What's earwax made of?

It might seem weird that humans produce wax. After all, that's typically considered the domain of bees. But as anyone who's ever used a cotton swab knows, human ears generate a fair amount of the substance.

While earwax is usually detected in the outer ear, it's actually made in the ear canal (between your outer, visible ear and your middle ear). This section of the ear is lined with wax-producing cerumenous glands. Earwax — also known by its technical name, cerumen — is primarily created by those glands. (Sebum, a fatty secretion of the skin, and dead skin cells also contribute to the makeup of earwax.) It's usually made up of about 60 percent keratin (a protein), with the rest a combination of dead skin cells, fatty acids, cholesterols and other compounds.