Ear wax is one of those annoying facts in life, and for many of us, Q-tips (also known as cotton swabs) are a satisfactory way to solve the problem.
Ever since seeing Shrek pull the wax of an entire candle out of his ear, stick something in your ear, and tear out a treasure trove of waxy garbage, this has been an odd fascination for many people.
However, rumor has it that getting inside your ears with Q-Tips is not good for you in the long run. And we don’t deal with rumors! So we turned to ear, nose and throat doctors to find out if Q-tips were really harmful.
We also asked them about the best spring cleaning alternatives in the world behind your rag without permanent harm.
The consensus? As much as we love that so fresh, so clean feel (so fresh and so clean, clean), if you have willpower, it may be time to get rid of cotton swabs.
According to a 201
Another study found that 15 to 20 percent of people “disagreed” with the scientific claim that Q-Tips can lead to wax, perforation, and infection.
(It’s also a terrible idea to share Q-tips for skin care purposes.)
They do a lot more harm than good, and excessive ear cleaning will almost certainly get you to the doctor’s office, says Dr. Leon Chen, an ear, nose and throat doctor with Manhattan’s ENT and Allergy Workers.
While you may see a satisfactory piece of yellow on the cotton swab, you can increase your risk of the following ear problems:
- Push most of the wax deeper into your ear canal, past where it’s naturally produced (and ideally should stay).
- Damage to the delicate skin around the ear canal that can lead to infection
- Damage to the eardrum
Tempting as it may be Do not do it. Shrek is a fairy tale, but for ENT doctors it’s a walking horror story.
However, Q-tips are very useful for removing henna tattoos.
We kept our ears to the ground for solutions so you don’t have to. (That’s not one of the solutions by the way – it’s pretty unsanitary.)
The first point our ENT friends made was this You may not need to clean the wax at all. Wait what But it is so disgusting?
Well, Dale Tylor, MD, a pediatric and general otorhinolaryngologist at the Washington Township Medical Foundation in Fremont, CA, is supporting us.
“Ear wax has antibiotic and antifungal properties,” says Tylor. “Too much cleaning can later lead to ear and skin complications, from ear infections to eczema in the outer ear.”
Even more worrying, it is quite common for patients to poke a hole in their eardrum after using cotton swabs. That’s a lot of physical trauma, simply because your ears were a bit chunky.
(They can help with skin care though, so don’t rule them out completely.)
If you really, really can’t cut the cold turkey, Tylor recommends limiting cleaning to three times a month. And it will be a lot easier to stop wiping with the mental image she just gave us.
To avoid puncture from eardrum puncture, do the following:
- Only clean after showering as the heat melts the wax.
- Line up a fingernail where the cotton meets the Q-Tip stick. This is your protection to make sure you don’t go too deep.
- Gently wipe in your ear.
- Try not to think about whether there is any wax left over.
To avoid the scenario altogether, she advises people to skip Q-tips and go with an oil and hydrogen peroxide routine instead:
- Once a week before going to bed, fill a dropper with olive or mineral oil.
- Put up to three drops in each ear and massage the triangle of cartilage covering your ear to cover your ear canal.
- Then use a cotton ball to keep the oil off your pillowcase (because eww).
- The next day, when you are in the shower, pour some hydrogen peroxide on your hand and rub it into your ear.
- The peroxide gushes out, taking the softened wax with it and leaving you free of wax and worry.
And remember – you may not have to do this at all. The National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCC), who know their ears by the elbow, suggests that only 1 in 10 children and 1 in 20 adults have excessive earwax.
So stop digging for wax and excuses. There are other, less risky ways. You owe it to yourself and your ears. Hygiene is the right thing to do – here’s how to shower properly.
Ear wax is completely natural and actually good for you as it can help prevent ear infections.
If you really feel the urge to clean your ears, limit it to a few times a month and avoid using Q-tips (if you really need to use a Q-Tip, do so carefully after a heat shower). An oil and hydrogen peroxide routine is safer and more effective.
You can and should improve your personal hygiene game today. Ears are only part of the puzzle.