Wash your hands well and do not touch your face – the instructions to keep COVID-19 and several other communicable diseases seem simple enough to follow. And yet, most of us cannot keep our hands off our faces. Why is that? Some of us hadn’t given it a conscious thought yet, some others might have had some deep shower thoughts about it. Either way, not touching your face would be a healthy habit to develop. But how do you do that? Let us take a look at why you touch your face, how is it hurting you, and how to stop.
Why do we Touch Our Faces?
We do this more often than we realize. It might be for an eye booger, or an itchy nose, we are all touching our face, consciously or otherwise. Irrespective of why you are doing it, touching your face means increasing the risk of infection by passing germs from our hands to our body through the nose and mouth.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Infection Control observed 26 medical students and found that on average, each one of them touches their faces about 23 times per hour. Touching your face is not an unnatural habit. It is something we share with many animals and is probably one of the first things we do when we wake up. It is not something we give a conscious thought about before acting unless we are facing a severe risk of self-inoculation, especially in times of global health situations.
It is a natural behavior in humans and hence, stopping it becomes a task. For some of us, the more we are told to not touch our faces, the more we do it. We cannot seem to stop.
Why can’t we stop? To reiterate and put it simply, we cannot stop touching our faces because it is our natural behavior. You might realize this even more starkly after you have been told to stop touching your face. But even if you can’t completely stop, how do you ensure that you reduce it to a bare minimum? Moreover, how do you not let your hand-to-face contact become a way of your body getting infected?
How to Stop Touching your Face?
The direct approach of passing on command to your brain to avoid face-hand contact rarely works for all. Instead, we can start reducing the number of times we touch our face consciously. If not, we can at least ensure that our hands are clean before we need to do that. For other times, especially when we don’t realize that we are doing it till we have, here are a few tips that may come in handy.
- Keep a clean handkerchief or tissue box accessible. This is especially useful when you cough, sneeze or yawn and need to cover your mouth.
- If you are idle or doing something like watching a video or having a conversation, be mindful of where your hands are. Keep a tiny object, such as a keychain or a fidget spinner, to keep your hands from straying. Alternatively, keep your hands together, fingers intertwined.
- Keep your hair away from your face. Even if you are keeping it open, ensure that it does not become an excuse to touch your face. Tuck your strands behind your ears and spray down the strays.
- Keep your face clean. Wash it whenever you feel your skin or parts of your face feel irritated.
- If you have oily/combination skin, keep a blotting paper handy to dab the excess sebum off and thus avoid irritating your face.
- For dry skin, use a suitable face mist or a hydrating moisturizer during the day and reduce picking at the dry patches.
- If you are struggling with acne or even acne scars, now is the best time to stop touching your face. Picking at your acne might be a subconscious habit but it is only worsening the situation.
- We often reach towards our faces to touch our eyes or nose. In case you experience dryness in the eyes, keep eye drops handy. Alternatively, wash your face with cold water instead of rubbing your eyes, which by itself is a bad practice.
- If you have little ones at home, it is best to reason with them and explicitly explain why they should not touch their face. Moreover, their faces and hands need to be kept clean.
- Lastly, none of this would mean anything if we don’t wash our hands. Make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water in the prescribed manner.
Often breaking old habits to build newer, healthier ones can be difficult. But not touching our face with dirty hands might be a simpler one, which can save us as well as our loved ones from infections.