Faith is Fearful of Flakes: I would like to know what causes my ears to be dry, flaky and itchy. The inner part of my ear and the part behind the lobe gets so dry I can just peel a layer off. I use lotions and oils, but it comes back. What can I do? The Right Brain reassures her:
Ok, I’m going to catch a lot of heat from the Left Brain on this one because it’s based on my personal experience and not a peer reviewed study, but here’s my answer: Wash your hair with a dandruff shampoo and rub some of the lather in your ears and behind them. I did this and after a couple of days the dryness went away.
Why does this work? Normally, the stratum corneum cells (the upper, dead layer of skin) fall off in pieces so tiny that you don’t even see them. But dandruff messes up the cellular adhesion so the cells stick together and come off in clumps or flakes. (Contrary to what you might think, cellular adhesion does NOT mean you should drive around with your phone stuck to your ear. But I digress…)
Dandruff shampoos control cellular adhesion, they speed up the rate at which the skin cells flake off so you get more microscopic flakes that you can’t see and less big white scaley chunks of skin on your little black dress. If it’s a dandruff like condition that’s causing your ears to feel flaky and itchy, the solution may be as simple as changing your shampoo!
(If want to learn more, go read our post on what to look for in a dandruff shampoo.)
So why, you ask, don’t dandruff shampoos advertise that they’re good for itchy ears? Two reasons, really. First, itching can be caused by other mechanisms that have nothing to do with dandruff. And second, since dandruff shampoos are over the counter drugs they’re only allowed to make claims that have been approved in the drug monograph. So even if they do work on ears, they can’t tell you that.
So there you have it – my unproven, but scientifically sound suggestion. There’s really no downside to trying it, so give it a shot and let me know what you think. In the mean time, bring it on, Left Brain!