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4 Common Hygiene Habits That Could Make You Sick

Read up to make sure you don’t include them in your routine!
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Self-care is so important to nurture your mental and physical wellness. Just think of how relaxed you feel after taking a warm, soothing shower or soaking in a bubble bath complete with essential oils or your favorite bath bombs. But did you know that uncleanliness is actually bad for your health? Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM, the Director of Medical Content & Education at Ro, a certified nutrition coach, certified personal trainer, and a member of our Medical Expert Board, shares four bad hygiene habits that are making you sick. Read up to make sure you don't include them in your routine, and for more, don't miss 5 Foods To Always Keep on Hand in Case You Get Sick.

Keeping up with your daily hygiene is not just about looking presentable.

close-up of man washing his hair with shampoo

Your everyday lifestyle is jam-packed with so many daily tasks that involve cleanliness. Personal grooming such as brushing your teeth, showering, washing your hands and face, and chores like laundry and washing dishes are necessary, and they're not just for looking good!

Dr. Bohl explains, "Infectious diseases are caused by microscopic organisms like bacteria and viruses, and the best way to get rid of these organisms is by cleaning. There are also some larger organisms, like fungi and lice, that cause disease, and these can also be avoided with proper hygiene habits."

If you're cringing right now, know that the way to ensure you are staying as clean and healthy as possible is to keep up with your daily hygiene. "Continue doing everything your parents taught you, like bathing, brushing your teeth, and taking care of your hair and nails," Dr. Bohl advises.

In addition to a great daily self-care regimen, there are several specific things to be mindful of when it comes to bad hygiene habits that can make you sick.

1. You're not washing your hands.

close-up woman washing her hands, concept of bad hygiene habits, not washing hands enough

Don't think that keeping your hands clean is not important. "One of the easiest ways to get sick" without even realizing it, according to Dr. Bohl, is by not washing your hands. The germs don't necessarily cause a risk to your hands themselves, but rather whatever your hands touch if you don't wash them.

Dr. Bohl points out, "The skin acts as a relatively good barrier against infectious materials, but germs can get into the body much more easily through mucous membranes, like the inside of your nose, mouth, and eyelids. So if you haven't washed your hands and you touch your face, you may be introducing disease-causing germs into your body."

Know that germs can easily transfer to whatever food items you consume, which also puts you at risk of developing a gastrointestinal disease.

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2. You're not cleansing every part of your body in the shower.

Cleansing each and every single part of your body when showering or bathing is huge when it comes to avoiding illness.

Dr. Bohl explains, "This includes cleaning the armpits, under the breasts, around the groin, in the gluteal crease, and anywhere else you have skin folds. Skin folds—which can be more common in those with obesity—can be moist, allowing germs to thrive."

If you don't clean all nooks and crannies, the barrier of your skin can be compromised, and infection can develop in your skin folds.

3. You're not flossing your teeth.

woman flossing her teeth

Brushing your teeth is important, and chances are, each time you have your teeth cleaned, the dental hygienist or dentist reminds you to floss. Flossing is really an essential step for good oral hygiene and can't be ignored.

"When you brush your teeth, there's still a possibility of items staying between the teeth where the toothbrush can't reach, and this can ultimately lead to cavities and other oral health issues," Dr. Bohl warns.

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4. You're over-washing your face.

You should absolutely cleanse your face every day in order to eliminate oils, makeup, and dirt—but don't overdo it! Washing your face more than two or three times each day can cause complications.

Dr. Bohl cautions, "If you wash your face with a cleanser too many times in a day, you can strip away the skin's natural oils, which in some cases can be just as problematic as not washing enough and can even make acne worse."

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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