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7 Personal hygiene mistakes you didn’t know you were making


By Marissa Chin

7 Personal hygiene mistakes you didn’t know you were making

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty details.

 Touching your face

We all know we shouldn’t touch our faces but it’s such an easy rule to break. There are literally millions of bacteria on our palms because almost everything we touch harbours bacteria: cellphones, laptops, remotes and the like. It’s estimated that we touch our faces an average of 26 times an hour, and nearly half of those instances, our hands are then touching the eyes, nose or mouth area which is definite no-go zones during this pandemic.

How to do it right:

It’s not easy to stop touching your face, especially if it has always been a natural habit. It’s also possibly a subconscious action when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Here’s a tip: Make sure you wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with soap. That way, even if you do touch your face, you reduce the risk of spreading any harmful bacteria (or viruses, as per our current global situation) in your mucosal surfaces. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, being conscious of how many times you do touch your face and recording it down can also help you knock off this habit. Second tip: Even lacing your fingers together can greatly lower the chances of you touching your face.

 Using too much toothpaste

Who doesn’t want shiny teeth and fresh breath? You might be thinking “the more, the better”. That can’t be farther from the truth. Rather than the toothpaste, the bristles are the ones doing most of the cleaning. Too much toothpaste, however, can actually make the bristles glide over the teeth instead of going into all the nooks and crannies. In short: you’re not actually cleaning your teeth at all and you’re just wasting toothpaste.

How to do it right:

The recommended amount for adults is a pea-sized dollop and for kids, even smaller: a grain of rice.

 Not cleaning your fingernails

Damir Spanic / Unsplash

Hand hygiene cannot be stressed enough in our current times. Our heads have been drilled with different techniques and the proper duration for washing our hands in the most effective manner. But—do you remember to dig under those fingernails too? Just like the thumb, fingernails are often ignored in the typical routine but they can harbour even more bacteria than your fingertips.

How to do it right:

First off, try and keep your nails at short and manageable lengths. The longer the nails, the higher the chances of collecting and harbouring more bacteria (plus, it’s just a lot more practical). When hand-washing, remember to get soap and water under the nails to wash out all the unwanted gunk—a washcloth or cuticle stick is great for getting into those harder-to-reach areas but remember to always switch out the washcloths after every use.

 Not changing your sheets often enough

S L / Unsplash

We’re sure everyone is guilty of this. As much as we absolutely love our cosy nests, it is also, unfortunately, a haven for bacteria. In addition, your bed can accumulate a lot of other gunky stuff such as dead skin cells, body oils, pollen, dust and heaven forbid…dust mites *shudders*. All of these can even lead to allergies, acne and other health problems just because you don’t change your bed sheets often enough.

How to do it right:

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it is recommended that you wash your sheets once a week. While Good Housekeeping states that you can get off washing your sheets once every two weeks, it also depends on your sleeping habits, which can be different for everybody. For example, if you tend to sweat in your sleep, you should definitely wash your sheets weekly. Pillowcases should also be washed two to three times a week.

 Using antibacterial soap

Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

The pandemic has really increased people’s obsession with everything antibacterial. If you are a serial antibacterial soap user, we regret to inform you that you might actually be making yourself more vulnerable to bad germs. Antibacterial soaps tend to contain harsh chemicals that strip our skin of its natural skin microbiome. There are trillions of bacteria on the skin, yes, but some are actually good bacteria that are necessary to our immunity. Using antibacterial products for everything will not only limit the community of bacteria’s ability to tell the difference between friendly bacteria and harmful pathogens but also increase the latter’s immunity over time; antibacterial soap may kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria but the 0.1 per cent will become resistant. And that’s a major no-no.

How to do it right:

Reduce your use of antibacterial soaps. In fact, it’s even better if you can remove it altogether from your routine. According to experts, regular soap is just as effective in getting rid of harmful bacteria and it’s far less drying on your hands. A mild soap formed from organic ingredients is gentler and the best way to go. If the germaphobe in you can’t bear to part with antibacterial soaps, then just remember not to overuse them.

 Using your hands to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing


You’ve definitely seen people cover their faces with their hands as they cough or sneeze and then proceed to wipe it on their clothes (are you guilty of this too?). Doing this will only spread the bacteria all over your face and hands, which is dangerous for infectious diseases. Merely covering it with your hands can also encourage the spread of germs if you touch objects or surfaces that come into contact with many people.

How to do it right:

It’s a good habit to carry tissues with you or make sure one is readily available to you at arm’s length. Tissues do a far better job of containing the spread and have less chance of cross-contamination. Immediately throw the used tissue. If you don’t have one on hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow crease but not into your hands. No one likes touching something that has splatters of someone else’s spit, thanks.

 Not cleaning your tongue after you brush your teeth

Because nothing says poor oral hygiene than bad breath. If you think enthusiastically brushing your teeth with your favourite mint toothpaste is going to do the job, think again. Bad breath comes from your tongue, not your teeth!

How to do it right:

Invest in some tongue scrapers as they are far more effective than a toothbrush when it comes to cleaning your tongue. Your tongue should not look discoloured or white by the end of it. Do go slowly and gently at first if you have a strong gag reflex.

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