When you were growing up, your parents probably pointed out all your common hygiene mistakes. Odds are they told you to get the dirt out from underneath your fingernails, clean behind your ears, and take that week-old sandwich out from under your bed. Well, things have since changed. You're an adult, I'm not your mom, and these common hygiene mistakes might just surprise you. That's because they're less about what you're not doing and more about what you are doing.
If you're a millennial like me, you grew up in a hand-sanitizer-obsessed environment that demonized sandboxes, touching your face with your hands, and germs. I get it — I used to be a total germaphobe solely because of my upbringing. Then I started taking some holistic health and nutrition classes, and realized that we had it all backward.
Yes, germs and viruses are the root cause of sickness, but they're also the root cause of a healthy body and immune system. Every person has something called a microbiome — a mix of good and bad bacteria that regulates everything from your skin to your allergies. The war on bacteria, the emphasis on cleansing chemicals, and the use of synthetic ingredients are harsher on your body and its functions than you might realize. That's why these common hygiene mistakes are all about scaling back and going natural, so your body can cleanse itself better and stay healthy in the process.
Mistake #1: Showering With Harsh Unfiltered Water
Your skin might look like a barrier, but it's actually a lot like a sponge, absorbing almost anything you put on it. This is especially true in warm and wet environments — like the shower. That includes the chlorine, mold, pesticides, fluoride, and heavy metals that end up in your tap water. The AquaBliss High Output shower filter has a multi-stage system that removes all of that, leaving your body healthy, your skin soft, and your hair hydrated. It can also be installed in just about any shower head type (including handheld, fixed, or rain showers) without any tools whatsoever.
Mistake #2: Exfoliating Too Vigorously Every Day
Removing a bit of dead surface skin every once in a while is OK, but over-exfoliating your face leads to broken blood vessels under the skin, slow cell turnover, dryness, irritation, inflammation, and premature aging. Appearus facial sponges come in a pack of 50 compressed disks, and they're made from a soft, natural mix of pulp and fibers like cotton. They're reusable, incredible when it comes to removing makeup and dead skin, puff up with water, and reviewers say they're "gentle enough not to rip up your skin like a lot of non-chemical cheaper exfoliators... but give you just enough extra cleaning power to gently slough away dead skin."
Mistake #3: Not Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes
Makeup brushes chill out on your countertop, roll around in your makeup bag, and then get rubbed all around your face. They're a storehouse for dirt, oil, and bacteria (not to mention synthetic makeup buildup), so clean your brushes at least once a month with the MelodySusie Brush Cleaner. It's a cute apple-shaped mat with four distinct textures and an opening for four fingers, so it's easy to hold and easy to use. It's great for removing makeup residue and bacteria, and works on any size brush of any softness. "This is in a word... brilliant," wrote one reviewer. "It cleaned my brushes so much faster than just washing by hand and they retained their shape much better."
Mistake #4: Rinsing Your Mouth With Alcohol
Mouthwash made with alcohol can easily backfire on you. Yes, it kills bacteria, but it also causes your mouth to dry out, and saliva is necessary for flushing out bacteria, odors, and toxins. Oral Essentials mouthwash skips the alcohol and other drying ingredients. Instead it uses dead sea salt, aloe vera, and essential oils to cleanse and freshen your mouth. Most reviewers say the taste is pleasant and refreshing, and that it leaves your mouth "feeling clean and healthy."
Mistake #5: Skipping The Floss
Flossing is perhaps even more important than brushing because it removes the hard-to-reach precursors to tartar, which lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. However, most Americans skip this step because it's difficult, uncomfortable, and time-consuming. If that's you, try the Pecham water flosser. It's lightweight, compact, and rechargeable, and it sprays a powerful stream of water that removes tartar, plaque, and buildup between teeth. Reviewers say, "This is so much more convenient and cleaner than traditional dental floss."
Mistake #6: Ignoring The Label On Your Shampoo Bottle
Parabens and sulfates are used to preserve your shampoo and get that squeaky clean feeling, but they're also responsible for stripping your scalp's natural oils, causing breakage, and adding unnecessary toxins to your body. TruePure natural caffeine shampoo skips all the parabens and sulfates (along with all the unnecessary additives and fragrances), and instead uses plant-based materials to cleanse and nourish. It's especially great if you have thin, dry hair and breakage, and it improves growth, frizz, and shine.
Mistake #7: Stripping Away Essential Oils With Harsh Soaps
Antibacterial soaps (or soaps with harsh ingredients like SLS) may leave you feeling clean, but they actually strip essential oils and key bacteria that your body uses to hydrate and cleanse itself on its own. This leaves your skin dry and open to infection. This Dead Sea mud coconut oil soap uses all pronounceable ingredients from nature that deeply hydrate skin while gently washing away odors, dead skin, and dirt. "Smells heavenly and works like a miracle," says one reviewer. "Great for sensitive combination skin. Tightens skin. Removes redness. Fades brown spots. Get rid of summer back acne and year round face acne. It's like it deep cleans (detoxes skin) and repairs."
Mistake #8: Using A Dirty Toothbrush
Violife VIO100 Toothbrush Sanitizer and Storage System, $40, Amazon
Did you know that flushing aerosolizes the germs and bacteria in your toilet? This means if you leave your toothbrush exposed to the elements in your bathroom, it is likely speckled with fecal matter. Revolted? Well, before you clamor to cover your toothbrush, you should also keep in mind that storing your toothbrush in a closed-off container could lead to mold and bacterial growth. Enter a UV-sanitizing toothbrush holder that kills 99.9 percent of bacteria while protecting your bristles from being sprayed with weaponized toilet water.
Mistake #9: Sleeping On A Cotton Pillowcase
While it's hard to call sleeping on a cotton pillowcase a "mistake," it isn't doing your hygiene any favors. A cotton pillowcase can cause acne, dry skin, and even split ends, which is why more and more people are making the switch to silk. Not does a silk pillowcase feel luxurious, but it also won't suck the moisture from your skin, pick up as much pore-clogging bacteria, or chafe your hair like cotton does.
Mistake #10: Using A Deodorant With Aluminum
The majority of antiperspirants use aluminum to block up your sweat glands, but in addition to disrupting your body's natural detox systems, it's also an element that we do not need in our body. It's been linked to kidney problems, Alzheimer's, bone disorders, and breast cancer.
About a year ago, I switched from my aluminum-ridden deodorant to CRYSTAL Essence mineral deodorant, which uses natural mineral salts to create a clear, non-sticky coating on the skin. This coating prevents odor-causing bacteria, and it comes in a convenient roll-on form that keeps me fresh legitimately all day.
Mistake #11: Removing All Your Skin Flora
You've probably heard about how great probiotics are for your digestion, but your skin also has (or should have) a population of healthy bacteria that balances, protects, hydrates, and fights off the bad bacteria. It's called your skin flora, and most soaps, cleansers, and creams kill them off. Replenish them with Dermatic Topical Probiotic, which is an easy-to-use spray with all natural ingredients and 100 million CFUs of healthy bacteria. It's great for stuff like acne, eczema, and skin irritations, and Amazon reviewers are saying things like, "This totally cleared up my adult acne - and trust me, I've tried everything."
Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.