Maintaining good personal hygiene is a key factor in keeping illnesses and other infections at bay. It is also good for the people living around us.
Experts say that while grooming ourselves, personal hygiene should be the priority. “Having good hygiene falls under the umbrella of self-care, but not everyone grew up with the tools that they need to develop good hygiene habits,” says Dr Ashish Tiwari, medical director, Inlaks Hospital, Mumbai. “It is essential to follow certain healthy habits and it is important to include a few neat and tidy practices in your daily routine. A lot of men are not aware about the importance of cleanliness, while some choose to ignore [it], which can lead to an unhealthy way of living.”
A study for the American Cleaning Institute and the American Microbiology Society pointed out that men are less likely to practise the most basic habit of washing hands, including after eating, petting an animal, coughing, sneezing or urinating.
“Personal hygiene and grooming play a vital part in the success of any individual,” says Dr Vandana Punjabi, senior consultant dermatologist, Nanavati Max Super Specialty Hospital, Mumbai. “As opposed to the popular belief, recent years have witnessed men tending to their hygiene more seriously. However, there is more to men’s hygiene than bathing, using a deodorant or shaving regularly.”
Dr Punjabi lists some essential hygiene tips for men to lead a healthy life:
- Daily hot and cold bath: Experts suggest that one should take a shower every day. It is advisable to take a two-minute cold shower — known as the James Bond shower — just before stepping out. While hot water washes away the protective oils off the skin, cold water helps close the pores and preserve the skin. The contract shower may be uncomfortable at first, but it remains a more hygienic way to bathe
- Hair wash: Avoid using chemical shampoos and conditioners. Two or three times a week is enough for men
- Cutting of nails: Sporting long nails is unhealthy and long toenails are one of the main causes of smelly feet. Trimming and cleaning your finger and toenails regularly can improve your grooming and hygiene standards
- Never wear unwashed garments or socks: Dampness in such clothes can result in a bad odour. Dirty socks can give foot fungus, which could become a serious issue. Wearing unwashed garments can lead to skin-related infections (apart from giving off an unpleasant odour). Ideal grooming practices require you to wear freshly washed and dry clothes for a hygienic and healthy life
- Maintain sexual hygiene: Trim and clean the pubic hair. Long hair can cause excessive sweat, which is unhealthy and infectious. It is also advisable to clean the intimate areas after sexual intercourse or masturbation to avoid bad infections
- Wash your hands: Everyone should learn to wash their hands properly
- Wash towels regularly
- Toothbrushing and flossing: Toothbrushing is mandatory after each major meal. Flossing is not only vital for teeth health but also improves sexual health
- Battling bad breath: Mouth infections, inadequate brushing and flossing, not cleaning the tongue and uncleaned cavities are some of the reasons for bad breath. It also indicates poor dental hygiene, which can further reduce your ability to consume healthy foods
- Removal of earwax: Accumulation of ear wax for a long time can cause hearing loss, irritation, pain in the ear, dizziness, ringing in the ears, etc
- Trimming of moustache and beard: To protect them from the dirt that settles down in the roots and could be harmful for health
Facial hair: evolutionary necessity or cosmetic luxury?
Many men sport facial hair, groom it and maintain it. But some don’t take enough care, leading to a host of bacteria collecting in the beard.
Even maintaining a short beard or stubble involves frequent grooming, which by default becomes a hygiene practice. Experts say shampooing and conditioning are important for the maintenance of facial hair.
“Facial hair is truly different from scalp hair, but a basic shampoo and conditioning can help with both,” says Dr Manan Mehta, consultant physician, The Mehtabolics, Mumbai. “Use a comb to neatly move the hair away from the nostrils and mouth. Waxing and using commercial gels frequently is not great for the texture of the hair in the long term.”
Dr Mehta says in colder environments males usually have thick facial hair for protection from extreme temperatures. “A thick moustache doubles up as a filter to keep particulate matter and other pollutants from entering one’s nostrils,” he says.
Shaving clean is recommended for those suffering from a viral flu, cough, oral ulcers, acne or skin rashes. But a well-trimmed and softened beard is fine for those staying in places with extremely cold or windy weather or having sensitive skin which doesn’t respond well to a blade.
Experts suggests three steps to ensure clean and well-groomed facial hair:
- Basic washing
“Oiling the beard can be kept as an option and [is] not mandatory,” says dermatologist Dr Banani Choudhury, who practises at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai. “Oil tends to attract dust and pollution that may result in boils. It will also increase oiliness of skin and aggravate dandruff issues.”
Dr Choudhury says overall it is better to keep the beard trimmed rather than long. However, irrespective of the beard’s size, regularly washing it with any regular soap or foaming face wash is the key to maintaining hygiene. “If the skin is flaky, medicated shampoo as prescribed by the doctor should be used to keep the facial hair clean,” says Dr Choudhury.