You may think you’re doing everything you can to improve your health and appearance, but these common hygiene habits do more harm than good.
Cleaning out your ears with Q-tips
Some people swear on Q-Tips to dig out ear gunk, but medical experts will warn you not to try it. And for good reason—those seemingly harmless cotton swabs have caused countless catastrophes, from punctured eardrums and ear infections to even hearing loss. According to Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA, the ear canal doesn’t even need to be “cleaned.” Enough water enters the ear canal during showers to naturally slough away wax that has accumulated
Bubble baths/bath bombs
Soaking in scented suds seems like the perfect way to unwind after a long day, but you may just find yourself with irritated skin and a nasty yeast infection. The fragrances and harsh detergents inside your favorite bath bombs can strip protective oils from the vagina and mess with the natural pH balance of the skin. Jen Gunter, MD, tells Safe Bee that bubble baths increase your odds for uncomfortable dryness, vaginal infections, and even bladder infections.
Gynos everywhere agree that douching isn’t exactly recommended for your health. Wendie A. Howland, principal of Howland Health Consulting, tells Reader’s Digest that douching disturbs the normal pH and washes out beneficial bacteria, leading to an array of possible infections. A study from Environmental Health even found that douching products increase your exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates, which can disrupt your hormones, increase your risk of chronic disease, and lead to reproductive problems down the line. Find out the other daily habits that can mess with the health of your vagina.
If you’re a habitual pumper, you may actually be doing more harm to your health than good. The Food and Drug Administration warns that triclosan, a synthetic compound found in hand sanitizer, is a poor (and dangerous) replacement for soap and water. And worse, “Data suggests that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in hand sanitizer could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.”
Sure, air dryers are better for the planet than paper towels, but research from the Mayo Clinic shows that paper towels easily trump electric dryers when it comes to personal hygiene. Electric air dryers fail at wiping away the leftover bacteria after washing, and even worse, they can literally spread it to the entire room, creating a contagious mist that contains many types of fecal bacteria. This reach is pretty powerful—studies found a substantial number of airborne bacteria within a radius of approximately 2 meters from the user.
Relaxing in the shower
There’s nothing like lingering in a long, hot shower, especially first thing in the morning. But is it good for your skin? Alan J. Parks, MD, founder of DermWarehouse, tells Healthy Way that hot showers strip protective oils from your skin, so you should always keep them as short as you can. Better yet, take them at night—hot showers are actually most beneficial at night, according to science. The cooling process that happens afterward slows down the body’s metabolic activities (like digestion, breathing, and heart rate), making for an easier sleep transition.
Washing your hair every day
While most of us have been conditioned (pun intended) to rinse and repeat ad infinitum, your locks may be paying a toll. Washing your hair on a daily basis strips away the natural oils that the hair needs, leading to dry, brittle locks, even if you have oily hair.
Moisturizing too much
If you have dry, itchy skin, it seems natural to want to slather on the lotion every chance you get. But this may not always be the smartest alternative. According to the experts at Garnier, applying excessive moisturizer at night can create a tolerance, which trains the skin to produce less natural emollient, making it even drier in the long run. This results in a vicious cycle where your skin is no longer producing necessary nutrients, which only causes you to moisturize more. To prevent the problem, apply just a thin coat of moisturizer or try using an oil-free balm instead.
Brushing your teeth right after a meal
Sticklers for oral hygiene may make a dash for the toothbrush after every meal, but that’s a mistake. That’s because certain foods, especially those containing citric acid, can weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon after eating damages the enamel in its already weakened state. Mayo Clinic recommends waiting at least 30 minutes after a meal so saliva can neutralize the acid in your mouth and strengthen the enamel on those chompers.
Spritzing fragrance in underwear
Although most people have enough sense not to spray perfume directly into the nether regions, you might try deodorizing your underwear instead. The truth is that anything chemical near the genitals can interfere with your natural pH, and it’s likely you’ll be stuck with a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or urinary tract infection (which ironically, all end up causing worse smells than what you started with). Do yourself a favor and let your self-cleaning vagina do the work—it knows what it’s doing.