Give Now

A Moment of Science

What’s In Your Ears? Different Varieties Of Earwax

Did you know that earwax actually comes in different varieties? Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Upclose Ear

Photo: Kaptain Kobold (flickr)

Earwax is a mixture of oil, dead skin cells, and a scented substance that comes from special sweat glands in your outer ear canal. There is dry wax and wet ear wax depending on the person.

Did you know that earwax actually comes in different varieties?

In fact, there is dry and moist earwax. Dry earwax appears grey and flaky. Most people of East Asian or Native American descent have dry earwax, but people of Caucasian or African descent almost always have the moist type. People from other areas of the world are more likely to have moist earwax too.

What makes earwax gooey then?

One single change on one single gene makes all the difference. If the gene is switched to “dry,” then the stuff that makes ear wax gunk up doesn’t get produced.

Earwax is a mixture of oil, dead skin cells, and a scented substance that comes from special sweat glands in your outer ear canal. Those sweat glands are similar to the ones under your armpits, and scientists have found that people with “dry earwax” also sweat less, and have less body odor.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science