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Why Do My Pierced Ears Smell?

author image Ann Jones
Ann Jones has been writing since 1998. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Her journalistic work can be found in major magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Why Do My Pierced Ears Smell?
Clean earlobes with antimicrobial soap to fight bad smell. Photo Credit visage image by valpictures from Fotolia.com

As a piercing heals, scar tissue forms. In the process of forming scar tissue, your body sheds dead skin cells. Your piercings may also secrete blood and plasma. While a foul odor coming from a piercing can be a sign of infection, it may simply be a sign that your piercing is not clean enough.

Ear Cheese

This unpleasant term originated due to the fact that buildup of dead skin cells and sebum, or the body's natural oil, can smell a bit like rotten cheese. This is particularly noticeable with stretched earlobe piercings. It is necessary to remove the plugs, or large gauge jewelry, from stretched lobes daily and wash both the plugs and the skin. Drying earlobes thoroughly before reinserting jewelry can help inhibit bad smell. If your lobes need lubrication in order to insert the jewelry, try massaging them with vitamin E oil.

Ear Piercing Aftercare

Cleansing agents such as alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are too harsh and drying for ear piercings. The Association of Professional Piercers recommends soaking piercings once or twice daily in a mild saline solution made of 1/4 tsp. of non-iodized sea salt and 1 cup of warm bottled water. Saline soaks should be followed by washing the lobes with an antimicrobial soap such as Technicare, Provon or Satin. Dry your lobes with a clean paper towel to prevent bacteria trapped on used towels from entering the piercings.

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Jewelry Selection

Ear piercing studs can trap dead skin, bacteria and styling products in their clasps. Although they are ubiquitous at mall shops, professional piercers eschew them in favor of captive bead rings that can move freely through the ear. Because they have no clasps, captive bead rings are much easier to clean thoroughly than piercing studs. Choosing a ring for an initial piercing can, therefore, help eliminate unpleasant smell. Those with stretched earlobes often find that wood or other organic jewelry allows skin to "breathe" better than metal or glass, greatly reducing odor.

Ear Piercing Procedure

Professional piercers use autoclaved needles to cut clean holes in your earlobes. After a single use, these needles are discarded, assuring that there is no transmission of pathogens from another client's body to yours. Piercing guns are made of plastic, cannot be autoclave sterilized, and are capable of transmitting infection even when wiped with disinfectant cleanser. A foul odor coming from a piercing that is also secreting green or yellow pus is a sign of infection. If you think your piercing is infected, consult your physician right away.

Earlobe Stretching Procedure

When an earlobe is stretched with a metal taper, microscopic tears are created in the tissue. As the skin heals around the larger jewelry, the piercing relaxes into its expanded size. Surgical stainless steel is an inert and inexpensive metal commonly used for both stretching tapers and large gauge plugs. It is also one of the worse offenders when it comes to foul odor. Using the same antimicrobial soap after a stretch that you used after the initial piercing is essential for the health and cleanliness of the tissue.

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