If you're someone who is perpetually running late, you might jump in the shower for a quick rinse off before work, after the gym, or before meeting friends for dinner. While quickies are perfectly fine, there are likely areas of your body you're not washing enough if you're taking shortie showers on the regular. For example, if you're like me and you don't wash your hair every day, it's pretty easy to forget to clean behind your ears. And, since the soap and water isn't hitting that part of your body every time you take a shower, you might get a build up of what my mom used to refer to as "potatoes" around your ears — aka, gunk.
One thing I always do after a non-hair-washing shower is take a face wipe and clean around my ears to get rid of any potential potatoes, because letting that stuff build is not just gross, it's also an attractive environment for bacteria that are looking for a new home. "If you're taking super-speedy showers on a regular basis, you're probably skipping some bacteria-laden places," Chanie Kirschner wrote for Mother Nature Network. While it's totally fine to take a fast shower, you might want to take a few extra minutes to make sure your quickie-cleaning routine isn't causing you to ignore the little nooks and crannies on your body, like that you're probably not washing enough.
1. Your Belly Button Is A Budding Bacteria Farm
The navel is one one of the most overlooked areas on the body, and an unwashed belly button is not only known to collect lint, it's also an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which lead that button in your belly to become a little smelly. "The navel is an occluded are where skin rests on skin creating a dark moist environment in which bacteria and yeast can breed and can become a cesspool for microbes if not properly maintained," Dr. Susan Bard of Sadick Dermatology told Teen Vogue. "If bacteria and yeast are allowed to breed it can lead to foul odor and even infection."
Dr. Bard advises cleaning an innie belly button with a cotton swab. Outies can be cleaned using a cloth, sponge, or loofah. Remember to dry your belly button after your shower, too, lest it become a breeding ground for bacteria.
2. Clean Behind Your Ears
You've likely been told at one time or another not to put anything smaller than an elbow in your ear. The website Healthy Hearing reported that cotton swabs should not be used to clean the ear canal because you could accidentally puncture your eardrum. The part you do want to clean is actually behind your ears — which, if you're like me, might not get enough soap action if you don't shampoo every shower.
"Since the back of your ear is somewhat hidden, it can collect bacteria, especially because the sebaceous glands back there secrete a sebum to keep your skin moist," Kirschner explained on Mother Nature Network. "But that secretion also can start smelling rank if not cleaned." Not convinced? Take your fingernail and scrape behind your ear and give it a sniff. Gross!!!
3. Your Tongue Absorbs Bacteria Like A Sponge
Your tongue absorbs everything you put in your mouth. From coffee, to the tuna sandwich you had for lunch, to the beer your drank at happy hour. Not consciously cleaning your tongue could result in some pretty rank breath. "Bacteria will accumulate greatly in the areas of the tongue between the taste buds and other tongue structures,” John D. Kling, D.D.S. told Healthline. "It’s not smooth. There are crevices and elevations all over the tongue, and the bacteria will hide in these areas unless it is removed."
A lot of toothbrushes these days come with a tongue scraper on the back. You can also buy a separate tongue scraper, which you can use to scrape the coating off of your tongue similar to those squeegee thingies you use at the gas station to clean off your windshield. However, Healthline reported that the American Dental Association says a toothbrush works just as well as a tongue scraper. Just take a few extra seconds while your brushing your pearly whites to brush your tongue, too.
4. Your Head Needs Some Love, Too
Even if you're washing your hair on the regular, you might not realize that you're neglecting your scalp. When I stopped washing my hair every day, I noticed that I got dry scalp more often. Now, before I wash my hair, I take a few minutes to massage some oil, like one that's combination of vitamins E and A, into my scalp to ensure it's getting the love and moisture it needs to be flake free and healthy. Not giving your scalp the attention it deserves can lead to what looks like a snow storm on your head, and it might feel super itchy, too.
"Have you ever seen a very, very, extremely close-up photo of your scalp? Like at a follicular level? I have, and it was... intense," Kristin Iversen wrote for Nylon. "It looked like an alien landscape; not crater-filled, like the moon, but its smoothness was spike with thickets of skinny strands sprouting up from... was that snow? I mean, no. Of course, it wasn’t. It was dry, flaky skin— and it was everywhere." Build up from product use like hair gels, dry shampoo, and even sweat can create this alien landscape under your hair.
WikiHow suggests setting a scalp cleaning schedule to address the need once a month. You can also switch to a shampoo like New Wash, which uses a a combination of aloe vera and essential oils to clean your scalp while restoring natural moisture to your hair. It does not contain any detergent, so it nourishes your scalp instead of drying it out, according to Forbes. And, it's reported to work for all hair types.
5. Wash Between Your Toes
Two words: Toe jam. If you wear flip flops, socks, shoes, or go barefoot, yucky stuff quickly accumulates between your little piggies, and it's an oft-neglected area of the human body. According to UPMC Health Beat, your toe jam can come from things like eczema, athlete's foot, corns — a thickening of skin on the foot — and even scabies. It smells gross, feels worse, and it's super easy to make sure it's not a thing: just wash your feet, including between all of your toes, with soap and water. Talcum powder or cornstarch sprinkled between your toes can help "keep them dry and prevent infection," UPMC noted.
UPMC Health Beat noted that toe jam is real, and you need to keep it in check. They recommended washing your feet — including between all of your toes — often with soap and water and drying them thoroughly to prevent accidentally offering an attractive area for fungus to grow. You can also sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch between your toes to help keep them dry and prevent infection. Finally, you want to be sure to keep corns and calluses smooth by using a pumice stone, or getting a pedicure.
6. 95 Percent Of People Wash Their Hands Wrong
You likely know that it's important to wash your hands to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. However, a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health noted that 95 percent of people don't know how to wash their hands properly. If you don't want to contract the dreaded norovirus, or any other icky sickness this winter, here's how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you need to clean your hands because clean hands save lives. Wash 'em with soap for at least 20 seconds, or two renditions of "Happy Birthday," and make sure to get under your nails. If your skin is sensitive to detergents in regular hand soap, you can use an oil cleanser instead.
7. Ignoring Your Back = Bacne
Because you hardly ever see it, nevermind reach it, your back can be a pretty neglected body part, and not cleaning it properly can cause you to develop bacne. The back is one of the largest areas of skin on your body, and because it spends a lot of time trapped in sweaty clothes, and resting in your bed, it's pretty easy for the pores and glands in your back to get clogged, which can lead to the dreaded back acne.
"Back acne can also be triggered when heat and sweat is trapped against the body, and when your skin is irritated by friction," according to Acne.com. "If you’re frequently wearing athletic equipment, tight-fitting clothing, backpacks or anything similar, you might be prone to bacne." To reduce your chances of bacne, make sure you're washing and exfoliating your back on the regular. Because it's a hard-to-reach area, you can get a back scrubber to make sure your back is clean.
8. Your Teeth Need More Attention Than You Think
While brushing your teeth is something you learn as a toddler, a survey from the American Dental Association reported that some people may need a refresher course. The survey noted that 30 percent of people don't brush enough, and 23 percent of people go two days or longer without brushing their teeth at all. Even if you do brush every day, there is actually a proper way to brush that can significantly reduce your chances of getting cavities. According to the ADA, here's how you should be brushing your teeth:
Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
9. Pay Attention to Your Butt
If you sit at work all day, sweat at night, or don't change out of sweaty workout clothes right away, you've likely experienced the joy of butt acne, aka buttne. While you obviously (hopefully?) wash your butt in the shower, there is actually a way you can wash it that will reduce your chances of buttne. Glamour suggested cleansing with an antibacterial soap or benzoyl peroxide to unclog the follicles on your backside. If it helps, you can think of your butt like a face that you sit on. It needs a lot of the same care, but most people aren't treating their butts as well as their faces, and butt skin undergoes a lot more stress because we sit on it.
Additionally, "Make sure you wash your hair first and body last so the dirty suds from your scalp won’t drip down and clog your follicles. When your skin is clear (so, before any zits arise), remember to exfoliate regularly to remove dirt and bacteria, the same way you would for your face," Glamour reported. "And after you shower, steer clear of thick, heavy body lotions that may do harm than good. Before any pimples arise, you can also take preventive measures by using a product with glycolic acid." No joke, this really works.
10. It's All Pointless If Your Towel Is Dirty
So, you've upped your body-cleaning game, and you're feeling all shiny and new. This is great news. However, if you're using a dirty towel to dry off that squeaky-clean body, it's all kind of pointless because your towel is transferring bacteria back onto your skin. So, just how often should you wash your towels? Philip Tierno, a microbiologist at the New York University School of Medicine, told Business Insider that you should throw your towel in the washer every two to three uses.
This can be tough if you are sensitive to detergents, or you don't have laundry in your house or apartment. This is why having a few bath and hand towels is a good idea. If you are detergent sensitive like me, using a laundry detergent that doesn't contain any dyes, perfumes, or other harsh chemicals can help.
If you've been showering the same way for well, your entire life, you've likely gotten into some habits that may not get you as clean as you like. You can change this by consciously washing areas of your body that might not get as much love, like behind your ears and between your toes, and up your game for the rest of your body.