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Wash Behind Your Ears! Oh What Things Build Up!

Updated on September 7, 2016

The other day, we (her father and I) were giving my daughter her bath and I told him to wash behind her ears. He asked me why and I told him because gunk builds up and it gets smelly, he didn't believe me. Of course this meant I threw myself into extensive research to prove that the adage of washing behind your ears is very true! Don't believe me yet? Do a quick sniff test. Go ahead, run your fingers behind one ear from lobe to tip and sniff it. (Don't do this if you're in public, you might become the gross sniffer guy).

Well? How was it?

Of course the "sniff test" might not prove anything if you've just:

  • gotten out of the shower
  • wash behind your ears frequently
  • do not perspire and/or have no body odor
  • are not human (<<<----- There are other tests for that)

So then let's explore other reasons why you should be remembering to wash behind your ears and if it did stink, why that is.


Thought you were done with it after high school health class? Nope they are still torturing us waaaay after puberty. In this case, behind our ears, in our armpits, under your breasts (men included), in your belly button, everywhere but your palm and under your feet.

Sebaceous (say-bay-shus) glands are everywhere on our mammalian selves to keep our body moistened but waterproof. They do this by making oils or wax like substances to "coat" the top of the skin. Because they are most abundance where there's more hair, right at the base of your hairline between your ear and scalp is their happy place.


Click thumbnail to view full-size

This "stuff" that our glands secrete is called sebum (see-bum) [funny eh?] and although it's odorless, it's chuckful of bacteria which after breaking down releases the smells associated with nasty old cheese and over worn gym socks. BUT THAT'S NOT WHY YOU SHOULD WASH BEHIND YOUR EARS!

This is!

Sebum builds up behind your ears because it has nowhere else to go. It's either covered by hair, stuck between a skull and a cartilage or easily missed by the quick swipe of a washcloth. In excessive cases, you can actually reach back there and scratch and have gunk in your finger nails.

Oh but I put perfume or cologne behind my ears, that should take care of it right?

Sadly, no. It can actually make it worse by adding to the buildup and creating a new "smell" from the combination of new "good" scent and "bad" old odor.


So What Should You Do?

1.Wash Behind Your Ears!

I can't stress that enough, every time you take a shower, or bath, do an actual scrub behind your ears, in your armpits, under your breasts (MEN INCLUDED!), your belly button*(especially innies!) and generally anywhere where you have skin to skin contact. These are the places where sebum, unnatural bactaria (not natural to our bodies), skin-care products, etc build up.

2. Don't overdo the cologne/perfume/powder

It's wonderful to smell nice, but too much of a good thing is bad. Having been heavily integrated into the Spanish culture in the recent years, I'm used to the kissing on the cheek in addition with a "Hola" and "Ciao". I can understand the temptation in ensuring the person you're rubbing cheeks with you isn't getting a whiff of under-the-fridge moldy cheese, but you don't want to hit them hard with strong "good" smells either. If you really feel the need to, do a very light dab. The purpose is to reduce any bad odors, not to overpower them.

3. Moist Towelettes anyone?

If you'rerunning around with no time to wash, don't be embarrassed to step into the rest room and "clean up" a bit. It's far less humiliating than being that person with the bad body odor. Also, just because you do not feel yourself sweating does not mean you aren't, nor do your Sebaceous glands ever go on a hiatus, they are still working even while you sleep.

*WARNING: Do not scrub too vigorously, especially in your belly button. A gentle swab with a q-tip dibbed in rubbing alcohol should have the same effect.


Go now forth and wash! And tell everyone you hear about the ear that mustn't be ignored!

Thanks for reading! Please leave fresh comments (trying to keep with the clean theme)


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    • profile image

      56156 9 months ago


    • profile image

      Hank Freeman 15 months ago

      This was a very helpful article.. Thank you..

    • profile image

      anonymous 2 years ago

      I have oily skin and find if I wipe behind my ears with alcohol on a cotton ball they are really cleaned.

    • catalystsnstars profile image

      catalystsnstars 6 years ago from Land of Nod

      Thanks, it's true too, not too many people are conscious about washing those areas.

    • nityanandagaurang profile image

      nityanandagaurang 6 years ago

      The thing you have talked about,no one knows.I ,myself didn't give much attention to that part of ear.Very useful hub.Voting it up.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      Very interesting hub topic and one that should be shared with everyone. This should be part of school hygiene courses. I never heard of this before but will definitely follow through with the technique.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Wow! This was packed full of information! I always wondered why it so important to wash behind my ears. My grandmother was notorious for this reminder! lol. Thanks for sharing :)