Earwax: We Are Not Created Equal


It might be just me, but I assumed that everyone had the same earwax. But while researching my last article (Do Asians Smell?) I found out that (most) Asians have completely different earwax than those of other races.

I even told my wife this fact and it blew her mind. Okay, she didn’t really care, but she did express mild surprise which is more than I can say for most of my articles so you’ll forgive me for my hyperbole.

Don’t believe me that people of different races have different types of earwax? Here’s a quote from a science news blog:

If you would describe yourself as white or black, your earwax is probably yellow and sticky. If you are East Asian or Native American, it’s likely to be dry and white.

Did you read that? Just in case you missed it, I’ll repeat it. Asian (and Native Americans) have earwax that is dry and white (or in other websites described as colorless) and non-Asians have yellow and sticky earwax.

Wondering why the differences in the type of earwax? Let’s turn to our friends over at Wikipedia for an answer:

A specific gene has been identified that determines whether people have wet or dry earwax.[9] The difference in cerumen type has been tracked to a single base change (a single nucleotide polymorphism) in a gene known as “ATP-binding cassette C11 gene”.[10] Dry-type individuals are homozygous for adenine whereas wet-type requires at least one guanine. Wet-type earwax is associated with armpit odor, which is increased by sweat production. The researchers conjecture that the reduction in sweat or body odor was beneficial to the ancestors of East Asians and Native Americans who are thought to have lived in cold climates.[11]

I know. This was like finding out that Santa wasn’t real and that McDonalds’ hamburgers weren’t good for me. What’s next? I’m starting to wonder if the color of our feces is different. (BTW: Mine is purple).

There’s not much else to say about this, but while “researching” this article I did find some interesting facts about earwax and a totally amazing video subculture I never knew existed.

First, according to this NPR article, not only does earwax look different, but earwax also has different smells:

Preti says that regardless of race, we all produce the same odors — just in different amounts. For instance: White men have more volatile organic compounds in their earwax than Asian men.

Another interesting thing I learned (from that same article) was that researchers believe that earwax may hold people’s health secrets.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to mine our ears for whatever health secrets they may hold. Monell chemist George Preti calls earwax “a neglected body secretion.” Other research has shown that you can tell a person’s gender, health status and more from their underarm odors. “We think it possible that earwax may contain similar information,” Preti said on the center’s website.

And finally, there are videos (like this one with four million views!) of earwax removals.  I admit, I watched the whole thing (and many more like it) and found myself oddly enjoying it.


Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ksakai1


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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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