For most people, good personal hygiene is just a way of life—though everyone skips a shower, forgets to floss, or sleeps in sheets that are overdue for a good washing. How bad could it be? We asked the experts—and the truth may shock you.
Irregular brushing or flossing your teeth
What would happen if you abandoned your toothbrush and dental floss? “You would first experience swollen, bleeding gums, bad breath, and [you] may develop cavities,” says Natasha Lee, DDS, president of the California Dental Association. Untreated cavities would travel to the nerve, requiring root canals, and debris in your mouth would lead to gum disease, a painless condition that eventually causes your teeth to fall out.
And it gets worse. “There is a growing amount of research that indicates an association between gum disease and other health problems like heart disease and diabetes,” notes Lee. Try these 10 oral hygiene habits for white teeth.
Rarely showering or bathing
“Personal hygiene serves a more important purpose than just keeping body odor at bay,” says skin care expert Janine Frances, CME, LMT. It’s not just gross, in other words: Soap and water can prevent acne, rashes, and life-threatening infections. “Bacteria grows rapidly on the body, and when it has lots of dead skin cells to feed off of, bacteria on your skin can cause, itching, irritation, and inflammation,” says Frances. “If you already have a skin condition, such as eczema, not showering regularly can make it worse.”
Eventually, a condition called dermatitis neglecta would set in if you stop showering completely, says Frances. You’ll notice thick patches of brown plaque on the skin, and they can lead to secondary infections. Luckily, dermatitis neglecta is usually treatable with regular washing. In severe cases, topical medication might be needed to break down the plaque.
Going to bed with your makeup on
At the end of a long, exhausting day, it might be tempting to nod off without washing off your makeup. Any makeup artist or skin care professional will tell you this is one of the most egregious hygiene mistakes you can make. “Not washing your face daily can create clogged pores which can not only lead to blackheads and pimples but uneven skin color due to overgrowth of skin cells,” notes Frances. And that’s not all: Neglecting to wash off your mascara, eyeliner, and other eye makeup can do serious damage to your eyes. Makeup harbors bacteria, which can migrate under your eyelids and lead to styes, inflamed follicles on the lash line, and serious skin infections. Untreated, these infections could eventually lead to blindness. Don’t miss these sleep hygiene tips for a good night’s rest.
Infrequently washing your bedding
Laundry is a chore some people try to avoid like the plague—but if you actually do, you’re asking for trouble. And this doesn’t just apply to clothes; bed sheets that haven’t been washed in months (or longer) become a petri dish of bacteria, fungus, dust mites, and more—and it’s going to get worse exponentially, as “bacteria multiply rapidly,” says Frances. In the worst-case scenario, unwashed bed sheets—and pajamas and clothing for that matter—will lead to a staph infection. If a staph infection makes its way into the bloodstream, it can escalate to a more severe condition like septicemia or toxic shock syndrome—which could be fatal.