Rinse and shine

A clean skin, from top to bottom, does wonders for your health, confidence and popularity

woman washing faceClean skin looks beautiful and feels beautiful. And when we talk of hygiene, we are essentially speaking of cleanliness in relation to skin—bathing, washing hands, removing unwanted hair is what hygiene is all about. A lot is happening in our skin as we go about our daily activities—our skin produces secretions, it collects dirt and grime, piles up dead skin. All of this closes pores and allows bacteria to thrive, which leads to bad odour and infections. We all know this, yet fail to do what's needed properly. That's why it's important to revisit the basics of hygiene.

The cleaners

  • Soaps: Unlike in the television industry, in skin care, not all daily soaps are same. Normal bath soaps are prepared with 80 per cent animal fat and 20 per cent coconut/palm oil to form a fatty acid salt with detergent properties and have an alkaline pH of 9 to 10.Some soaps have added antibacterial chemicals like triclosan, which inhibits bacterial growth and has deodorant action. Moisturising soap bars with glycerine or paraffin are also available for people with dry skin.

    Tip: Clean your skin at least twice daily. And remember that soaps affect the pH levels in the skin and it generally takes the body around four hours to bring the raised pH back to normal.

  • Liquid body wash: These are soap-free and leave behind a thin film, which holds moisture in the skin making it soft and supple. These are useful in old age, when the skin goes dry, and also for babies with atopic dermatitis or dry flaky skin.Tip: Use body wash if you have dry skin and if you travel frequently across different climatic conditions.
  • Scrubs: These are mechanical exfoliants, which help control excess sebum [oil] production.Tip: Use scrubs twice a week if you have oily skin to clear the blackheads and dirt in the pores.
  • Face washes: The facial skin is more delicate than the skin on the other parts of the body and needs tender cleansing, which the face washes offer. Hence, there are different types of face washes for different skin types. Acne face washes contain antibacterial agents or salicylic acid to cleanse the pores. Glycolic acid-containing face washes offer gentle exfoliation of dead skin and are good for acne-prone individuals. Moisturising face washes with aloe and glycerine are ideal for dry skin.

How to clean

Cleaning your skin throughly from top to bottom every day is the only way to keep infections at bay.

Hand care

As we touch surfaces and objects throughout the day, we accumulate germs on our hands. This puts us at a higher risk of infecting ourselves with these germs by touching our eyes, nose or mouth. Although it's impossible to keep our hands germ-free, washing them frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes. So:

  • Always wash your hands before preparing food, eating, treating wounds or giving medicine and wearing/removing contact lenses.
  • Always wash your hands with an antibacterial and antiseptic soap/liquid after preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry, using the toilet, changing a diaper, touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, handling garbage and of course, whenever they look dirty.
  • Use liquid soap to wash hands frequently if you have dry/rough hands. Soaps may dry the skin more, leading to cracks and eczema on fingertips and palms.

Privates

woman checking underarms in mirrorSweat and collected epithelial debris on the skin [includes normal flora of bacteria] may play truant and give rise to bacterial and fungal infections especially in soft moist areas of the body—underarms, groin, waistline, and webs of toes in the feet. If these areas are unclean, it can lead to boils, acne, ringworm or candidial infection, which produce itching and unsightly marks.

Excess hair on the body also contributes to increased sweating and body odour. Sweat along with dead bacteria emanates the dirty smell from our body folds.

Following rigorous and regular hygiene is imperative.

  • Use antifungal powders in body folds after bath, especially in the crevices on the feet—between fingers.
  • Keep the private parts—armpits, pubic area—shaved to discourage excessive sweating.
  • Use deodarants in the body folds to keep the area smelling fresh.
  • Scrub your feet well after coming in from outdoors to wash off all the dirt, grime and sweat.
  • Change your socks every day. And clean your footwear regularly from inside-out.
  • Change your undergarments if you've worn them for long to keep infections away from your privates.
  • Clean your privates thoroughly every time you visit the bathroom and remember to wipe them dry.

Way to wash

It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:

washing hands at faucet

  • Wet your hands.
  • Apply liquid, or bar of soap.
  • Lather well. Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well with running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean disposable towel or hand dryer. If possible, use your towel/tissue paper to turn off the faucet.

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Preeti Savardekar
Preeti Savardekar is a consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist. She holds a masters degree in dermatology. She teaches at a coaching institute in Mumbai and is also the panel expert for skin for a well-known channel. Her interests include music, writing and spreading knowledge and healing the world.

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