What Your Earwax Color Says About Your Health

Earwax plays an integral role in the health of your ears. Produced by the skin glands in your ear canal, earwax protects the sensitive skin inside your ears and blocks dirt and bacteria from entering your ear canal (via Well+Good). The color and consistency of your earwax can also say a lot about your health. Brown, or yellow-brown, is the normal or typical color of earwax. If your earwax is brown and waxy, there is no need for concern. White and flaky earwax is also considered normal. Depending on your skin tone, your earwax may resemble dry and flaky skin. This is not at all unusual.

Darker earwax can also be considered normal. "In general, people with darker complexions tend to produce darker wax," Dr. Nina Shapiro, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told Well+Good. However, if your earwax turns black all of a sudden, it could mean that there is some dirt mixed in with your earwax. Green earwax, on the other hand, could be a sign of a middle ear infection. If your earwax is green, your doctor will most likely put you on antibiotics.

Should you clean out your ears?

While it is perfectly safe to clean the outside of your ears with a wet washcloth, you should never insert anything inside of your ear. Your earwax is there to protect your ears, so it doesn't need to be removed (via Healthline). Using a cotton swab will not only get rid of that protection, but it can also push the earwax into your ear even further.

The only time is it safe and appropriate to have your earwax removed is when you have a severe buildup of wax that is either obstructing your hearing or causing your ears to ring. In that case, your doctor will remove it for you by using ear irrigation, or ear syringing. This is a routine procedure that involves using water or saline drops to flush out the earwax in your ear. While there are at-home irrigation kits available for purchase, this type of procedure will be more safely performed by a medical professional.