Earwax, also known as cerumen, is produced by glands in the skin of the outer ear. Earwax protects the ear from damage and infections and acts as a water repellent. It naturally ranges in color from yellow and orange to brown.
The color of earwax is partially dependent upon its age. Fresh ear wax is typically soft and yellow, and it turns white and flaky as it ages. Older earwax that accumulates deeper inside the ear takes on a darker brownish color.
Some people's ears produce an excessive amount of wax, leading to build-up. The wax might reside in the ear longer until it can be safely removed. Because ear wax catches dust and dirt that might otherwise enter the ear canal, wax that acquires a lot of dust might be further discolored and might appear quite dark -- dark brown, grey or black -- when it is safely removed.
Most ears clean themselves. Cleaning the ears with ear candles, cotton swabs or even a finger can lead to dry, itchy ears and health problems such as ear drum perforation and infection. To safely remove an accumulation of hardened wax, look for ear drops at your local pharmacy. Alternatively, insert two to three drops of mineral oil into the ear. The oil will soften the wax, allowing it to flow out of the canal more easily.