Hygiene Habits You Thought Were Healthy, But Actually Aren’t
From brushing our teeth right after a meal to taking bubble baths, not all the hygiene habits we've learned are as healthy as we once thought. Learn more about bad hygiene habits and how to properly care for your hygiene.
All our lives, we have been learning hygiene habits that may not be the best choices for our health
Having good hygiene habits is fundamental for taking care and maintaining our health. Since these habits play a crucial role in preventing the spread of diseases and maintaining overall well-being, it is important not only to develop personal hygiene habits but also to promote public health to ensure a sanitary and healthy environment, such as guaranteeing access to clean water and sanitation.
From skin and body care to oral hygiene and sanitizing the food we consume, all these habits help reduce the spread of germs and prevent diseases such as colds, gastrointestinal infections, respiratory diseases, and skin infections.
Additionally, maintaining good individual and public health can significantly improve mental health and overall quality of life in the long term.
Beyond the social provisions for the maintenance of collective health, when it comes to our individual hygiene, there are a few misconceptions that have been spread through common sense or have cultural roots, which are not always the healthiest options for our bodies.
As health research develops, we can demystify many habits we thought were healthy but actually are not. Keep reading to learn more about hygiene habits you thought were healthy but are not, and what the best habits are for your hygiene.
Taking long, hot showers
Highly recommended for when we feel stressed, tense, or tired, long, hot showers are not the best options for our daily hygiene routines.
Prolonged exposure to hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils, which act as a barrier to protect your skin and retain moisture.
For this same reason, hot showers are also not healthy for scalp and hair health. If you habitually take long and hot showers, you may notice your skin becoming dry or irritated afterward, or you may even have noticed dandruff. These are signs that you are harming your skin barrier.
However, occasionally taking hot showers is not detrimental to your skin, as long as it doesn’t happen frequently. Instead, opt for colder showers or make sure to take quick showers when choosing hot water. Also, always moisturize your skin afterwards.
Exfoliating too much
Exfoliation is an important skincare step because it helps remove dead skin cells, unclog pores, and prevent oily skin and acne. Over the long term, it can improve skin complexion, even helping reduce the appearance of wrinkles and lines.
However, if done too often, exfoliation can be harmful to your skin. While it is important to prevent the spread of germs, some of our natural oils and bacteria actually play a role in balancing and maintaining the health of our skin.
Excessive exfoliation or the use of harsh exfoliants can damage your skin’s natural barrier, responsible for protecting the skin from external irritants and retaining moisture. Paradoxically, this can lead to an increase in oil production as the skin attempts to compensate for the loss of natural oils, making it more prone to acne.
Additionally, your skin will become more sensitive to other products and to sun exposure.
Air dryers have become more common and are considered eco-friendly, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic when we were advised not to touch surfaces to avoid the spread of diseases.
However, research from the Mayo Clinic has provided new information on the best option for drying our hands. Electric air dryers do not effectively remove leftover bacteria that may remain on our hands after washing and may even spread them around.
On the other hand, using paper towels to dry our hands acts as a soft exfoliant, as we’ve seen previously. This helps remove dead skin cells and promotes a deeper cleanse of our skin.
Shaving too often
Our body hair exists for a reason, just like everything else in our bodies has a purpose. Although culturally, we may be encouraged or sometimes even pressured to shave and keep our skin hair-free, this is not necessarily a hygiene habit but rather an aesthetic practice.
Frequent shaving can irritate the skin, leading to inflammation and increased skin sensitivity. Additionally, shaving too frequently can lead to the development of folliculitis, which is ingrown hair that can cause bumps and may even lead to infections.
Moreover, repeatedly shaving the same area without allowing the skin to fully heal between shaves can create an environment for bacteria to thrive.
Remember that it is okay to have body hair, and it helps protect us from UV radiation, promotes temperature regulation, and plays a role in immune functions. When shaving, always exfoliate your skin and wash it with lukewarm water first to open your pores and make it easier to safely remove your hair.
Spritzing fragrance in underthings
Another social construct that can be harmful to our health is the belief that our genitals should have a fragrant, flowery scent. While it’s essential to maintain proper hygiene and consult a healthcare specialist if you notice any unusual secretions or odors, these changes can sometimes indicate underlying health issues.
Our intimate areas have their own pH balance, which needs to be preserved. Introducing chemicals can disrupt this natural pH balance and lead to more serious problems, such as yeast infections, allergies, and urinary tract infections. Therefore, it’s best to avoid applying perfumes or other chemical products to your genitals.
Instead, trust neutral glycerin soaps and water to do the job. Gently wash your intimate areas every time you shower. Regular checkups with your gynecologist or urologist can provide peace of mind, and you shouldn’t have to worry about maintaining a flowery scent in your genital area.
Using harsh scrubbing brushes
Just like excessive exfoliation, harsh scrubbing brushes can harm and damage your skin. These items are not recommended because they can cause irritation, sensitivity, and harm your skin’s protective barrier.
Instead, opt for soft scrubbing brushes and pay attention to the frequency of your exfoliations. Listening to your body is always important, so be aware of how your skin responds to your exfoliation routine. If it becomes too dry, sensitive, or painful in any way, make the necessary adjustments.
Also, be sure to moisturize your skin and stay hydrated to support its regeneration.
Washing your hair too often
Just like long, hot showers, washing your hair every day can strip your scalp and hair of their natural oils, leading to dry, sensitive, and damaged skin. Your hair may also become more susceptible to breakage, and frizz can increase.
Even if you have oily hair, it’s important to allow a day or two for your natural oils to settle in. The optimal frequency for washing your hair varies from person to person, so you should experiment to find what works best for you. However, if your hair still feels clean and looks healthy, there’s no need to wash it every day.
As we’ve seen before, applying scented and chemical products to your genitals can be harmful, and a bubble bath essentially immerses your body in a highly perfumed product.
The ingredients in these products can disrupt the natural pH balance in your genitals, particularly the vagina, as these organs are more exposed to the products. Bubble baths can lead to an imbalance in your natural pH, potentially causing infections, dryness, and allergies.
If possible, look for bubble baths that do not contain harsh chemicals and perfumes, and opt for neutral or sensitive skin-specific products.
Tooth cleaning right after a meal
Just like other parts of our bodies, our mouths have a specific pH that contributes to our overall health.
Certain foods, especially acidic ones, can temporarily soften your tooth enamel, so it’s advisable to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after a meal. This allows your saliva to naturally neutralize the acid and remineralize your teeth.
However, it’s important not to wait too long or skip brushing altogether, as brushing after meals is necessary to remove food remnants and bacteria that can lead to cavities and other oral health issues.
Hand sanitizers have become almost a daily accessory ever since the pandemic. We use them when leaving public spaces or touching anything, immediately sanitizing our hands.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that triclosan, a common ingredient in hand sanitizers, does not replace soap and can be potentially dangerous for our health. This synthetic chemical compound has antimicrobial properties, but there has been recent concern about its environmental and health impacts.
The FDA has decided to ban or restrict triclosan in various products since it can, quite paradoxically, potentially contribute to antibiotic resistance and environmental pollution. Therefore, when choosing a hand sanitizer, carefully check the ingredient list and look for options that include soap, glycerin, and similar ingredients.
About the author / Nathália Brum
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