Growing up, we all heard the same things over and over. Brush your teeth every day, wash your face, change your underwear, don't sit on toilet public toilets, just to name a few.
But while some of these things are great hygienic advice, there are some hygiene myths we all fell for growing up, and it's time to debunk them once and for all!
1. You need to shower every day.
There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but the average person doesn't need to shower every single day. If you're not partaking in exercise frequently or getting sweaty from the heat, only showering a couple of times a week is totally fine. According to Professor Stephen Shumack, anything else could damage your skin.
"Over-washing causes 'defatting' of the skin – getting rid of the natural body oils we produce to protect the skin cells," he says. "This can cause actual damage making them more permeable to bacteria or viruses, precipitating itchy skin, dryness, flakiness and worsening conditions like eczema."
2. Oily skin shouldn't be moisturized.
There's a misconception that oily skin doesn't need to be moisturized because it's already pretty moist on its own. This is wrong.
"Oily skin requires moisturizing just as much as dry skin," says general surgery resident Alina Baciu. "Using a light moisturizer for oily skin will curb sebum production within skin glands."
3. Anti-bacterial cleaning products are better.
When we look for cleaning supplies, we try and find the "anti-bacterial" products to make sure as many germs as possible are killed. But according to microbiologist Jason Tetro, antibacterial products can contain triclosan, which is an environmental toxin and not all that great at killing germs.
4. Body odor comes from sweat.
Everyone worries that when they sweat, they'll smell. We usually attribute it to the sweat itself, but that's actually not where body odor comes from at all. According to Baciu, 99% of sweat is composed of water and it completely odorless.
"The bacteria living in our armpits decompose the proteins in our sweat, releasing these odorant molecules," says Baciu. "This is actually why our sweat has a scent, and sometimes a very unpleasant one."
5. There's a five-second rule.
As kids we always went by the "five-second rule," which basically meant any food you dropped on the ground was safe to eat, so long as you picked it up within five seconds. If you haven't figured it out by now, this isn't true.
"The five-second rule has little effect on the amount of bacteria you would pick up from a heavily contaminated surface," says Dr Cutler, a microbiologist from Queen Mary, University of London. "Think about this, if you drop food on a floor, it's better to put it in the bin rather than your mouth. No matter if it’s at home on the carpet, the kitchen floor or in the street, my advice is if you drop it, chuck it."
6. Public toilet seats can give you an STD.
No more need to squat on a public toilet, because you're not going to contract crabs, no matter what your mother told you. Yes, there are germs all over the seat, but they're not harmful to your body. Your skin acts as a barrier and in general, isn't affected by this bacteria.
"While it probably is true that a great deal of them are very unclean and filled with bacteria, it is extremely rare that someone catches a disease from using a public restroom," says Baciu. "Touching the seat with your thighs for a brief moment will not get you infected, as microbes are not that quick to migrates down to your private area."
“Just don’t lick them, as many of the bacteria present could cause gastrointestinal troubles,” Tetro jokes.
7. Soap kills germs.
We all use soap every day, or at least I hope you do. The general idea is that soap kills the germs on your body, but it's actually not true. A normal soap will just lift the bacteria off your skin and rinse it down the sink. If you actually want to kill the germs, an anti-bacterial soap is the way to go.
8. Hot tubs are full of bacteria.
Hot tubs are often looked at as gross tubs of bacteria, but that's not really the case. Sure, there's bound to be some germs in there, people are swimming almost nude after all, but most of the bacteria is harmless, run-of-the-mill stuff.
Just make sure the hot tub is cleaned regularly. There are certain bacteria, like MRSA, E. coli and Legionella pneumophila, which can be worrisome.
9. You only need to change your sheets every few weeks.
Listen to this gross stat: men between the ages of 18 and 55 only change their bed sheets four times a year. Even worse? Single men in this age bracket generally only own one set of sheets.
Most women admitted to changing their sheets every few weeks, but even that isn't enough. The reality is, we shed so much dead skin and sweat while we sleep, we should be changing our sheets once a week.
“Each and every hour you are shedding millions of germs (while you sleep) that grow with sweat, oil, dirt and other organic chemicals," says Tetro. "The majority are harmless, but some can cause rashes, irritations and acne.”