Why Do Lobe Piercings Smell?

We can all agree that a stunning pair of earrings is a perfect accessory. But what’s the deal with the ear holes smelling like rotten cheese and a bit putrid? This smell would make your pets flee or want to cleanse you. So, why exactly do lobe piercings smell?

Lobe piercings smell because the skin secretes a natural oil called sebum, and once it mixes with the dead cells in the piercings, it causes a buildup. This buildup is a perfect environment for bacteria to breed; hence, the lobe piercing ends up with a foul smell.

It’s not a pleasant smell, but it is a reality for many people with lobe piercings. Some terms used to describe the lobe piercings smell include “ear funk,” “ear cheese,” “piercing funk,” and “ear stench.” This article deeply delves into the causes and possible solutions for this rather stinky situation.

The Causes Of Lobe Piercings Smell

So, what is the source of this smell foul odor that no amount of perfume can mask? Here are some factors that can contribute to the smelly lobe piercing:

Sebum Accumulation Causes Smelly Lobe Piercings

Your body naturally secretes a substance known as sebum as part of its normal functioning. The skin’s sebaceous glands release sebum. The purpose of this greasy liquid is to lubricate and waterproof your skin.

Some rather strong-smell bacteria can form when sebum mixes with dead skin cells and germs around your lobe piercing. The resulting mixture of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria causes that cheese-like smell from your lobe piercing.

If you don’t clean your lobe piercing regularly, the sebum and dead skin cells can accumulate and form a crusty substance around the jewelry. This crust can further trap bacteria and sebum, exacerbating the problem.

Infections Lead To Foul Smelling Piercings

The second source of the offensive odor is germs associated with a potential infection; piercings are wounds prone to infection.

Usually, these bacteria belong to the Streptococcus or Staphylococcus species. Streptococcus is a family of bacteria that can cause everything from strep throat to a flesh-eating disease. Staphylococcus is a family of bacteria that includes MRSA.

You can find these families of bacteria on the skin. In most cases, they don’t cause any harm. But if they get into a wound, like an ear piercing, they can cause infections. These infections can lead to smelly lobe piercing, especially if there is discharge from the piercing region.

Allergies And Sensitivities Result In Smelly Ear Piercings

Another potential cause of smelly lobe piercings is an allergic reaction or sensitivity to the jewelry, cleaning solutions, or other products used on the piercing.

The most common metal allergy is nickel, found in many types of jewelry, including earrings. If you’re allergic to nickel, your body will react to it as if it’s a foreign invader. The result is an itchy, red, inflamed piercing that can produce a foul-smelling discharge.

Cleaning solutions, such as hydrogen peroxide and alcohol, can also cause allergies and sensitivities. If you use these products on your piercing and develop a reaction, it’s best to stop using them immediately and consult a doctor.

Injuries To The Lobe Cause Smelly Piercings

An injury to the lobe, even a small one, can cause a smelly piercing because an injury can provide an entry point for bacteria to enter the body and cause an infection. A cut, scrape, or pimple behind your ear is probably something you won’t notice until it becomes infected.

You can clean the injury with soap and water if it is mild. But if there is swelling, discharge, or discomfort, you might require antibiotics. And if the symptoms get worse, you should see a doctor.

How Do You Solve The Smelly Lobe Piercing Problem

Luckily, there are some effortless ways to prevent and get rid of smelly lobe piercings. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective ones:

Clean Your Lobe Piercing Regularly

The best way to prevent smelly lobe piercings is to clean them regularly. Cleaning will remove the buildup of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria that can cause infections and bad smells.

You can clean your piercing daily with mild soap and lukewarm water. Massage your ears for a few minutes to promote blood flow. Gently pat the area dry with a clean towel. Avoid using harsh cleansing products, as they can cause allergies and sensitivities.

A moderate salt soak can work wonders to remove piercing stinks for non-ear piercings! You might need to plunge your entire anatomy into a tiny basin of saline solution to soak difficult-to-soak locations like nipple piercings.

Jewelry Matters In Piercings

It is crucial to put the right stuff into your body, pay attention to its cues, and watch for any adverse reactions.

Your lobe piercings can develop piercing funk because your piercing isn’t receiving enough oxygen around the jewelry.

This funk develops as a result of your body trying to repair the area around the piercing because materials like acrylic, silicone, and metal are not porous.

So when you go for these materials, it signifies that you might have too much of this “funk” and should pay more attention to your hygiene routine.

Your body is unique; what works for one person might not work for you. So, if you’re having problems with smelly lobe piercings, it might be time to try a different type of jewelry.

Organic plugs made of natural materials like stone, wood, or bone are good since they are porous (have minute holes all over their structures) and allow oxygen to enter and escape your piercing.

It’s Important To Clean Your Jewellery

Spend a few minutes soaking your jewelry in a store-bought solution or a solution made from dishwashing liquid and water. Dishwashing liquid is excellent for cleaning diamond earrings and other types of jewelry because it cuts through grease and grime.

After you soak your jewelry, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to scrub it clean. Pay good attention to areas that seem to be holding on to dirt and debris.

Rinse your jewelry thoroughly with warm water to remove all traces of dishwashing liquid. Place your jewelry on a clean towel, or use a hairdryer to air-dry.

Make sure to wash your hands and ears before putting the earrings back in your ears. Your jewelry, as well as your ears, are now sterile. You don’t want to reintroduce bacteria to the ideal breeding ground for ear cheese reproduction.

Avoid Touching Your Piercings With Dirty Hands

Your hands are teeming with bacteria, and touching your piercing can introduce these bacteria to the wound. It can cause an infection, which can lead to a smelly piercing.

It’s best to avoid touching your piercings, except when cleaning them. If you must feel them, make sure you wash your hands first.

Change Your Bed Sheets Regularly

If you don’t change your bed sheets regularly, they can harbor bacteria and dirt that can transfer to your piercing when you lie down. You must be mindful of this, especially if you sleep on your side or stomach.


Piercings are a perfect way to express your individuality, but they come with a few drawbacks to some people—the main drawback being the cheese-like smell that can come from them. Lobe piercings, in particular, are prone to smelling because of the skin cells and natural oils that clog them up.

However, you can avoid or reduce the smell by changing your jewelry to something more breathable or cleaning your piercings more often.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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