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Earwax Type & Genetics

Earwax is one of those things most of us probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about. That's why you might be surprised to learn that there are two different earwax types: dry or wet.

How it works

So, what is earwax, anyway? It has nothing to do with candles or the stuff that bees make. Human earwax is a fatty substance produced by glands that are found deep within the ear canal.

The genetic link

You can thank your ABCC11 gene for your earwax type. This gene contains instructions for a protein that moves fat into, and out of, your cells. People who have 1 or 2 copies of the C variant in the ABCC11 gene have more fat in their earwax, making it wet and sticky. People who have two copies of the T variant have less fat in their earwax, making it dry, light-colored, and flaky.

ear with bacteria

Did you know?

Earwax plays an important role in keeping our ears bacteria-free. Earwax traps dirt and bacteria and moves them up and out of the ear canal when we move our jaws. Earwax also contains at least 10 compounds that help it prevent bacteria from growing inside your ear.

Explore more

Intrigued? 23andMe's Health + Ancestry Service can tell you whether you're more likely to have wet or dry earwax. Pick up one of our kits to learn what your DNA has to say about your earwax type.

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