If you have pierced ears , you are probably familiar with the stinky phenomenon that some people call "ear cheese." If you aren't familiar with the term, you might recognize the description: it's the icky, brownish-gray gunk that builds up on your earring posts and backs, especially the kind with the clear plastic bit over the backing .

    It has a distinctive funky odor, hence the gross nickname "ear cheese." We have to admit, it might not whet your appetite, but it's definitely a fitting nickname for the gunk.

    Even though it's a widespread problem, it's kind of an embarrassing one to talk about. That's why we're here to help!

    Click through for the answers to all of your questions about ear cheese.

    Ear cheese is a problem that affects the vast majority of women: 83 percent of all Americans have at least one earlobe piercing, and 72 percent of all pierced folks are women.

    Lots of us get ear piercings as babies or young children, so that means piercing care is practically a lifelong issue that we all need to know more about.

    Wikimedia Commons

    What Is "Ear Cheese"?

    So, what exactly is ear cheese? To be honest, you probably aren't going to like the answer.

    It's a build up of dead skin cells, sebum (oil), and any hair and beauty products that land in your lobe area.

    It builds up into a greenish-brownish-grayish paste, and starts to get stinky as bacteria builds up, giving it its distinctive cheesy whiff .

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    Why Do We Get Ear Cheese?

    Ear cheese is a totally natural part of having pierced ears.

    It builds up for the same reason that any kind of dead skin builds up; your body needs to replace skin cells constantly, and some cells get left behind.

    You get greasy skin and clogged pores when you don't exfoliate your face — and dry, cracked heels when you don't exfoliate your feet. The same thing happens with your ears; it just combines with the grease from your scalp and ears, and it's a bit harder to clean, so it builds up .

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    Who Is At Risk For Ear Cheese?

    Almost everyone with a piercing will get ear cheese at one time or another, but some people are at higher risk.

    If you have new piercings that have just recently healed, you might be at higher risk, because your body may still be reacting to the new wound by producing extra skin cells.

    You might also be at higher risk if you have earrings that you never take out, or if you are older, and your ear piercings are starting to stretch a bit .

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    How To Get Rid Of Ear Cheese Remedy #1: Take Out Your Piercing

    If you have ear cheese, the first thing you should do is remove the earring to let your ear breathe a bit.

    If you've had the same earrings on for weeks on end, they probably need some air circulation to freshen things up.

    Please note, if you just got your ears pierced, don't remove your earrings until you talk with your piercer.

    Chances are, you don't have ear cheese, you just need to disinfect the new openings .

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    Remedy #2: Clean It

    Once your ears are free of metal, it's time to give them a deep clean.

    Start with a gentle soap and a soft wash cloth. Scrub your ears front and back and exfoliate away all the dead skin.

    If your ears are irritated, you may want to dab on some antibacterial ointment. You should also consider a light moisturizer to help your lobes recover from their spa treatment.

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    Remedy #3: Wash Or Swap Your Jewelry

    Let your lobes breathe for a little bit, and give your jewelry a good wash.

    If you want to put the same earrings back on, clean them thoroughly and dry them. Alternatively, swap them out for a clean pair of earrings.

    You should clean all earrings after you wear them. You can use mild soap or dishwashing liquid and a soft cloth to clean metal , but be careful not to get it on soft gems like opal, pearl, or turquoise.

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    Remedy #4: Don’t Overwash

    Once you've cleaned your ears, be careful not to scrub them too much!

    Exfoliating is a fine art. You want to keep the piercings clean, but you don't want to damage the skin.

    If you scrub your ears too often, they might get raw, which can open the door to infection .

    Laura Caseley for LittleThings

    Remedy #5: Keep It Clean

    To minimize ear cheese going forward, just make sure to keep the environment around your ears healthy and clean.

    Change your bed sheets and pillowcases often to help avoid sebum buildup, and make sure to wash your hair regularly and rinse any products off your lobes.

    Also, be sure to change or clean your earrings regularly to keep everything stink-free!

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    What is ear cheese?
    "These cause 'ear cheese,' aka an accumulation of rancid oil—oil that gets exposed to air—dead skin cells, as we're constantly shedding, bacteria, and sweat. It's more common in people who do not change their earrings much and who sweat a lot." (Me.) more
    Does ear cropping prevent ear infections?
    Ear cropping does not improve a dog's hearing or prevent ear infections. Many of the breeds that have their ears cropped, such as Dobermans and American bulldogs, are not those we would consider at an increased risk of infection. Changing the conformation of a dog's ears impacts its ability to communicate. more
    Are ear worms hallucinations?
    Earworms, although they are harmless and classified as pseudohallucinations, overlap phenomenologically with musical hallucinations, which, like auditory hallucinations in general, can be symptoms of psychopathological conditions 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 . more
    Is ear cropping ethical?
    The American Veterinary Medical Association states that “ear-cropping and tail-docking are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient. These procedures cause pain and distress and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection. more
    Can ear crystals fall out of your ear?
    BPPV occurs when tiny calcium crystals called otoconia come loose from their normal location on the utricle, a sensory organ in the inner ear. If the crystals become detached, they can flow freely in the fluid-filled spaces of the inner ear, including the semicircular canals (SCC) that sense the rotation of the head. more
    How do I know if my dog has an ear infection or ear mites?
    An ear mite infection will cause your dog's ears to itch, which often results in them shaking their head excessively, or scratching at their ears with their paws. Ear mites can also produce wax and irritation, so your pet's ears may well look red and inflamed. more
    Is it ear mites or ear infection?
    Ear mites are much more treatable than they used to be, thanks to topical medications like Revolution®. Ear infections can look like ear mites from the outside, but on the inside it is a whole different story. The infection is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and/or yeast in the ear. more
    Can APR exceed EAR?
    The correct answer is B- The APR can never exceed the EAR. APR takes into account only the simple interest while EAR incorporates compound interest See full answer below. more
    In which one of the following positions should a medical assistant place an 18 month old patient when administering ear drops to the right ear?
    In which of the following positions should a medical assistant place and 18-month-old patient when administering ear drops to the right ear? Right ear facing up with the earlobe pulled down & back. more
    Are ear worms real?
    They're sections of songs that we remember in our minds. Once they start, these music memories can repeat uncontrollably—for hours, days, even weeks at a time. Research indicates that nine out of ten people have experienced earworms that have lasted for an hour or longer. more
    What are ear maggots?
    Aural myiasis or automyiasis is the infestation of external ear and/or middle ear with dipterous larvae. This very rarely encountered clinical condition is generally seen in children, in individuals with predisposing factors as mental retardation or impaired personal hygiene. more

    Source: littlethings.com

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