Wash Behind Your Ears

Did your mum used to tellyou to wash behind your ears?

stubborn child

Neither did mine… but I’m doing it now.

I discovered some time ago that if I ran my finger behind each ear, it came away with a cheesy sort of smell. I’m relieved to discover this isn’t just me. Apparently, the odour behind our ears is due to oil-producing glands which produce an oily fat called sebum, which is itself odourless. It is its bacterial disintegration that produces a smell.

Because of the fold between the ear and the skull the oils gather and are not evaporated easily as on other parts of our skin. Furthermore, bacteria can collect more easily in the crease behind the ear, causing more smell.

These are all natural odours the human body produces without will. We can mask them with perfumes and soaps, and I recall my gran’s generation dabbing Eau de Cologne or Lily of the Valley behind each ear. But all we can do with perfume is to mask our odours; they still exist under all that perfume. The only solution is to regularly clean all those enclosed sweaty areas. And wash behind your ears.

This is the scent bloodhounds follow when chasing someone in the woods: not our perfume, but our natural body scent.

cartoon old man

Someone recently asked on Quora what causes that ‘old people’ smell. One reply stated that it came from behind the ears (which I don’t agree with, by the way) which prompted me to look it up. I was interested, because the smell behind my right ear has gone.

Instead I have an itch. For a while, the skin behind both ears began to itch. I realised I should stop scratching and the itch disappeared behind my left ear (and the cheesy smell returned) but it persists behind the right; I’m guessing it’s one of the many varieties of eczema. It began during lockdown, so a medical appointment wasn’t on the cards, especially for something so trivial, and nothing is visible to photograph for them (unless I give in and scratch).

Hydrocortisone cream didn’t fix it, and I now apply a ‘dry skin’ moisturiser or an anti-itch cream when required. This keeps it at bay most of the time and it only occasionally itches, usually in the evening. But the dry skin no longer smells cheesy. Presumably the skin around there has stopped producing the oils it should.

Who would guess I’d ever welcome having smelly ears?



What unexpected changes are you finding as you mature?

(Mature like cheese? Or maybe like vintage wine…)


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17 thoughts on “Wash Behind Your Ears

    1. The trouble is, I don’t like most of the cloying smelly things sold to get rid of odours either. (Including those things you plug in your power socket at home.) I’d rather know what I’m dealing with and try to get rid of it.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I like light floral scents, tropical of coconut, I don’t like anything heavy. I don’t mind animal smells on farms, zoos or outdoors, but have to cover any up indoors with candles or plug ins, being very careful not to leave them on!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, have to admit I had to give up having dogs as was unable to walk them for quite a number of years. I dog sit, but don’t have to walk them. Cleaning up after them is not something I enjoy, but someone has to do it…it allows the family to go on holidays.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. I notice if the house smells when we come in after being away. I only just realised that we haven’t noticed a doggy smell lately on our return, but I think it was Pickle who was getting noticeable… – not unpleasant, as long as you don’t mind a doggy odour, but detectable. But she was an old dog – didn’t quite make it to 16.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I was never told to wash behind my ears but I read about it when I was younger and have been doing so ever since. I have eczema too and for a while I was itchy but luckily the itch went away on it’s own.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When you mentioned about the bloodhounds following a scent, I got to thinking that if the police are searching for a criminal or someone who’s been missing for awhile, let’s hope they haven’t washed behind the ears so they’ll be easier to sniff out! LOL!

    My mom always told me to wash behind my ears, but the way she said it, made it sound as if that was the only place to wash. I would end up wondering what was so special about ‘behind the ears’.

    Because I never trusted my mom, I ended up never washing behind my ears. Oh well. I’ve never had that cheesy smell, though. I did read a while back that sweat doesn’t smell. It’s the bacteria that’s the culprit.

    I also read many years ago that the best way to apply perfume is not directly onto the area of the skin. Instead, spray it ever so lightly on the hem of your dress or pants (trousers to you!) and allow the smell to naturally waft upwards. Also, do NOT rub it into your skin.

    When I was a young hippie, Patchouli was my favorite scent. I also loved those natural, woodsy scented oils. Except for Patchouli, I never went in for those floral scents.

    For most of my life I’ve had really thick, long hair. My hair was so thick I only had to shampoo it once a month. It was so thick it took forever for the dirt to reach my scalp.

    Then came menopause. My hair has thinned out considerably, although most people would still say it looks thick to them. That’s only because they haven’t seen my hair in it’s hay day. Well, because my hair has thinned out so much, I now have to shampoo my hair twice a month and it feels like spaghetti hanging down my back. It’s still long. I haven’t cut it. In fact, it’s gotten even longer.

    A part of me still mourns the loss of my hair. Before when I went to scratch my scalp I had to keep digging, digging, digging to reach it. Now, my hair is so thin I just have to touch my head and feel my scalp. It really makes me sad. I always say that women have relationships with their hair. Something that most men don’t understand. I really can’t think of anything else that has changed about me physically as I’ve gotten older.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If only… I never felt the face in the mirror represented ‘me’, but these days i’m surprised it doesn’t frighten my grandchildren. I’ve given up trying to take a flattering photo. My hair is certainly thinner. I cut it myself and if I thin it too much I can see scalp peeping through, so I have to be moderate with those thinning shears. A hairdresser once told me I had a lot of hair but the individual hair were ‘fine’. (I think she meant thin but was being kind.) I’m pleased it’ s gone white though and not grey.
      I prefer sandalwoody-type perfumes to florals (although I do like the smell of freesias in the house when I can find freesias that smell of anything (the supermarket ones don’t all have any odour at all). But most of the time I just forget to use perfume. I did once read that we should spray into the air in front of us and walk through the spray.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, you reminded me of some things. Like you, my hair is not going grey, but am getting silvery strands, which I think are so pretty. I read somewhere that the darker your hair is, it usually means that you won’t go grey, but have a nice whiteness to it. I have never liked the idea of dying my hair.

        I’m Sicilian, which means I have Olive color skin. This in turn means I don’t wrinkle as easily as someone with a really fair complexion. Obviously when you look at me you can tell that I’m not 25 anymore, but I’ve been told that I don’t look my age. Maybe they meant I don’t act my age? LOL!

        I’ve never minded the idea of getting old. I know that I’m not that old, but I’m surprised that as old as I am, my hair is still pretty dark. My silver strands are increasing, but not by much.

        Liked by 1 person

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