A poem by Shel Silverstein once began by asking, “Where did you get such a dirty face, My darling dirty-faced child?” Unfortunately, “chewing the roots of a rose, And digging for clams in the yard with my nose” are occurrences which are so unlikely that they rarely cause skin issues for people (although maybe the root of the problem would be easier to pinpoint people were doing those things!). The true causes of skin issues are much more common, and in places most people are far less likely to consider. Some of the things we think about least in life are the most disgusting surfaces our faces encounter. The following are the top 5 dirty surfaces your face encounters.
Hats and headbands
That old headband you wear to the gym every day is teeming with bacteria. Hats and headbands trap all the sweat from your forehead creating a warm, wet environment which is perfect for the growth of all kinds of germs. If you’re noticing acne around the top of your forehead, it could be due to your headgear. Even helmets should be properly sanitized after every use to prevent the spread of bacteria. For hats and headbands, throwing them in with your normal laundry should suffice. For helmets and other hard safety gear, use a skin-safe sanitizer to wipe down any part which comes into contact with your skin or hair. In addition, make sure your hair products, like hairspray or leave-in conditioner, don’t have prolonged contact with your skin. One woman, Audrey Kopp, learned the danger of dirty hair bobbles a bit too late. She contracted a flesh-eating bacteria from the hair band she wore around her wrist and had to go to the emergency room to drain an abscess on it. The build up of bacteria from her hair and skin going back and forth eventually took a major toll on the health of her skin. Make sure any products which go on your head (or from your head to, say, your wrist) are properly sanitized to ensure your skin doesn’t suffer.
Makeup brushes need to be properly cleaned. Let’s repeat that for those in the back: MAKEUP BRUSHES NEED TO BE PROPERLY CLEANED. Any woman will tell you she has at least one friend (maybe it’s herself) who has brushes which she rarely or never cleans and that can be very detrimental to the health of her skin. Those that are used every day can get especially dirty and lead to breakouts and irritation. Even worse, they have been known to cause pink eye or staph infections. Makeup sponges can be particularly tricky because they tend to hold moisture which can lead to mold or even bugs. Plenty of videos online show women cutting up their makeup sponges and finding bugs. They are honestly horrifying to watch, especially when you ponder how long they have been applying foundation with a bug-infested sponge. However, a new product has hit the market which can eschew your fears. Silicone beauty blenders are growing in popularity, and because they are not porous, they do not retain moisture which is the main issue with sponge applicators. They are also much easier to clean than brushes or sponges, only needing a few seconds, mild soap, and warm water. Bonus: most of them are see-through so you can be sure there are no creepy crawlies helping you with your contouring.
Pillow cases are full of dirt and sweat, even if you wash your face before bed every night. As you sweat in the night, your face rubs it off on your pillowcase, and your clean face lays directly on top of the old grime the next time you go to bed. Some estimates say that pillow cases should be washed once every two to three days, but unless your face is suffering from severe breakouts, once per week should be sufficient. Additionally, some pillow cases are more face-friendly than others. Look for pillow cases made of natural fibers such as 100% cotton which will be more breathable and less likely to foster the growth of bacteria. Another solution is to place a clean towel or hand towel over your pillow every night, but the amount of laundry you accumulate may just dissuade you from taking that route!
Your hands are one of the most bacteria covered parts of the body for a simple reason: you use them for almost everything. Everything you touch, everything you eat, every door that you open, every other person’s hand that you shake all have germs, and when you touch your face to itch your eye or scratch your nose, all those germs go straight to your face. The solution for this one is the same thing your mom always told you. Wash your hands frequently. There’s no secrets of the universe for this. If you spend a lot of time shaking hands or doing work outside, carry hand sanitizer to use in between washes. Try to touch your face as little as possible with your fingers as they are typically one of the dirtiest parts of your hand. Instead, try to rub any itchy spots on your face with the back of the wrist or the forearm. While not perfect, at least there are no dirty fingernails touching your skin!
That’s right, your beloved smartphone is plaguing your face with insurmountable piles bacteria and filth. Think about it, it goes everywhere you do and puts up with some pretty nasty habits. It goes outside, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, puts up with layer after layer of makeup, poking at it with your dirty fingers all day, and then goes to bed next to that nasty pillowcase. Then, after all this, you put it on your face. You talk to your mother with that phone! To put the germ-filled icing on the bacteria-infested cake, every time your phone touches your face it triggers the skin to produce more oils to protect itself which, in turn, mixes with the filth on the phone to yield a veritable cesspool of a face cream specially made for you! The best solution for this is to wipe down your phone screen — a lot. If you have an old glasses wiping cloth that you can use and wash frequently it would be a good start. The best bet is investing in cheap, disposable wipes to carry with you. Baby wipes, makeup removing clothes, or wipes specifically tailored to phone cleaning are all available and reasonably priced online to help your phone and your face have a happy marriage.
All in all, your face encounters a ton of bacteria throughout the day and does a very good job of keeping itself protected from harmful germs. However, if you are a person who experiences frequent breakouts or has generally sensitive or irritated skin, these are important, everyday objects to watch out for and, by following some of the tips above, you can substantially improve the life of your skin.
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