Why Do Earrings Smell: Discover How To Avoid Ear Cheese!
why do earrings smell: F-Image by Anna Elizabeth via Unsplash - ear close up

Why do earrings smell? If you just got your ears pierced, you should be following your piercer’s aftercare instructions carefully. This means you should be keeping your piercing clean. By now you’ve noticed that they sort of smell bad, a bit like stinky cheese. You can’t help but wonder if you’ve done something wrong, or if they’ve gotten infected.

The truth is, earrings smell, whether freshly pierced, or later down the line. It’s something we all deal with so take a sigh of relief because it isn’t your fault. Funky ear cheese is only a problem if you don’t know how to deal with it.

Cheese, the human kind

What’s the first thing that come to your mind when you think of smelly feet? That’s right, cheese. Our bodies are home to some of the same kinds of bacteria used in the cheesemaking process. Interestingly enough, a team of cheese makers have decided to try making cheese from the bacteria of celebrities! Taking bacteria from parts of the body like the belly button, nose, armpit, and ear, and growing them in the lab, the team successfully managed to culture five cheeses including mozzarella! 

Your ear cheese nor the ones made in the lab won’t be ready for human consumption any time soon. What we’re more concerned with is dealing with the earring smell. 

Then, what causes the earrings smell?

woman putting in earrings on her ears

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If it’s not your fault, then what is it? Well, it all has to do with your natural bodily processes. 

Your skin, your body's largest organ, is constantly secreting oils from the sebaceous glands called sebum. The oily secretions, coupled with the build up of dead skin cells, sweat and skin/hair products, along with bacteria combine to create a light, sticky greenish-brown paste some people call ‘ear cheese’.

Usually, we wash away the gunk when we shower before it has the chance to smell too strongly. Since our earring backs cover that area of skin when we shower, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for the dead cells and other ingredients of ear cheese to mix and smell bad.

Who gets the earrings smell?

female human ear and hair close up

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Trust us, you aren’t considered dirty if your piercings smell bad. Almost everyone will experience this problem at least once in their lives.

Persons with new piercings will find that their ears are the perfect breeding ground for ear cheese since the area is reacting to the fresh wound by boosting the skin cell reproduction rate. This is a natural immune response, but keep a close eye to make sure what you’re smelling isn’t signs of an infection.

Older piercings might get a bad earrings smell too if kept in too long. The dead skin cells and other ingredients will continue to build up. Just make sure you take them out every now and then for a clean.

Should you worry if your earrings smell bad? 

Why Do Earrings Smell: earring details
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In most cases, the earrings smell is from ear cheese and is usually nothing to worry. The only time you should worry is if there are signs of infection.

Some common signs of infection include:

  • Blood or pus (green, white or yellow secretions)
  • Redness or swelling in the area
  • Fever
  • Tenderness of the pierced area
  • Itching or burning sensations

End earrings smell: Take out your piercing

closeup of young female hipster with short blond hair

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One way to get rid of earring smell is to take out your piercing. If you have a fresh piercing, skip this step. It might interfere with the healing process. Old piercings need a bit of air circulation every now and then to prevent the bad smells

Avoid wearing your earrings for extended periods after this. If you’re lounging around the house, you don’t need earrings, so let your ears breathe.

End earrings smell: Clean your ears

Why Do Earrings Smell: earring details
Image by Tamara Bellis via Unsplash

The next step is to clean your ears.

If you have a fresh piercing, mix some sea salt with warm salt water. Next, soak a cotton ball in the solution then hold it against your piercing for about a minute to soften any hardened secretions. 

Depending on your earrings back types, slowly rotate your piercing to help dislodge any particles, then wipe them away. If you have screw crew earring backs , this won’t work. 

You can clean healed piercings with regular soap and water, and you can take care of this in the shower if you want to. Otherwise, use some antibacterial soap and water to gently scrub the area, then pat dry. You should also consider adding a bit of moisturizer if you find your soap to be too drying for the area since the lobes are sensitive.

End earrings smell: Clean your jewelry

girl with bun in massive earrings

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Soak your jewelry in some store-bought solution or in a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water for a few minutes. Dishwashing liquid is perfect for   cleaning diamond earrings and other precious gems. 

Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol are also great for cleaning jewelry, and killing the bacteria that causes them to smell bad.

This should lift most of the grease, dead cells, oily secretions and grime from the jewelry. Use a soft cloth to scrub any stubborn blemishes, and be careful not to tarnish your jewelry. 

Before returning the earrings to your ears, ensure you wash your hands. Your ears are now sterile, as are your jewelry. You don’t want to reintroduce any germs to the otherwise perfect breeding ground for ear cheese. 

Don’t overdo it

Yes, it stinks, but there’s no need to overdo the cleaning. Once you have all the right tools for the job, there’s no need to scrub your jewelry or ears to the point of damage. 

How to prevent the earrings smell from recurring

Why Do Earrings Smell; woman putting earrings while preparing for work.
Image by via ShutterStock

Your sebaceous glands are always going to produce sebum, and your skin will always have dead skin cells, but that doesn’t mean you always have to get the earrings smell. There are some things you can do to prevent the smell from recurring. These include:

Avoid working out with your earrings in

Sweat is a major contributor to ear cheese, or the earrings smell. If you plan to exert a lot of physical activity or exercise, remove your earrings before doing so. Clean your ears before you put them back in.

Take them out at home

One of the main reasons piercings smell bad is because they take a long time to accumulate dead skin cells and other components. Allow your ears to breathe and prevent the build up by only wearing your earrings when you’re going out.

Clean your earring backs regularly

Earring backs tend to smell the worst, so make sure you take them out regularly, along with the rest of your earring and give them a clean. This way, they won’t smell bad all the time. 

FAQ about earrings smell

Q. Is it bad to leave earrings in all the time?

It isn’t recommended for different reasons. While earrings made of metals such as gold and silver are unlikely to cause severe allergic reactions like those made of nickel-based materials, these earrings can smell if proper hygiene is not maintained, and lead to infection. 

There’s also the issue of sleeping with your earrings, as they could potentially get caught in your bed linen or your hair, or headaches caused by sleep discomfort. 

Large or dangling earrings will begin to stretch your ear lobe over time and may cause them to become disfigured. It’s always a better idea to let your ears breathe from time to time, especially if you’re at home hanging out.

Q. Is it normal for earrings to smell?

Yes, especially if you have a new piercing, or if you wear your earrings for a long time. You can get rid of the smell by removing the earrings and/or giving the area a clean.

Q. Why do my earrings smell like cheese?

Your earrings smell because of a build up of bacteria, dead skin cells, oils, sweat, and products. Luckily, this is easily resolved with a quick wash.

Q. What is the gunk on my earrings?

The gunk you’re referring to is sometimes called ear cheese. It’s a mixture of dead cells, bacteria, sweat and oils that accumulate because of natural bodily processes and a lack of exfoliation in the area.

Tags: ear piercings, funky smell, ear piercings smell bad, warm water, wear earrings, cheesy smell, metal jewelry, earring backs smell, totally normal, ears clean, piercings clean, oily secretion