WELL+GOOD posted "OK, TMI: WHY DO THE BACK OF MY EARRINGS SMELL ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING?" featuring Dr. Purvisha Patel and Visha Skincare .
The article includes Dr. Patel's expert commentary on the reasoning beheind why our ears can have an off smell, especially with piercings.
Tell me how accurate this scenario is: You’re sitting at your desk in the office, or cozied up on the couch, twirling your earring back (which is a soothing thing to do with your hands, much like twirling your hair or clicking a pen or making a friendship bracelet), only to catch a whiff of your fingers which smell like… white cheddar popcorn? Nutritional yeast? Stinky cheese? WTF?
I know it’s not just me. Every single person I’ve talked to about this nods in solidarity, because it’s just a fact of having piercings that nobody happens to talk about. So, since I’m now fearful that someone in my life will think my fingers smell like yeast, I have done the important job of investigating the cheesy-behind-the-ear situation. And it all stems from oil and bacteria.
Your ears are a nice, warm anatomical crevice for oil, bacteria, and the accumulation of dead skin cells. Hence why your mom always told you to wash behind your ears. “It’s so that you clean off the oil that accumulates there,” explains Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. “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.)