Personal hygiene mistakes


Upkeeping our cleanliness is second nature to most of us. From flossing our teeth to trimming our nails, we function like clockwork on a day-to-day routine. But these seemingly mundane actions can actually do more harm than good when practiced the wrong way. 

Find out what personal hygiene mistakes you could be unintentionally committing and how you can correct them. 

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1. Cutting nails too short


personal hygiene mistakes - cutting nails

I don’t know about you, but I shudder at the sight of a pinky finger sporting a nail so long it may as well be a bird’s talon. To avoid having “Phua Chu Kang” nails that easily trap dirt, most of us clip them as soon as they start growing out.

While this keeps our nails and fingers clean, trimming them too short doesn’t have a similar positive effect on the skin around that area. The tissue surrounding the nail is extra soft, which means it’s more susceptible to an infection known as paronychia – that causes blisters and nail deformity more easily – if it’s exposed. 

It’s worse if you’re a serial nail-biter too, since that gives rise to torn skin and risk of diseases.

The right way: Cut horizontally without digging too deep into your nail. Make sure to angle the 2 corners so your nail can grow out naturally with a slight curve. In the event you do accidentally cut too deep, wash your finger under warm water for about 20 seconds to reduce any pain. Washing it regularly will minimise the chances of an infection.


2. Using cotton buds to dig your ear 


personal hygiene mistakes - cleaning ear wax

Picking our nose is a guilty pleasure for many. But we tend to overlook the other “goldmines” – our ears. We were taught by our parents from young that cleaning our ears is important, but fail to do so on a regular basis the older we get. And contrary to popular belief, using cotton buds is actually one of the most common personal hygiene mistakes.

In fact, they can actually have the opposite effect of clearing our ears by pushing the wax deeper inside our ear canal. Vigorous digging can also result in a damaged eardrum and ear canal, affecting your hearing in the long run. 

The right way: Cotton buds should only be used to clean the outside of your ear, not deep inside. If you feel like there’s a build-up of wax in your ear, opt for earwax removing drops that you can get from pharmacies. 

Just a couple of drops of the solution will have your ears cleared naturally in no time. Alternatively, electric earwax tools are getting increasingly popular – these are safe for your ears while still giving you that shiok feeling.


3. Not using a toothbrush holder and laying your toothbrush flat


personal hygiene mistakes - brushing teeth

You should know by now that leaving your toothbrush freely exposed in your toilet causes it to be vulnerable to bacteria, and covering your toilet seat when not in use is always recommended. I believed that was enough – until I recently spotted a cockroach in my loo in the middle of the night.

personal hygiene mistakes - toothbrushLeaving your toothbrush like this will only let it collect dirt and bacteria 

We’re not aware of what creepy crawlies are on the prowl while we sleep, so it’s best not to take chances and always keep your toothbrush in a holder to prevent bugs from crawling over your toothbrush bristles before you put it in your mouth – major eww.

personal hygiene mistakes - toothbrush holder Always keep your toothbrush upright in a holder

The right way: The tooth fairy may not be real, but the benefits of covering your toothbrush when not in use definitely are. Not only will a holder or case protect it from airborne bacteria, but will also let you grab-and-go for sleepovers or staycations. Do note that your toothbrush should also always be vertically and near sunlight so any water inside won’t breed bacteria. 


4. Stop flossing at the first sign of bleeding


personal hygiene mistakes - flossing

Brushing your teeth is one thing, but flossing is a whole different ball game altogether. Not everyone flosses daily, but those that do might notice bleeding in certain areas of your gum every now and then. And nope, it’s not a sign that you should stop.

Bleeding during flossing is a sign that there is a gum infection or a buildup of plaque – a usual occurrence over time when food particles get lodged in between your teeth and turn into tartar. Flossing shouldn’t cause bleeding, so it’s best to keep up the routine until your gums improve and are literally in the pink of health.

The right way: Flossing once a day before bed is ideal to get rid of plaque in every nook and cranny. 

Make sure to floss downwards for your upper set of teeth and upwards for your lower set, so that you’re pushing any food particles away from your gums and accumulating there. Should you notice blood, simply give your mouth a rinse before continuing to floss at a comfortable pace. 


5. Spamming mouthwash


personal hygiene mistakes - mouthwash

Mouthwash might seem like the most convenient way to clean your mouth. Just pop a cap of the solution and you’re all set for a day out.

But not all mouthwash contains the fluoride that toothpastes have, which is where problems can arise. Non-fluoride mouthwash might give you that fresh sensation but doesn’t actually clean your teeth – which means spamming it doesn’t do anything more than give you minty breath temporarily. 

Most mouthwash also contain alcohol and chloride, which when taken excessively, can dry out your mouth and stain your teeth.

The right way: If you’re a mouthwash advocate, make sure to only use it twice a day together with brushing your teeth. Keep swilling it around in your mouth no longer than 30 seconds each time.


6. Over-trimming or plucking nose hairs


personal hygiene mistakes - trimming nose hair

Nobody wants to look like they have a baby spider crawling out of their nostrils, which is why keeping our nose hair neat and tidy is a good practice to have. But instead of plucking which can give rise to infections and pimples, trimming is the safer bet – if done correctly. 

Hair inside our noses actually act as a filter to keep out irritants and maintain moisture in the oxygen we inhale. So over-trimming will actually make your nose more sensitive to harmful particles in the air. 

The right way: Instead of cutting away every single strand of hair you can see, only trim the thicker and more visible strands so that your nose will still function healthily and be void of potential infections. 


7. Rubbing our eyes to get rid of crust and boogers in the morning


personal hygiene mistakes - rubbing eyes

Our first instinct upon waking up from a good night’s sleep is to stretch and rub away our eye boogers. But there are plenty of hidden harmful effects that this simple action can cause. For one, rubbing our eyes quickly results in broken blood vessels in the skin of that area – the main culprit for bloodshot eyes and those dreaded ‘panda’ dark circles some of us suffer from. 

If COVID-19 hasn’t taught you by now, touching our eyes with our bare hands that hide bacteria can also lead to infections, including conjunctivitis. And if all these still aren’t enough to deter you from ever doing it again, you might be alarmed to know that eye-rubbing also worsens eyesight problems like myopia and astigmatism, since the friction reduces the thickness of our cornea lining. 

The right way: Before you rush into clawing out any eye crust with your fingertips or nails again, wait until you wash your face or use a damp tissue or cloth to dab it away safely instead. 


8. Applying deodorant right after showering or shaving


personal hygiene mistakes - spraying deodorant

If you’re the sort who says you’re “OTW!” to meet a friend when you’re actually still at home, you’re more than likely to be guilty of spraying deodorant on yourself right after a rushed shower or shave. Guess what? It doesn’t work. 

Deodorants work best on completely dry skin so that it can reach into your pores for its sweat-blocking function to actually work. Neither is it as effective on freshly shaven skin, since that’s when it’s the most sensitive and deodorant chemicals can cause irritation and redness.

The right way: Wait for at least 10 minutes after showering or shaving before applying deodorant for it to take full effect. Yup, this means you shouldn’t procrastinate getting ready for that hot date. 


Common personal hygiene mistakes Singaporeans make


Taking care of our ourselves should be a given, but there’s no denying that we all fall prey to common personal hygiene mistakes that result from not knowing any better or simple negligence on our own accord.

Whether it’s to battle dark eye circles, infections or teeth stains, make sure you adopt the right practices to upkeep your personal hygiene level to as close to 100% as possible.

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Photography by Huy Pham.