What Causes an Earlobe Bump?

Drue Tibbits
Drue Tibbits
A reaction to the metal of an earring may cause an earlobe bump.
A reaction to the metal of an earring may cause an earlobe bump.

Earlobe bumps are a common occurrence. An earlobe bump can be the result of a clogged sebaceous gland, a condition called a sebaceous cyst. Epidermoid cysts appear on the earlobe and, in rare cases, can develop into skin cancer. An inflamed or infected hair follicle can result in a tender lump on the earlobe. The earlobe tissue may swell as a reaction to the metal of an earring.

Earrings can cause an earlobe bump.
Earrings can cause an earlobe bump.

Sebaceous cysts are benign. The body of the cyst is filled with dead skin cells and oil from the skin’s oil glands. They can be manipulated with the fingers and moved beneath the skin. Sebaceous cysts are painless unless they have become infected or are pressing on a nerve. They can occur anywhere on the body where sebaceous glands are present, including the earlobes.

Avoiding earrings that contain nickel may help prevent an allergic reaction or irritation.
Avoiding earrings that contain nickel may help prevent an allergic reaction or irritation.

Epidermoid cysts, like sebaceous cysts, can occur anywhere on the body and are generally painless. The cyst is made of squamous epithelium and does not manipulate as easily as a sebaceous cyst. Although epidermoid cysts are more common than sebaceous cysts, the two terms are often misused. Infected epidermoid cysts can contain blood and pus and can become painful to the touch.

Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles. The inflammation is caused by an infection beneath the skin at the root of the hair. An earlobe bump caused by folliculitis is usually red and tender to the touch. Depending on the level of infection, the bump may feel warmer than the surrounding skin.

Some people’s skin has a reaction when exposed to certain metals. An earlobe bump can develop after wearing an earring with an offending metal. Earring wires and posts are commonly made of hypoallergenic materials to avoid this problem, but sometimes the hypoallergenic plating wears off or the person has a sensitivity to the earring materials. The bump can be slightly painful, although this is a result of the body’s histamine reaction and not a sign of infection.

Most earlobe bumps resolve on their own without medical intervention. Any earlobe bump that is very painful, is draining fluids, or is still present after a couple of weeks should be examined by a physician to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition. A bump can be removed surgically with a small incision or treated with steroids to reduce inflammation. Some earlobe bumps can be surgically removed with lasers. It is not uncommon for the bumps to recur in the same location after removal.

What Are The Risk Factors for an Earlobe Cyst?

Here are a few factors that may make you more susceptible to developing an earlobe cyst

  • If you have a rare genetic disorder or syndrome
  • Cysts don't typically develop in babies or children, so if you've passed the pubescent years, you're more at risk
  • If you have acne, it makes your skin more likely to develop sacks of fluid
  • If you have a history of getting cysts
  • If you have any skin injuries that will cause atypical cell reactions like forcing them to go deeper into the skin and forming a lump

How To Treat Folliculitis at Home

A mild case of folliculitis usually gets better over time without medical care from a physician. These simple tips can help alleviate discomfort, accelerate healing, and decrease the likelihood of the infection spreading.

Tip 1

Use a moist, warm compress or washcloth, and apply it to the affected area where you want to decrease discomfort and promote draining if you can. Try this a few times a day to make the bumps less painful. 

Tip 2

Go to your local pharmacy and pick up creams, gels, and washes that don't require a prescription. Also, any antibiotic that could help with an infection will help. For example, products with hydrocortisone will help relieve itchiness, and lotions will help soothe the skin.

Tip 3 

Ensure that you gently clean the area where you have folliculitis at least twice daily with an antibacterial soap. You'll also need to use clean towels and washcloths that you haven't shared with anyone else. Also, any hair accessories that have touched the infected area. 

Tip 4

You'll want to ensure that you're not wearing earrings or anything that could irritate the skin around your ears.

Can an Earlobe Bump Just Be a Pimple?

A bump on your earlobe that you suspect to be a pimple can result from excess oil, dead skin, and sweat built up over time inside a pore on your earlobe.

Below are some other viable reasons that the bump on your earlobe may be a pimple:

Tight headwear

Wearing accessories that happen to be tight, such as a headband, a scarf, or a hat, can trap oils and sweat against your ears and head. When these oils build up, they can cause pimples to form around your face, hairline, and ears. 

Stress

If you're experiencing chronic stress, it can cause you to sweat more, or it can cause changes in your hormones, leading to more oil production. So while your ear might be a strange place to get a stress-related pimple, it's possible!

Allergic reactions

An allergic reaction to medications, food, and even metals can cause pimples on the skin. If you think you're experiencing other symptoms of an allergic reaction, contact your doctor immediately.

Make sure not to pick at or pop a pimple on your earlobe. If you've tried to pop a pimple and it refuses to do so, this may be that it has yet to come to a head, or it is a deep infection which means that it isn't a pimple but an abscess or a cyst.

Is It Safe To Remove Cysts at Home?

Though you may see numerous videos on YouTube describing how to remove cysts at home, those methods rarely work. The cysts will almost always come back when you're using a technique that relies on squeezing or pressing the cyst to remove the liquid inside. 

A cyst is a pocket in your skin filled with cells. As long as the pouch is there, the skin will continue producing cells and refilling the pocket. You're not solving the problem by attempting to squeeze it out; the pocket has to get removed.

You may make the situation worse by trying amateur removal tactics. The cyst is more likely to get infected if you bust the lump open. You will also damage the skin, and you might have to contend with scarring that wouldn't have otherwise been there. 

If you're going to treat your cyst alone, more than anything, keep it clean, wash the area properly, and seek assistance from a dermatologist to remove it correctly.

Discussion Comments

anon926648

If you have a problem with earrings and the hypoallergenic plating coming off, you can coat them with clear nail polish and it works the same. I have a serious nickel allergy so I have to do this to all costume jewelry.

anon322490

I get an earlobe lump on my left ear and comes and goes every few months. When it comes, I feel very tired and nauseated. It stays about two weeks and when it starts to go down my energy returns and the nausea subsides. Anyone know what this is?

Perdido

@lighth0se33 – I have the same bumps inside my earlobe as you have. I didn't know until I read this article that the hypoallergenic stuff on earrings is just plating and that it can wear off. I now believe that is the cause of my bumps.

The inside of my pierced holes itch so badly, and the only way to scratch them is with an earring! Considering that the earring is the reason for the itching, I don't use it to scratch the itch. I'm going to carefully examine my earrings in the future, and if any plating has worn off, I won't use them anymore.

lighth0se33

@blackDagger – I get hard lumps in my earlobes where my ears are pierced sometimes. It would seem that taking an antihistamine would help, since they are often due to an allergic reaction, but for me, antibiotic ointment is the only thing that works.

Since your husband has pus and blood in his, it sounds more like an infection than an allergic reaction. So, antibiotic ointment would be ideal for him.

Tell him to dip the post of an earring into some of this ointment and push it through the holes a few times. Then, remove the earring and see if the lump disappears.

I do this once a week or so to keep bumps from coming back. It's been working for me.

Domido

I knew this young lady in college who was absolutely gorgeous. She started to wear her hair down constantly, and one day I saw the reason why.

I suppose it must have been some sort of cyst, but there was this really large bump on her earlobe. Now, I’m not making fun of the girl at all, but it truly was huge and very noticeable.

It almost looked like a ball attached to her ear. It would seem to go down and she’d start to wear her hair up again. But then the thing would swell back up and down would come the hair.

I really felt very sorry for her, and I never had the rudeness in me to ask her what it was. I would guess though that it was something like described in this article.

blackDagger

Before my husband actually realized he was a full grown man and everything, he had both of his ears pierced.

(I have nothing at all against men with earrings, mind you. He was just going through some sort of midlife crisis when he went out and got his done. He also got three tattoos and dyed his hair all sorts of colors. You've got me on what got into him.)

Now, a few years later, he rarely wears earrings and doesn't have enough hair to dye at all. But occasionally one or both of the holes in his ears will get a bump on them. When he mashes them, blood and pus come out just as if his ears were infected from a dirty earring.

Is there any way to make this stop? Even during times when these holes have grown up, he has gotten this painful lump in his earlobe.

The only relief he gets is from popping them.

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    • A reaction to the metal of an earring may cause an earlobe bump.
      By: chones
      A reaction to the metal of an earring may cause an earlobe bump.
    • Earrings can cause an earlobe bump.
      Earrings can cause an earlobe bump.
    • Avoiding earrings that contain nickel may help prevent an allergic reaction or irritation.
      Avoiding earrings that contain nickel may help prevent an allergic reaction or irritation.