It's tempting to think that hygiene is straightforward, or that hygiene practices are common sense, but the truth is many people are buying into misconceptions or making mistakes about their personal hygiene. Confronting these potential mistakes and changing your behaviors can lead you to positive health outcomes and make you feel better about yourself in the process.

The Importance of Personal Hygiene

 Personal hygiene is important for several reasons:

  • Health. Maintaining good hygiene can improve your health outcomes in several ways. For example, washing your hands regularly can stave off infectious diseases, while brushing your teeth every day can reduce your susceptibility to cavities and other forms of dental and periodontal disease.
  • Comfort. Good hygiene also makes you more comfortable. When you're cleaner and feel better about your body, you'll be much more comfortable in your own skin. That's why getting out of the shower and drying off feels so refreshing, especially after getting dirty.
  • Reputation. Hygiene also plays a role in your social reputation, whether you realize it or not. Heading into a job interview with a bad case of body odor could ruin your chances of getting hired, and talking to your friends with bad breath often enough could compromise your dynamics within the group.
  • Self-esteem. As a secondary result of all of these, good hygiene can lead to higher self-esteem and make you feel better about yourself.

Hygiene Mistakes You May Be Making

So what are the hygiene mistakes you might be making?

1. Wiping with toilet paper. Most of us were raised to use toilet paper when wiping ourselves after using the bathroom. But as recent scientific data suggests, using a bidet’s stream of water may be superior. If you get your hands dirty, you don't just wipe them off with paper; instead, you need to wash them with water for them to feel like they're fully clean. Other areas of your body should be the same, and doing so can result in a much more thorough clean and reduced susceptibility to complications like hemorrhoids. Also, using a bidet isn’t just more hygienic – it’s more environmentally friendly as well. You'll use only a little bit of water and greatly reduce your toilet paper consumption in the process.

2. Skipping flossing. Most people brush their teeth regularly because they don't like the way their mouth feels when they go too long without brushing. But flossing is much easier to skip, and people skip flossing whenever they feel like they can get away with it. To be fair, flossing can be a time consuming and annoying process, but it's also one of the most important ways to prevent cavities and improve your dental health. At minimum, you should be flossing at least once per day.

3. Changing your towels (or sheets) infrequently. We use towels and bed sheets every day, drying ourselves after bathing and comforting ourselves at night. But even if we're somewhat clean when using these linens, we're gradually getting them dirtier and dirtier. It's a good idea to change your towels and sheets at least once per week, and more often if you're a heavy user. If you're using the same towel or sheet set longer than that, you may be making a serious hygiene mistake.

4. Washing your hands incorrectly (or not enough). Hand washing isn’t exactly complicated, but there are many ways that you could wash your hands incorrectly. Running water over your hands without soap, failing to hit every surface of your hand, and washing too quickly are some of the most common mistakes. You should also be washing your hands multiple times per day.

5. Using harsh soap. Soap is one of the most important elements of a good hygiene system, breaking the surface tension of water and allowing us to clean ourselves more thoroughly. But some soaps are better than others. If you use harsh soap regularly, you'll still get clean, but you'll end up drying out your skin in dealing with other health complications as a result.

6. Biting your nails. Even if you go through the trouble of washing your hands and cleaning your nails regularly, there are probably still millions of disgusting particles lurking beneath your fingernails. Biting your nails is a troublesome habit for many reasons, and bad hygiene is among them.

7. Using cotton swabs to clean your ears. Though you may have been doing it your whole life, modern experts advise against using cotton swabs to clean your ears. Your ears have natural processes for clearing out wax within, so there's no need to go through the manual effort of attempting to remove it. Furthermore, using a cotton swab could impact the wax, causing severe damage, and there's always the risk of going too far and puncturing your eardrum.

8. Washing your hair every day. Washing your hair every day may feel good, but it's not the best approach for maintaining the health and quality of your hair. Shampoos remove essential oils and other materials your hair needs to maintain good condition. Instead, switch to washing your hair only periodically.

How many of these hygiene mistakes do you find yourself making on a regular basis? Be honest, as nobody's perfect in this area. As we've seen, you don't need to be cleaning yourself constantly to practice good hygiene; instead, you just have to follow best practices regularly enough to see the benefits.