What's the goo in my ear piercings?
October 14, 2005 7:21 PM   Subscribe

PiercingFilter: What's that white goo in my ear piercings?

I've had my ears pierced for about 25 years now (first set). The rest range from around 20 years old to about 15 years old (four sets total). Sometimes I will go for years without putting anything in the piercings, and while they never close up they do tend to produce a whitish goo much like you would squeeze out of a pimple, only more viscous. It's not an infection, I don't think, because there's no swelling or redness or pain. What is this mysterious substance?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
I have that too, I've always assumed it was some sort of sloughed off dead skin cells or maybe soap or shampoo that collected in the piercing holes over time. I haven't done further analysis, it's clearly nothing important.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 PM on October 14, 2005

This is sebum, which is a natural secretion of the skin. It's made of fat, keratin (a protein, and a component of hair and fingernails) and skin cells.

There is likely nothing wrong with the piercing, it's just that the sebum, which would normally get washed away, is getting trapped in the piercing (the skin wasn't designed to be torriodal), just as it can get trapped in enlarged pores to cause whiteheads and blackheads.
posted by jimfl at 8:48 PM on October 14, 2005

Do not highlight below is easily squicked out.

I wonder if this particular buildup is protective against microbial infections, much like smegma does?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:02 PM on October 14, 2005

If you wear jewelry made of porous materials (this may require stretching your earlobe piercings), it's likely that you'll get a lot less buildup.
posted by box at 7:27 AM on October 15, 2005

Sorry - color seems to work in the live preview but not in the actual post. My apologies.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:28 AM on October 15, 2005

I still get this almost 15 years afterlettting my ear piercing close up. It is yucky, yet fun to squeeze.
posted by terrapin at 10:17 AM on October 15, 2005

I've got that too - a pair of piercings started rejecting, and though I took the jewelry out and let them heal up, they still occasionally produce a thick whitish substance. I asked a doctor about it, and it's not an infection - her suggestion was pretty much the same as jimfl's. You may want to consider seeing your piercer [or a well-respected local piercer], as they may be able to give you advice. At least based on my experience, however, it's nothing dangerous or even important.
posted by ubersturm at 12:01 PM on October 15, 2005

I wonder if sebum is the same stuff inside the skin bumps that people with Keratosis Pilaris get.
posted by lorrer at 2:17 PM on October 15, 2005

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