A question recently arrived in the Body Art email and didn't offer much in the way of backstory, but is clearly a question that many a person with gauged ear piercings is going to find themselves confronting: "How do I keep my ears from smelling like rotting corpses?"
If you have larger gauge piercings, especially ears, you may yourself have noticed a less than fragrant smell from time to time coming from your piercings. It turns out this is a regular happening for many people with large gauges and is relatively easy to deal with.
The "why?" behind the smell has to do with skin. Your skin is a living breathing part of the body and when the skin can't breathe, it starts to not be able to keep itself clean. Fluid byproducts build up, bacteria starts to form and you have the first beginnings of an unpleasant smell. Most often this happens with ear piercings when the jewelry worn doesn't allow enough air to the inside of the piercing and which help trap sweat, water from bathing, lymph from friction, etc.
So what do you do to keep your ear smelling fresh?
First and foremost, wash your ears. What that means more specifically is once per day, take out your earrings and wash both them and your ears. Cotton swabs are great for scrubbing inside ear tunnels (both the ear and the jewelry) and for drying off surfaces.
Consider taking out your earrings for part of the day, like taking out really large gauges when you sleep. Letting your ear spend part of the day getting oxygen to all the skin surfaces goes a long way towards keeping the skin happy and healthy.
Change your ear jewelry to be a more natural material. Acrylics and silicone can be lightweight and easy to care for as jewelry but they aren't very natural materials when pressed against the body for long periods of time. Both can hold water which often contributes to ear piercings starting to grow smelly. Switching to jewelry carved from wood works for many people, as does switching to a jewelry style that doesn't seal the piercing shut as tightly. For example, switching from short, flared ear plugs to a gentle curved barbell or ring shape will allow more air to reach the skin right around the ends of the piercing instead of having it capped by the flared ends of the ear tube.