Here’s something we can all agree on: the fact that the human body is not magical and elegant but also dumbfoundingly gross and confusing—a paradox.
And just when you think you have your whole body figured out and nothing new would surprise you (well, besides illnesses), a kind of stench that almost knocks you out hits.
It’s nothing you’ve smelt before on your body, and suddenly you are convinced that your body is rotting from the inside out. You pry through every part of your body, on every little crevice you can find, take multiple showers, and get new shower gels and body washes, but you just can’t knock off the smell.
But then you take off the everyday earrings that are now a part of you because you never take them off, and you know it – the nauseating cheesy smell you’ve been looking for has been on your side all along – albeit on the side, and the culprits are your earrings and the earring hole.
Naturally, you’ll do everything possible to throw out the earrings, but you’re always left with million questions that have you second-guessing your body and choice of jewelry.
You may have thrown out the earrings accusingly and wondered how bad your interaction could be? But the bigger question would be, is this even normal?
This human cheese is just as smelly as putrid cheeses from the store, and the bacteria from the ear and other body parts can be cultured to make cheese… Gross!!!
Here’s an insightful look on all matters cheese-smelling ears.
Earring Hole Smells Like Cheese – Is It Normal?
For starters, the horrid cheesy smell from your earrings/earring hole is also called cheese ears. It happens to many people worldwide, but we wouldn’t call it normal. Well, it can be normal under some extreme circumstances, which we’ll list in the next sections of this article.
But if your earrings and earring holes give off a putrid stench, it often means that there is a significant build-up of dead skin cells and natural oils clogged up in there, hence the grossness you’re dealing with now.
If you or a loved one struggles with this grossness, the first thing to note is that you are not alone – which is why there is a lot of information about this situation. So, stop freaking out, take notes, and stop it from happening again.
Why do my earrings smell like cheese?
Your ears may smell like cheese because of several reasons listed below:
1. Poor Hygiene
We don’t mean to point fingers, but poor hygiene is the main reason for that putrid cheesy stench from your ears.
If you ignore your ears and don’t clean the earrings and/or your earring holes, all the dead skin cells around the area, sweat, and natural and artificial body oils will accumulate around here, and over time, there is a stink.
Remember that the areas of your skin behind your ears are hotspots for trapping sweat and oils, not to mention all the residue from your hair and skin products.
And if you have long hair, you’re in deeper trouble because the hair traps oils and other detritus. So, when your ears and jewelry aren’t cleaned and are covered up pretty much all the time, there is a buildup of dirt, and if this is not cleaned off soon, it may turn into a breeding ground for bacteria, and the stench will be even worse.
So, please clean up well and don’t let the earrings sit for too long before cleaning up.
It’s also worth mentioning that the skin is the largest organ in your body, and while protecting you, it secretes an oil called sebum from the sebaceous glands. Sebum mixed with dead skin cells, hair/skin products, and bacteria combines to form the greenish-brown sticky and smelly cheese on the ear.
We’ll add that ear cheese is worsened by the accumulation of oils that ultimately run rancid thanks to exposure to the air and dead skin, among other debris, hence the worst smell from your ears. In addition to the dead skin cells that we all shed naturally and constantly, we also have bacteria on the skin and all these interactions plus sweat lead to that disgusting smell.
2. Infected ear piercings
It may not be your fault. The smelly earrings/ ear may result from an infection in the ear piercing or maybe both piercings. Essentially, the piercing wound remains an open wound until it is healed fully.
Although it will heal eventually, the open wound is an ideal area where the bacteria on your skin enters the wound. If the piercing is neglected and unclean, the bacteria start breeding, ultimately causing an infection.
You can tell an infected ear piercing by the smell it has or the pus draining from the piercing. Also, the earrings may be stuck in the piercing because all the gunk from the dead skin cells, oils, and bacteria from pus dries around the earring backs and posts.
The result of all these is a bad smell that lingers.
3. Seborrheic dermatitis
This condition may affect any area of your body, including the back of your ears and, in some cases, the ear itself. It’s often caused by fungi on the skin, and though it doesn’t always give off a bad smell, the interaction of the flakes from the skin with oil and sweat will create an odor that may be transferred to your earrings.
Although painful and so tempting not to clean the affected areas, you should seek treatment and guidance on how to clean the area. Gently dabbing the area with a warm damp cloth would be a great start for you.
How do I stop my earrings from smelling?
1. Work on your hygiene
We’ve established that your ears are the perfectly designed anatomical crevices for bacteria, oils, sweat, and dead skin cells. So, as your mom constantly screamed, please wash behind the ears.
You also clean the piercing area frequently. Once the piercings heal, please take off the jewelry, and clean them while gently cleaning around the piercing area.
Wash the earring posts too, and don’t forget the earring backs – this is another huge breeding surface for the bacteria and cause of the cheesy ear smell. Use warm soapy, or salty water to clean them up.
2. Follow the after-care instructions for new piercings
There is a reason why the piercer will give you a list of things to do and avoid after getting a new piercing, and cleaning the ears or piercing area is on top of the list, next to keeping the piercing earrings in for at least 6 weeks.
These recommendations protect you from infected ear piercings that may not heal, forcing you to let it close up, or just being stinky. If you failed to follow the advice and now have an infection, you should start cleaning the ears and piercing area using warm water or saline water and a soft cotton cloth.
If the infection isn’t severe, clean the ears, earrings posts, and the earring backs by either taking out the jewelry or gently twisting the earrings around and up and down – you could soak the area with ear piercing solution, saline water, or rubbing alcohol for some minutes before cleaning.
Please clean the ears very gently. If the earrings are not loosening or coming off and you’re in pain, go back to the piercer for help.
However, you should listen to your body. If the infection is extreme and you are in pain, have a fever, swollen lymph nodes, reddening, or bleeding, please seek professional medical care. After taking out the jewelry, they will clean the piercing area, and you will receive the proper medication.
3. Visit a dermatologist for Seborrheic dermatitis
For this, you need specific antifungal medication and other particular medications to help deal with and resolve the problem.
4. Take out the piercing jewelry
You may not be ready to give up the idea of a new piercing and all the fancy earrings you can wear, but if the earrings stink, take them off.
This may interfere with healing for new piercings, but for the new piercings, it gives your ears time to breathe, literally, and it prevents the bad smell – you also get to clean or change the jewelry.
5. Cleaning jewelry
Even though the stink from the earrings will be hard to stand, you may still save the earrings by cleaning them thoroughly.
You don’t need to scrub them; just get rubbing alcohol and/or hydrogen peroxide to clean the jewelry. But let the earrings dry and sit for some time before putting them on again. Don’t forget to clean the ears.
To avoid recurrence of the problem:
- Take your earrings out when working out.
- Take out the jewelry at home.
- Clean the ear and earring backs regularly.
- Don’t over-clean the earrings because the harsh chemicals used may be transferred to the ear, causing even more damage.
- Avoid touching piercings with dirty hands
- Change your bed sheets frequently.
Your earring backs, posts, and the back of the ear are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria that turn dead skin cells, sebum, body and hair products, and sweat into stinky cheese ears.
This happens when you don’t clean your ears and earring backs and if you wear tight earring backs or earrings with large backs. So, beware of all these and take the necessary steps.
It may seem bad, but it’s not the end of the world or the last time you will experience joy from wearing the perfect pair of earrings.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.