The one body part you're probably cleaning incorrectly

Let's talk about hygiene: Washing your body is a no-brainer—the hardest part about that is deciding which natural soap scent you prefer. Then there's the debate about how often you should really shampoo, but it's not like you're going to completely destroy your locks if you wash your hair every day.

Your ears, on the other hand? That's where most people are pretty clueless.

From Q-Tips to ear candling (yup, it's a thing), there are a lot of things that people will try in the name of cleanliness—but not a lot of clarity as to what actually works. I consulted a specialist—AKA an otolaryngologist—to get the answer on the baffling body part, once and for all.

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Target reviewer Kal says "While in the store I came across this product knowing nothing about, but after the first scent whiff it came straight home with me. I only fell more in love after that and would never use another body scrub."
Nordstrom reviewer Chilli says "I love this body wash and receive many compliments about how great I smell "what is your perfume"... I don't wear any perfume, who needs it. I first tried this body wash at a five star hotel and haven't stopped using it since."

Target reviewer says "Love this body wash. It's smells great and is so refreshing. I'm sure in the summer months, it'll be ideal. During this winter season, it's helping with my dry skin."

Infused with natural ingredients and pure oils, this set of mint tea soap leafs is perfect for travel and smells amazing!
Sephora reviewer Rae says "This is my absolute favorite shower gel. The scent is beautiful and clean. I always get compliments after I use it. The scent can last throughout the day if you're at a low activity level."
Sephora reviewer Merideth says "A delightfully fresh melon scent, a bit canteloupe, with a hint of watermelon, this is perfect for a philosophy lover, or if you're trying them out for the first time...the scent is instantly infused into your shower. Not overpowering"
Infused with notes of sweet Honeysuckle and citrusy Grapefruit, this luxe body wash will leave your skin soft and sweet!
Target reviewer Emerlad says " I love love love this body wash! The scent is so indulging so much that I kept going back to the bathroom after bath,the first time I used it just because of the scent."
Sephora reviewer says "I bought this on a whim a little over a month ago ($40 on body wash was a tad excessive!) but I am SO glad I spent the money!! A little bit goes a long way and the smell is the best part of my day"
This ultra-hydrating body wash has notes of coconut oil and vanilla to restore your skin!

Sephora reviewer Jenn says "Great fresh scent and little product needed to get the perfect amount of bubbles"


"The bottom line is that some people have a perception that ear wax is dirty," says Erich Voigt, MD. "The truth is that it's actually a protective coating for the ear canal." Who knew—there's a beautiful purpose behind that decidedly non-gorgeous stuff.

But how do you clean things up in that area, really? Keep reading for Dr. Voigt's best recommendations.

What's the deal with Q-Tips—and are they safe?

Turns out that most doctors are very against them. "When you're putting in something like a Q-Tip, you're actually pushing a bunch of wax deeper in," explains Dr. Voigt. "Ear wax grows from the inside out, so it's naturally being pushed out. And if someone pushes some in, it actually prevents wax from being able to flow out normally—it then starts rolling up on itself inside the canal, which can become a large impaction." Um, gross.

What else should you avoid?

The best medical advice is to avoid putting anything in your ears at all, Dr. Voigt says—although it's not uncommon for people to stick other things besides Q-Tips in there, with the goal of cleaning out excess wax (or just out of habit).

"Scraping inside the ear canal can be abrasive to the skin, and can sometimes lead to outer-ear infections," he explains. "That area is prone to infection since it's a dark, moist, warm cavity that's very much like an incubator for germs to grow."

The worst that can happen? You push so much that it can't come out on its own—so medical attention is required in order to remove it. You'll know this, says Dr. Voigt, if you start having trouble hearing or if there's a pain in that area. I repeat: Step away from the Q-tip.

The doctor's Rx

Here's what you should do: Leave your auditory organs alone. (Easy, right?) If the wax starts to become uncomfortably visible or annoy you, handle it—but only on the outside.

"The way we recommend to clean your ears is just with a washcloth or a towel on your finger," says Dr. Voigt.

"The way we recommend to clean your ears is just with a washcloth or a towel on your finger."

"Clean the outer area of the ear and just use your towel to mop up any water or gunk that's accumulated. But don't go digging inside the hole," he says. No one will see inside that area, anyway. (I mean, when's the last time you took a peek into that cavity during a casual conversation?)

What about ear candling, the holistic practice of lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the canal to (as fans of the practice claim) clean it? Turns out that's not recommended, either. "People have been injured by that technique," says Dr. Voigt. "Sometimes the wax heats up too much and can burn you—it's not considered safe."

Bottom line: It might be time to get comfortable with that gunk—after all, it serves an important function. Can you hear me now?

Don't throw out those Q-Tips—they make super-useful home de-germing scrubbers. And in terms of very personal care: Do you really need to be cleaning your vagina?

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