Ear Boil Vs. Pimple: What are the Differences?

Ear Boil Vs. Pimple: What are the Differences?

The skin of the ears resembles the skin on other parts of the body as it contains sweat glands, hair follicles, and other appendages of the skin. Therefore, bumps can form on the ears just like your facial and physical skin. 

Painful bumps that develop on the skin of the ears or inside the ear canal can belong to two categories; ear boils and pimples. As the treatment and care of these conditions are different, let us explore ear boil vs. pimple in this article. 

Ear Boils vs pimples

Let us know all about ear boils and pimples here.

What is an Ear Boil?

While both ear boil and pimple are painful inflammatory bumps formed on the skin, the pathology and definition of both differ. If we define ear boil also known as ear furuncle, it is an infection caused by invasion into the hair follicle. 

What is a Pimple?

On the other hand, pimple is the raised area of the skin caused by clogging of the pores on the skin. In this case, a bacteria named Propionibacterium acnes may also be involved. 


Ear boil and pimple might appear like one thing. However, there are some characteristic features that can help in their differentiation. 

Ear Boil 

The symptoms of ear boil are given as,

  • Formation of a reddish and painful inflamed area on the skin 
  • The lump caused by an ear boil is mostly hard and tender to touch
  • The hard bump progressively becomes soft as pus accumulates in it
  • There is pus in the ear boil which can be assessed by a fluctuation test 
  • Boils are present in the area with hair 
  • At times, the skin lying on the top of the ear boils and appears flaky 
  • You can see the pus coming out of the ear boil as well
  • Fever 


The main symptoms of pimples are given as,

  • As pimple is a clogged pore, it can appear as a whitehead, blackhead, or papule
  • Pimples are red 
  • A pimple might or might not be painful
  • Pimples are mostly present in areas of the skin with excess oil production 
  • Body temperature is normal but the bump might feel hot

Main Difference

The main differences between ear boil vs. pimple are,

  • Pimple is often smaller in size while boil can become large
  • Ear boils are always filled with pus while pimples rarely do
  • A pimple has a central white or black area while a boil does not 


While both are caused by bacteria, the pathophysiology is different. So, let us find out what are the causes of boil and pimples in the ear canal.

Ear Boil 

Ear boil is mostly likely caused by the entry of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus into the hair follicles. Staphylococcus aureus is a part of the normal microbial flora of the skin that lives on the surface.

Once, it enters the follicle because of a compromised skin barrier or immunity, it results in the formation of the boil.


Pimple is also caused by bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes. However, this organism alone is not enough to cause pimples. First, the hair follicles or skin pores are clogged by dead skin cells, excess oils, and impurities. 

After that, bacteria invade the blocked follicle and cause pimples. A pimple can progress to cystic acne as well which resembles an ear boil.

Main Difference

Staphylococcus aureus is an infection agent and ear boil is an infectious bump. On the other hand, P. acnes is not infectious. Therefore, pimples caused by P. acnes can only be inflammatory. 

Scratching your skin with weird objects in the ear can make you prone to ear boil while blockage of the skin pores by excessive wax can cause pimples inside the ear. 


The diagnosis of ear boil vs. ear pimple is a combination of history, examination, and tests. 

Ear Boil 

In case of ear boil, a person can present with the history of,

  • Pain in the ear
  • Pus oozing out of the ear
  • Use of things like Q-tips, bobby pins, or other foreign bodies in the ear
  • The presence of risk factors like diabetes, eczema, or skin infection

The examination of ear boil reveals,

  • A moderate to large-sized bump in the ear with pus inside it 
  • The skin above this bump is red, inflamed, and tender

The investigation of choice for ear boil includes,

  • The culture of the fluid from the ear boil


Pimples might occur more often than thought. So, here are some basic history points of a pimple. 

  • Excessive sweating on the head and face
  • Excessive wax in the ears
  • History of acne on other parts of the body
  • Unhealthy lifestyle 

On examination of the ear canal, pimple appears as,

  • A small-sized bump with a black or white head
  • Presence of skin inflammation 

There are no specific tests for pimples in the ears. However, an overall view of the hormonal status can be helpful.

Diagnosing Ear Boil Vs. Pimple at Home

Ear boils need proper treatment by a doctor while ear pimples might not as they can be treated at home with some lifestyle improvements.

So, it is a wise choice to examine your ears at home before visiting a doctor. You can do so by using the Bebird Note5 Pro Ear Camera.


One of the two conditions discussed above is infectious while the other is not. So, the treatment options differ. 

Ear Boil 

The treatment options for how to get rid of ear boil include,

  • Antibiotics like amoxicillin or ampicillin
  • Antipyretics and pain-killers 
  • Using warm saline wash or warm compress on the boil
  • Drainage of the ear boil if it is large


Here is how to get rid of pimple in the ear,

  • Keeping your ears clean using hydrogen peroxide solution or saline wash
  • Preventing the build-up of wax in the ears
  • Using vitamin A derivatives 
  • Using clarithromycin if the inflammation is severe

Main Difference

In case of ear boil, you take antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing it. However, antibiotics serve as anti-inflammatory agents if you have pimples in the ear canal.

When to Seek Medical Attention

At times, home remedies might not accommodate your condition. Therefore, let us discuss some signs that require medical attention. So, whether you have ear boil or pimple in the ear, visit a doctor if you come across any of these features,

  • If you see a large ear boil or furuncle 
  • Home treatment is not effective and the condition is not resolved within 15 days
  • You develop a fever
  • You have an immune deficiency 


An ear boil is an infectious painful large bump with firm to soft consistency. It forms inside the ear canal and is full of pus. Thus, you need antibiotics, antipyretics, painkillers, and proper drainage to get rid of it.

In contrast, a pimple is a small-sized inflamed area of the skin caused by blocking of the pores in the skin. So, proper hygiene and anti-inflammatory drugs can help you treat it. 

Furthermore, using an at-home otoscope can help you diagnose, differentiate, and treat both conditions. Lastly, do not delay medical attention when you see the symptoms we mentioned earlier.

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