such as the scalp, face or inside or behind the ear. It can occur with or without reddened skin.

Cradled scalp is the term used when seborrheic dermatitis affects the scalp of infants.



Those people who are affected with this kind of condition can show different symptoms. It can be widespread on the body, affect two areas, or target a single area.

  • Areas of the affected skin may feel sensitive, sore and itchy. Flaking skin may be bothersome or embarrassing for the individual affected.
  • Affected dry skin behind ears area may appear red with greasy flakes.
  • If the condition extends to the scalp, it shows up as dandruff or a rash that is red and scaly. On the face, seborrheic dermatitis usually targets the nose’s and cheeks’ creases as well as the inner eyebrows. In the case of seborrheic blepharitis, the affected eyelids may appear swollen, red and flaky.
  • The areas in the chest’s front or on the back around the shoulder blades may also become affected, where seborrheic dermatitis may be manifested as mild scaling with pink to red patches that may be round and well-defined.
  • Skin folds may also be affected, especially the moist areas. The skin on the abdomen, in the groin, under the arms and under the breasts may be shiny and pink, and have a cracked surface.
  • Individuals with darker skin may have seborrheic dermatitis-affected areas that look darker or lighter than the skin surrounding them.
  • When this condition shows up around and in the ears, the affected individual can have inflammation behind the ears, in the ear’s cup, and inside the ear canal. Bacterial infection can cause the skin to crust.


The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known although doctors think it may be due to a combination hormone levels, weakened immune system, lack of certain nutrients, or nervous system problems. Irritation from a yeast called Malassezia may also lead to this condition. Seborrheic dermatitis appears to run in families.

Risk factors include:

  • Stress or fatigue
  • Weather extremes
  • Oily skin, or skin problems such as acne
  • Infrequent shampoos or skin cleaning
  • Using lotions that contain alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Neurologic conditions, including Parkinson diseasehead injuryor stroke
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Dry Skin behind Ear Causes

Causes of dry skin behind ears

Dry flaky skin behind ears

The skin throughout the surface of the body is largely the same in structure and it is continuous. Therefore skin conditions can occur anywhere in the body. Some problems are more likely to affect certain areas more than others, like acne which more often occurs on the face, back and chest.

While most of us are accustomed to seeing rashes on most parts of the body, a skin rash behind the ear is often considered to be unusual. But it can occur and there are certain skin conditions more likely to afflict the skin behind the ears.

Common causes of dry skin behind ear

The most common skin conditions to occur behind the ears are discussed below. However, just about any skin disease can affect the area. It is therefore important to consult with a dermatologist who can examine the area and make a proper diagnosis. Most of these conditions tend to affect the scalp primarily and then extend to the neck and the skin behind the ears.

Atopic Dermatitis

This is a very common skin condition among children which is widely referred to as eczema. It can occur in any person of any age but more frequently occurs in infants and young children. Atopic dermatitis tends to arise in people with an allergic disposition particularly when a person or their family members have asthma and allergic rhinitis. It is a chronic skin condition that occurs due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It causes the skin becomes dry and itchy with acute flare-ups where the skin is inflamed. There may even be blisters and a weeping discharge on the dry skin behind ear. The condition tends to affect the folds of the skin – at the elbows, behind the knees and so on. The skin behind the ears is also one of the sites that may be affected.

Contact Dermatitis

It is an inflammatory skin condition that is sometimes confused with atopic dermatitis. It can affect any person of any age. In contact dermatitis, the skin reacts to an irritant or an allergen. The irritation can occur in any one when the skin becomes irritated and injured by irritants. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs in people who have allergies as the immune system reacts abnormally to harmless substances.

The rash is usually limited to the area where the irritant or allergen makes contact. More common irritants that cause dry skin behind ears include hair dyes, shampoos, other hair care products, spectacle temple tips and ear jewellery. The rash is typically red, swollen and itchy. In more severe cases there may be blister formation. Dryness and roughness of the skin may also occur.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is a chronic inflammatory condition that occurs on the more oily areas of the skin like the scalp, face and chest. It can affect any age group. In new-borns, it is known as cradle cap when it occurs on the scalp. Dandruff is another form of scalp seborrheic dermatitis that may occur in adolescents and adults. Its exact cause is not known but it appears to be an abnormal reaction to naturally occurring yeasts that live on the skin.

The rash from seborrheic dermatitis may vary depending on whether it is a mild, moderate or severe case. The skin appears scaly and greasy with a yellow crust. On the scalp, seborrheic dermatitis may appear with small white flakes of skin and this can extend to the neck and the area behind the ears.

Scalp Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another chronic inflammatory skin condition that may be the cause of a dry skin behind ears. It can occur at any age and tends to affect the skin on the elbows, knees and scalp more frequently. It appears to be an autoimmune disease although the exact cause is unknown. It tends to run in families and there are also environmental factors that play a role in its development.

A scalp psoriasis may extend to the forehead, neck and behind the ears. The rash appears as thick red plaques which are scaly and itchy. The skin may also appear smooth and shiny. There may be episodes of acute flare-ups followed by periods where the symptoms clear up almost entirely.

Skin Infections

A number of skin infections can involves the area behind the ear but the two most likely are tinea capitis (fungal) and impetigo (bacterial). Tinea capitis is caused by dermatophytes, a type of fungi that has a predilection for human skin. It can occur anywhere on the body but the feet, groin and scalp are commonly affected areas. The infection is superficial as the fungi digest and feed of the outer protein layers of the skin.

The skin usually appears dry and cracked with scaling an itchiness. Typically this appears as circular lesions, hence the term ringworm.

Dry Skin behind Ears Baby

Dry skin behind ears baby

Dry skin rash behind ears in baby

Rough, scaly patches of skin behind ear on their new-born can be alarming to new parents, but usually are nothing to worry about. Most likely, they’re due to a harmless condition many babies develop called cradle cap.

Cause of cradle cap

Cradle cap is the common term for seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhoea, which is called dandruff in older kids and adults.

It is a common condition in new-borns and children as old as 3 and causes thick white or yellow scales on the scalp and dry skin behind ears. Some kids just get scales in a small patch; others have scales all over their heads.

Sometimes, cradle cap can even occur on the eyebrows, eyelids, ears, crease of the nose, back of the neck, diaper area, or armpits. In a few cases, such as in babies who have eczema or dry skin, cradle cap can cause cracked skin that itches and oozes a small amount of clear yellow drainage.

Is the condition contagious?

Cradle cap is not contagious and it isn’t an indication of poor hygiene. Most of the time, it just goes away on its own. In severe cases, though, a doctor may recommend a medicated shampoo or lotion. Washing your baby’s scalp and areas behind ears daily with mild shampoo also can help to loosen and remove the scales caused by cradle cap.

Though it might look to be uncomfortable or irritating to the skin, cradle cap generally doesn’t bother kids.


The exact cause of cradle cap isn’t known, although some researchers believe it’s due to an overproduction of skin oil in the oil glands and hair follicles. A type of yeast called malassezia can grow in the sebum along with bacteria, and this may be another factor in the development of cradle cap.

Seborrhoea happens most often in babies and teenagers. In both of these times in a person’s life, hormone levels are high, which also might play a role in the condition.

Certain factors like weather extremes, oily skin, problems with the immune system, stress, and other skin disorders can make it more likely that a child will get cradle cap.

Dry Flaky Skin in Ears

A flaky, dry skin behind ears, if noticed don’t brush your hair over your ears and ignore it. The flakes may be caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a dermatological condition that causes scaly skin flakes, or an allergic reaction that may cause flaking and dryness of the skin in the ear area. Consult a doctor before attempting to treat your skin condition on your own.


Those dandruff-like flakes in the ear may be caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a dermatological condition that may be caused by stress, a yeast known as malassezia, cold winter weather and, in some cases, from diseases like HIV and AIDS or Parkinson’s disease, says MayoClinic.com. Flaky, dry ears may also be caused by a skin allergy from fragrances, shampoos, lotions or any other substances you use around your ears.


A flaky or dry skin behind ear may be accompanied by yellow or white crusty scales on the surface of the skin. The area may itch or feel uncomfortable. Flaking skin on the ears due to an allergic reaction may be accompanied by hives, blistering skin, itchy skin or a strange rash, notes the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

Crusty Outer Ear

When you have crusty ears, it may cause discomforts and embarrassment. Having dry, crusty, flaky ears could mean a number of things. This may include excess build-up of earwax or some skin conditions. When you have crusty ears and suspect that it may be caused by some disease, see a doctor.

Having dry, flaky ears can be annoying, therefore, you should figure out what is causing the problem and seek treatment when necessary. Sometimes, it may be something you are using that is causing some allergy reaction such as cleanser, lotion, toner, or shampoo. At other times, it may occur due to changes in weather and dryness of the skin around the ears.

Eczema behind Ears

Dry skin behind ears causes

Eczema behind ears

Adult seborrhoeic eczema usually starts on the scalp as dandruff that can progress to redness, irritation and increased scaling, which becomes seborrhoeic eczema. As the scalp becomes inflamed, the eczema may spread onto the face and neck.

The eyebrows, temples, folds at the sides of the nose, and neck are often affected as well. The area may looks red and sheds small white flakes of skin. Seborrhoeic dermatitis can be particularly bad with dry skin behind ears – larger, greasy scales stick to the skin and surrounding hair, making the area look thickly crusted.

The ear folds and canal may also be affected, causing irritation inside the ear, which is called ear eczema. Seborrhoeic eczema usually occurs only on the scalp and face, but it can extend to the centres of the chest and back, especially in men. Other areas which can also be affected are the armpits, under the breasts, groin and between the buttocks and genitals.

What causes seborrheic eczema?

The cause of seborrhoeic eczema is not entirely clear, but it is thought to be an inflammatory reaction related to an overgrowth of normal skin flora, species of malassezia yeasts.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis cannot be cured because once an individual is sensitised, malassezia on the skin will always cause a reaction. However, with treatment the condition can be successfully controlled in most cases so that the skin and scalp are comfortable much of the time.

How to Get Rid of Dry Skin behind Ears

There are several methods you can use to eliminate that skin condition that cause dry skin behind ears. Your doctor could suggest various topical prescription treatment combinations that contain desonide and ketoconazole to address your dry skin problem.

Medical treatment

Aside from that, they could recommend wet dressings to ease down the secretions and eventually reduce the risk of infections.

You can also consult your doctor regarding the use of the following medical treatments:

  • Stronger medication with antifungal shampoo– You can try alternating a Ketoconazole-containing shampoo with a scalp medication with clobetasol. This may be effective in treating seborrheic dermatitis when done twice per week.
  • Inflammation-controlling ointments, creams, or shampoos– You can apply prescription-strength corticosteroids to the skin affected with seborrheic dermatitis. These products are easy to use and effective, although using them continuously for several weeks or months can thin the skin or cause it to show lines or streaks.
  • Antifungal medication pills– Certain medications for treating seborrheic dermatitis can be taken as pills, but this option is hardly recommended by doctors since they have the potential of causing liver problems, allergic reactions, or other serious side effects.
  • Bacteria-fighting gel or cream– Gels or creams that fight bacteria can be used one to two times a day until there is improvement in your seborrheic dermatitis problems. Try metronidazole, which you can apply both as a gel or cream.
  • Medication with light therapy– In this treatment for seborrheic dermatitis, taken orally or applied topically is combined with photo-chemotherapy. This treatment involves exposing the affected skin to ultraviolet light. It may not be effective in individuals with thick hair.

Home remedies

A cure for seborrheic dermatitis has yet to be found. However, it is that it is treatable. These days, you can easily get your hands on medicated shampoos, soaps and creams to help control the flaking and rash.

You can use a medicated shampoo at home if you have it. Make sure to let the shampoo remain on your hair and scalp for the entire recommended time to allow the active ingredients to do their job. You can gently rub the shampoos on your ears, face, and chest before completely rinsing off.

Here are some other ideas you might want to try out:

  • Try washing your dry skin behind ear and everything around it with medicated soap or shampoo via a washcloth on a daily basis. Wet the area thoroughly first before you start washing using the washcloth so the dry scales are not ripped off unnecessarily..
  • After washing the area, be careful when applying moisturizer to control residual flaking. Thicker moisturizers will stay on the skin much better. You could also try out cosmetics that contain moisturizers.
  • Should dry patches continue to manifest, head to your dermatologist and ask for a medicated cream. Anti-inflammatories like topical steroids should help control dry skin.
  • Avoid itching. If you scratch the area constantly, you’ll end up with wounds, pus, or lesions. You must avoid scratching behind your ear altogether, no matter how itchy it gets.
Causes of dry skin behind ears

Tea tree oil for dry and flaky skin behind ears

There are a number of alternative therapies you can try to treat seborrheic dermatitis. Just remember to consult your doctor before enhancing your skin care routine with any alternative medicines, such as the following:

  • Tea tree oil– You can use tea tree oil alone or add it to your shampoo to help in treating seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Fish oil supplements– You can take Omega-3-rich fish oil supplements to alleviate the skin condition.
  • Aloe Vera– Consider applying Aloe Vera cream on the affected skin two times a day for a period of 4 to 6 weeks to reduce itching and scaling.
  • Apple cider vinegar– Dilute one cup of this vinegar in ten cups of water, then gently massage into your scalp for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • Olive oil– Olive oil is also useful in treating seborrheic dermatitis. Rub olive oil gently on the scalp and let stand for twenty minutes. Doing so will help soften the skin on the affected areas, making it easier to remove the flakes or crusts with a comb. Cleanse the hair by shampooing afterwards, but avoid rubbing your scalp.
  • Baking soda– You can combine baking soda and water to make a paste then massage it into your scalp. Make sure to leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing with water.

Further references

  1. Symptoms and treatments for dry skin behind ears: http://hubpages.com/style/Why-You-Have-Dry-Skin-Behind-Ears-Facts-Symptoms-Remedies-and-Treatments
  2. Seborrheic dermatitis: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000963.htm
  3. Cradle cap: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cradle-cap.html?WT.ac=ctg
  4. Dry flaky ears: http://www.livestrong.com/article/322823-dry-flaky-ears/
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