General Question

Mom2BDec2010's avatar

When you gauge your ears why do they smell bad?

Asked by Mom2BDec2010 (2666points) August 7th, 2010

I think its very odd.

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4 Answers

MaryW's avatar

If your ears or anyone elses smell bad you had best be seeing a doctor. They should not smell bad. There is most likely an infection.

flo's avatar

Ears should not smell bad unless there is an infection or something like that.

Randy's avatar

It all starts with the sebaceous gland. Sebaceous glands are microscopic glands in the skin which secrete an oily/waxy matter, called sebum, to lubricate the skin and hair of mammals. The farther you stretch the ear, the closer the sebaceous gland is stretched to the surface of the skin causing it to release sebum at higher rate. Sebum is made of fat, wax, and the debris of dead fat-producing cells. Sebum itself is odorless but it’s bacterial breakdown is what you are smelling. It smells quite rank but there are a few ways to deal with the odor.

It’s worst when you wear stainless steel jewelry because it’s not porous at all and all the sebum stays between the skin and the jewelry, slowly breaking down and causing people to run in disgust. If you elect to wear stainless jewelry, clean them at least once a day (depending on the person, maybe multiple times a day) or the stench will get out of control.

If you don’t want to run the risk of them stinking so badly, go for jewelry made of organic material like bone or wood. These materials are very porous and will soak up the sebum and it will breakdown inside of the jewelry causing the odor to be almost nonexistent.

@MaryW and @flo When stretching to larger gauges the smell is unavoidable because of the reasons I mentioned above. For “normal” (14ga-20ga) piercings you are correct in that there shouldn’t be a smell unless the piercing is infected. Usually the sebaceous glands begin producing large amounts of sebum, and odor, near the 4ga mark.

EDIT:
I should mention that because the organic jewelry is porous and soaks up excess sebum, these materials tend to darken quickly the more you wear them so be aware of that when you purchase jewelry.

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