What It Really Means When Your Ear Piercings Begin To Smell

A new piercing can be exciting. Right off the bat, you're diligent about handwashing and aftercare to prevent infection and help your skin properly heal. Over time, however, our hygiene routine may become more lax as the piercing mends and begins to fend for itself. Our skin is particularly susceptible to infection when the piercing is fresh (via the Cleveland Clinic). 

Of all the areas of the body that produce odor, your ear piercings are probably not the first ones that come to mind. However, the jewelry you're wearing may be doing just that. According to jewelry design company Bead Nova, the odor from ear jewelry (sometimes referred to as "ear cheese") is a result of the quality of metal used to make it. Depending on the state of your body's immune system, you may be more prone to piercing odor than others. Now that we know the source of the smell, it begs the question: why does this smell develop in the first place, and what does it mean in regards to our overall health?

How to rid ear piercings of odor

Along with the quality of the jewelry, hygiene is also to blame for the foul odor you're detecting. Accompanying the smell will be a crusty buildup, made of your body's natural oils, dead skin, sweat residue, and it may even include blood or puss (via Bead Nova). This buildup occurs when earrings have not been cleaned or changed for long periods of time — and unfortunately, showering isn't enough to do the trick.

While the smell won't be pungent enough to offend those around you, the cause for concern is more related to our health than our social interactions. Just like our feet or our belly buttons, that funky smell is a result of bacterial growth (via Onlymyhealth). Without adequate routine cleanings, you're susceptible to infection.

To rid your ear piercings of undesirable odor, use an anti-bacterial cleanser to do away with grime on the jewelry, and wash your earlobes thoroughly with soap and warm water. Additionally, choose quality jewelry that allows for air circulation, as tight-fitting studs and cheap costume jewelry are more likely to trap bacteria. While cleaning your piercings is important for our health and hygiene, be mindful not to overdo it. Our earlobes are sensitive, so washing too harshly or frequently can irritate the skin. Instead, allow your piercings to air out and remove jewelry altogether.