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The Impacts of Personal Hygiene on Your Health

Our grooming routines not only make a statement about us, but also directly affect underlying health.

Last Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Close-up of a man’s face in the mirror as he uses an electric razor to shave his light brown facial hair into a goatee as part of his morning hygiene ritual.

On a basic level, personal hygiene means cleaning and grooming your body, nails, hair, and teeth. It also extends to your clothing and the tools that you use for cleaning and grooming. Keeping spaces like your bathroom clean is often an extension of good personal hygiene.

What many people don’t often consider is how personal hygiene can affect numerous aspects of your life. It may improve health and limit the risk of illness or disease. It can also make you feel better about yourself, improve your work life, and make you more confident and approachable in social settings.

The effects go beyond physical health and socializing. Poor hygiene can cause or exacerbate depression or anxiety problems and make a person isolate themselves.

Many people learn oral hygiene and bathing habits at a young age and shaving, laundry, and other practices when they get older. Because of this progression, poor personal hygiene is a sensitive topic. You may be reluctant to bring up issues because you do not want to offend the person or criticize them for not doing something they should have learned at a young age.

However, this is an essential issue because hygiene choices have a profound impact on quality of life as well as mental and physical health. Here is a closer look at how proper and poor hygiene can affect your life.

Effects of Good Personal Hygiene

Each person’s idea of good personal hygiene may differ slightly because of upbringing, culture, or available resources. However, certain basic practices are almost universally accepted as good hygiene. These practices will help you experience the positive effects of good personal hygiene.

Here are basic cleanliness practices necessary for general health, disease prevention, and confidence.

  • Bathing regularly: A shower or bath is not only necessary to remove dirt, bacteria, and external substances. It also helps wash away natural oils and dead skin, which build up on the surface of your body.
  • Trimming your nails: Keeping your fingernails and toenails trimmed and in good shape will prevent problems such as infected nails and digits. Also, bacteria can get stuck under nails, increasing the danger of illness or infection.
  • Brushing teeth: Most dentists recommend brushing teeth two or three times per day. You should also floss to clean the area between teeth. Depending on your level of oral health, you may also need to use mouthwash daily. These practices help limit oral bacteria, prevent tooth decay, and fight low-grade infections in your gums.
  • Washing your hands: Washing your hands keeps you from contaminating food or bringing unwanted bacteria or viruses to others. Handwashing is helpful before preparing or eating food, touching your face, or preparing your sleeping space.

These practices provide a solid base for a personal hygiene regimen. Here are some of the benefits of performing these tasks daily.

Disease Prevention

Good personal hygiene is the best way to protect against preventable illnesses. Here is a list of very common conditions that you can avoid with proper personal cleaning practices.

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Body lice
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles)
  • Pinworms
  • Scabies
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ringworm

Even something as simple as handwashing can have a significant positive impact on your health. According to WHO, hands are the main surface for disease transmission.

In many places, diarrhea from disease is the main cause of death for children. However, a review of data by the CDC showed that handwashing with soap can cause a 42% to 47% reduction in instances of diarrhea in children.

Improves Overall Health and Wellness

Personal hygiene helps you protect against certain diseases. It also brings a higher level of overall health and wellness. Your immune system and other essential systems within your body can function better if they are not being bombarded by preventable infections caused by poor hygiene practices.

Also, proper handwashing can limit the danger of contracting a cold or flu virus. Your hygiene practices can also affect those around you. If you are preparing food, caring for children, or working on surfaces used by others, unwashed hands may transmit bacteria, a virus, or other illnesses to those who are close to you.

Improves Personal and Professional Relationships

Poor hygiene may cause issues in social settings. Many people will find it unpleasant to be around someone with a bad body odor or breath. Others may feel that being around someone with inadequate hygiene will reflect poorly on their image in a workplace or social group.

If you have poor hygiene, this avoidance dynamic can make career advancement difficult. Furthermore, it can isolate you both at work and socially.

Those with good hygiene, however, will not experience this barrier when trying to connect with people socially or cooperate with co-workers professionally.

Social and Professional Acceptance

Personal cleanliness alone will not get you more friends or make a job promotion more likely. However, you might consider it a prerequisite for social and professional acceptance. Whether it is fair or not, good hygiene will help create an acceptable image with friends, professional peers, and decision-makers at work.

Without the distraction of poor hygiene, making both social and professional connections easier.

Effects of Poor Personal Hygiene

Poor hygiene affects your outward appearance. Stained clothes, ungroomed hair, long, dirty nails, and oily, patchy skin are signs of a lack of personal care.

People often associate poor hygiene with unpleasant body odor, bad breath, or visible signs of dirt. Some people may also consider rashes, oily skin, or other preventable or treatable appearance flaws as examples of poor hygiene.

Here are some potential effects of poor hygiene.

Depleted Mental Health

Poor hygiene relates to mental health in two ways. First, an unclean appearance can cause social and professional isolation. Feelings of loneliness and failure caused by this isolation can harm your mental health and lead to chronic depression or social anxiety.

In some cases, the progression of poor hygiene and mental health issues gets reversed. People with depression may cease caring about hygiene practices. In these instances, the lack of cleanliness is a symptom of a mental disorder, not its cause.

In both these cases, trying an online therapy service may assist in solving both the mental health and hygiene issues. Because they focus on both cause and symptoms, a therapist can offer a treatment plan that positively impacts both mental and physical health.

When preparing for a therapist appointment, you can consider whether poor hygiene has played a role in your mental health.

Increased Health Risks

Poor hygiene can increase the risk of illness or disease. These are not diseases that you typically catch by chance, but rather are illnesses that come from a lack of personal cleanliness.

Many diseases that affect the skin surface and gastrointestinal tract come from poor bathing practices, wearing dirty clothes, and not washing your hands before handling food. The CDC’s list of hygiene-related illnesses also includes parasitic fungal infections that will remain in or on your body until they are treated.

Lack of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem and physical appearance are closely related to each other. How you care for your body and appearance is closely connected to your self-image. If people avoid you at work or in social situations because of poor hygiene, your self-esteem will likely suffer.

This can lead to a downward spiral with poor self-esteem, causing a why-bother view of personal hygiene and only leading to further avoidance and isolation.

Poor Physical Appearance

A lack of hygiene can also lead to a poor physical appearance. In some cases, an improper bathing regimen may cause skin issues or hair loss. You can reverse these physical appearance problems if you find an effective hair loss treatment or skin medication.

Such treatments can become a part of your hygiene routine going forward. By personalizing your regimen in this way, you ensure that you perform basic hygiene practices and also address specific issues needed for better mental and physical health.