Here’s The Reason Why Your Earring Backs Smell Like Stinky Cheese


If you have pierced ears, you are probably familiar with stinky phenomenon that some people call ‘ear cheese.’

If you aren’t familiar with the term, you might recognize the description: 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.



And it’s a problem that affects the vast majority of women; 83 percent of all Americans have at least one lobe pierced, and 72 percent of all pierced folks are women.

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

Even though it’s a widespread problem, it’s kind of an embarrassing one to talk about.

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.

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 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.

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 newish piercing 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.

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.

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.

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, 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.

Remedy #4: Don’t Overwash

Once you’ve cleaned your ears, be carefully 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.

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 build-up, and make sure to wash your hair regularly and rinse any products off your lobes.

And change or clean your earrings regularly to keep everything stink-free!


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