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All The Amazing Things Your Ear Wax Can Tell You About Your Health

Updated October 2, 2020 49.8k views15 items

Ear wax is one of those bodily substances that gets a bad rap. We shove Q-tips in our ear canals trying to get the sticky stuff out, when really, ear wax is there to help us. Your health affects your ear wax, meaning ear wax can tell you some pretty amazing things about your health - that is, if you're willing to pay attention and not get grossed out.

Shakespeare may have said that "he has not so much brain as ear wax," but don't let that sway your opinion (though that is a good insult to have in your back pocket). Too much ear wax is definitely a bad thing, but the color and consistency of your ear wax can tell you valuable information about your health. What is normal and what's a reason to run to the ear doctor? And should you try to remedy your ear problems at home?

If it seems wild that ear wax harbors information about the rest of your body, just remember that it's no crazier than the fact that your tongue can tell you about your health - and your number twos can, too .

  • Ear Wax Isn't Actually Wax

    Though ear wax does feel waxy, it's actually not wax, so don't try to make a candle out of it. Ear wax is actually dead skin cells. The rest of it is a mix of peptides, cholesterol, triglyceride, and squalene. This combination gives ear wax its waxy feel. Just because your ear wax is made of dead skin cells doesn't mean you should go exfoliating it, though.

  • Ear Wax Can Be Used For Medicinal Purposes

    Chapped lips and can't find your balm? No worries, just smear some ear wax on your lips like some nature-loving people do! Or perhaps you stepped on a nail - who needs Neosporin when you've got some ear wax to rub on it? These actually used to be common uses for earwax, but not so much nowadays. Nice to know you still have the option, though.

  • Ear Candling Isn't Really Effective

    Let's get this out of the way - ear candling does not work, and you should not stick a candle in your ear. 

    Ear candles aren't just any old taper candle found in your dining room. They're actually hollow candles made of cloth and then soaked in wax to function as candles. You insert one end into your ear, light the other end, and wait for the heat from the candle to melt your ear wax. The idea is that this will remove any wax blockage. And while the candle will indeed melt the wax, it's not going to do anything to remove the buildup. There's no vacuum effect that will magically suck out the excess wax. 

    If that's not convincing enough, do you really want to have an open flame inches from your face?

  • You Shouldn't Stick Q-Tips In Your Ear

    The Q-tip box literally says not to stick them in your ear, and yet we continue to do it anyway. 

    Not only should you not want to remove your ear wax, but you should also not make it a practice to stick something down your ear. Though you may think you're nowhere near your ear drum, experts say that's almost certainly not the case - if the cotton swab is in there, you're probably dangerously close to your ear drum. You really, really don't want to rupture your ear drum.