Whether you prefer it sweet and short or you like luxuriating, we all have our own shower routine. Maybe you prefer to relax for a few minutes and enjoy the water, or perhaps you start washing your hair right away.
No matter what your preferences are, you almost definitely leave the shower or bathtub feeling better than you did before washing yourself—but you may not be as clean as you think. According to Jen Caudle, GP, there are some body parts most people aren’t washing correctly.
From your scalp to your toes, here are 7 body parts you’ve been washing in ways that are not only inefficient but also damaging. Without further ado, it’s time to clean up your act!
1. Your Hands
We’ve heard this so many times (especially during the pandemic): Wash your hands! However, even if you wash your hands before cooking or eating and after using the bathroom, you’re probably washing them the wrong way.
According to doctors, we should wash our hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds, lathering between the fingers, under the fingers, on the backs of hands, and on the palms of hands. Not washing your hands thoroughly enough basically means one thing: those bacteria and germs you carry on your hands won’t die.
This allows the spread of these harmful microorganisms from person to person, causing you and others to become sick. Surprisingly or not, most people still don’t wash their hands correctly. In fact, according to a study conducted by Michigan State University in 2013, only 5% of individuals out of 3,749 people observed in public restrooms washed their hands thoroughly enough to kill germs.
And it’s getting even worse. The study also discovered that a third of the individuals didn’t use soap, and 10% didn’t wash at all. Yuck!
2. Your Face
There are lots of face scrubs, masks, and fancy treatments available nowadays. They have become a part of many cleansing routines due to their promise to remove dead skin cells from your face.
Trying them from time to time is obviously fine, but make sure you’re not using them excessively. According to Adam Perlman, the Director of Integrative Health and Wellbeing for Mayo Clinic Florida, you can actually damage your face’s skin by washing it too often with products that contain too many powerful acids.
This is called over-exfoliating, and it basically means that you remove more than just dead skin cells from your face—you also remove its lipid barrier. In fact, dermatologists point out that exfoliation is a treatment and doesn’t need to be done every day.
According to Janet Prystowsky, “many people believe that they have to exfoliate,” but she highlights the fact that washing normally every day or two with a mild cleanser and then softly drying off with a towel will do a pretty good job of removing your dead skin cells.
Dermatologists also recommend not using cleansing wipes to clean your face. Whether for the face or body, they aren’t an everyday wash, but only for quick emergencies.
Last but not least, no matter what product you use to wash your face, make sure you’re using enough water to rinse off all of the product or soap. Leftover soap buildup can cause acne breakouts, especially under the chin.
3. Your Scalp
Even if you regularly wash your hair, your scalp may not be completely clean, especially certain portions of it. “I see this in some patients with thick hair who miss parts of the back of the head or get shampoo or conditioner there but don’t rinse it thoroughly,” says Dr. Prystowsky.
So how should you be washing your hair to make sure your scalp gets squeaky clean? It’s important to separate a few strands of hair to ensure the water is rinsing all of the products. Also, stop using your nails during hair washing and use the pads of your fingers instead. It will help protect your scalp from irritation.
If you have especially thick hair, use lots of hair products, or are dealing with any scalp irritation or itchiness, dermatologists recommend taking it a step further. Start using a scalp-detoxifying shampoo (one a month should be enough) and spend a few extra minutes in the shower massaging it into your scalp to eliminate sticky product buildup.
4. Your Teeth
Most people believe brushing their teeth is enough to clean them. Surprisingly or not, they are wrong. In fact, brushing your teeth is only half of what you really need to do to make sure you keep any cavities at bay.
If you don’t floss, you’re leaving behind the majority of detrimental bacteria. According to dentists, neglecting to floss encourages the development of lactic acid, which destroys your tooth enamel and causes cavities. That’s why you should floss at least twice a day.
What’s more, it seems that many people aren’t even brushing correctly. The best technique is to angle your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, right where your tooth meets your gum. Make sure you do small circular motions for around ten seconds per area.
If you have an electric toothbrush, it does the job for you, so you just have to move it from tooth to tooth. But if you prefer the classic one, remember that softer is better. Dentists advise against using a manual toothbrush with a firm or hard setting since these can hurt your gums and even wear down the tooth enamel. You may think that a hard toothbrush will do a better job, but in fact, it may be worse.
5. Your Ears
Lots of people use Q-tips to clean out their ears, but this isn’t the best way to do it. In fact, Q-tips aren’t even meant for that, and they can even be dangerous. While you may want to remove earwax, it’s there for a reason, and you should be very careful when using Q-tips.
According to doctors, using Q-tips actually pushes the wax further into your ear rather than getting it out. This can eventually cause earwax to build up against your eardrum, exposing you to the risk of a blocked ear canal or hearing loss.
So, how do you safely clean inside your ear? Well, it seems that you really shouldn’t have to. You may be surprised to learn that your ear actually cleans itself, making the wax drain out on its own. This lubricates and protects the inside of your ear.
However, if you really want to clean your ears, doctors recommend using over-the-counter earwax removal drops. They are much safer than Q-tips.
When it comes to the exterior of your ear, that’s a different story. Just make sure you’re washing it regularly using a soapy washcloth and gentle pressure. Don’t forget to clean behind your ears, either. They are one of the spots most people forget about when washing.
6. Your Feet
You may think your feet are getting clean during your shower session just because all the soap and water from your body are running down into them. Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not enough for a thorough cleaning.
After showering, make sure you give your feet some special attention. Scrub them, especially the sides and bottoms, using a pumice stone at least once every few days. Don’t forget to dry them, either.
It’s important to not forget about drying them, as common foot conditions, such as plantar warts, toenail fungus, and athlete’s foot fungus, can be caused by excessive moisture. While the aforementioned conditions are usually caused by excessive sweating, they can also be triggered by not drying your feet properly after washing them.
So make sure you thoroughly towel off your feet after bathing. It only takes a few seconds to remove excess moisture from your feet.
7. Your Belly Button
Most people forget about washing their belly buttons when bathing. And that’s not good. According to a study conducted by the Public Library of Science, the belly button is the dirtiest spot in your body, with more bacteria buildup than any other body part.
Due to its shape and location, the water that flows across it when you shower isn’t enough to get it completely clean. But it’s getting even worse. If you touch your navel, you risk spreading those bacteria to other parts of your body and even contaminating other items you touch.
Keep your belly button clean by gently washing it with a cotton swab soaked in soap and warm water.
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