Skin hygiene 101
Our skin encounters many different surfaces throughout the day (and night). Often these surfaces can be unsuspecting in terms of hygiene as they are seen as an essential part of everyday life. Common surfaces which often have an excess of “invisible” debris are phones, door handles, pets, and even other people. All these surfaces are in direct contact with our hands, making our hands one of the most unhygienic parts of our body. Other surfaces which are commonly in direct contact with our face are pillows, bedding and face cloths. Often, the contaminants from these surfaces are impossible to see with the naked eye, making them more able to escape recognition and make their way on to the skin. Each surface poses similar hygiene impacts to our skin, including the transfer of unwanted debris and microbial contamination, which can lead to skin impacts such as blocked pores, irritation, and dryness.
Pillows and bedding
Our skin spends a lot of time in contact with pillows and bedding, this means that accumulation of dirt, oils and dead skin cells is very common. Some people may also be sensitive to some laundry detergents, so prolonged exposure to this via pillowcases can be irritating to the skin.
As the skin naturally sheds, produces oils, and sweats, byproducts of these processes (dirt, oil, sweat and dead skin cells) are left on your pillows and bedding.
This perfect cocktail of byproducts such as oil, sweat and saliva, and dead skin cells from the skin’s natural overnight rejuvenation process, paired with the warm temperature of your bed, creates the ideal environment for bacteria on the surface of your bedding to survive and multiply. If these byproducts accumulate, they can make their way back onto the skin during the long period when your skin is exposed to the surfaces of pillows and bedding. In turn, they can create a layer of grime on the skin and can contribute to the clogging of pores and the formation of acne.
While this can sound a little scary, there is a really simple solution to combating this accumulation of debris, and that is to simply wash your bedding frequently - destroying the microbe favoured environment and removing debris. A pre-bed skincare routine is also beneficial to cleanse the skin of any excess debris that could be transferred to the bedding and contribute to an unwanted accumulation, while a morning skincare routine will cleanse away any debris that has snuck onto the skin overnight.
“An added tip to combat microbial transfer associated with face clothes and towels is to dry your face after the shower with a clean dry face cloth and not your full body towel.”
Face cloths and towels
Similar to bedding, face cloths experience the accumulation of oil, dirt, and dead skin cells as well as developing a microbe favoured environment. While face cloths have a shorter exposure time to the skin than bedding, they are better at collecting debris as they exhibit mild physical exfoliating activity. This means they are just as good at collecting debris as bedding but the way in which they become a microbe favourable environment is based heavily on their tendency to hold moisture. As face cloths are commonly used in conjunction with water to carry out facial cleansing action, after use they are often left moisture soaked and containing accumulated oil, dirt, and dead skin cells from the skin. Microbial growth thrives in moisture rich environments so a damp face cloth with organic matter becomes an ideal environment for microbes to inhabit and multiply. This means that if the same face cloth is used more than once or is used again without being completely dried beforehand, there is a good chance of microbe transfer onto the skin. To combat this issue, it is best to use a clean and completely dry face cloth to wash or dry your face and treat face cloths as single use accessories to your skin hygiene routine – requiring a wash after every time they are used. An added tip to combat microbial transfer associated with face clothes and towels is to dry your face after the shower with a clean dry face cloth and not your full body towel.
Our hands are exposed to a huge range of different surfaces every day, including phones, door handles, pets, and other people – each surface having a different hygiene risk associated, some higher in microbial contamination and some higher is debris. We have all been told not to touch our skin with our hands due to the obvious risk of dirt and microbial transfer, but how does touching your face actually affect your skin? Touching your face with your hands can transfer excess oil, dirt, and microbes to the skin in addition to hair products (if you have just touched your hair), which can contribute to the clogging of pores. When the pores become clogged, the skins natural process of excreting oil, sweat and dead skin cells is blocked and a favourable environment for the survival and multiplication of bacteria such as P. acnes, which are responsible for acne and breakouts, is created. The seemingly obvious way to avoid negative implications from touching your face with your hands is simply to avoid doing this, however sometimes the action is necessary - especially when applying skincare or makeup. It is therefore important to wash your hands whenever possible before touching your face and avoid touching surfaces which may compromise your hand hygiene before skincare application.
Hair products can often be a culprit behind acne and breakouts as they can contribute to the clogging of pores, in addition to providing excess oils to the skin, in turn disrupting the skins natural processes and creating a microbe favourable environment. How a hair product effects the skin is heavily dependent on the type of hair product and the ingredients used. Hair products such as styling gels, mousses, pomades and leave in conditioners often contain oils, waxes and silicones which all have varying, but noticeable occlusive properties and heavy textures. This means that these hair products have a very high potential to accumulate on the skin surface and block pores,
leading to a compromise of the optimal skin behaviour. To combat hair product accumulation and effect on the skin’s surface, the most obvious solution is to be mindful during application, avoiding getting the product on your facial skin. This is not always achievable as it can be hard to identify whether the hair product has migrated or has been accidently applied to unwanted areas, so carrying out a skincare routine after applying hair products can be one of the most fool-proof ways to avoid negative impacts on the skin. This could simply mean washing your face after washing your hair in the shower or cleansing your face in the mornings after you’ve done your hair for the day.