Proactive hygiene habits can prevent myriad conditions, from athlete's foot and bad breath to fungal infections that require medical intervention.
Even if you think you're clean, you may be forgetting some essentials.
Nose and ear hygiene
What? Ear and nose hair aren't a problem yet? Well, they will be—or they already are and you haven't noticed. One expert wants you to know there's a difference in the maintenance of each.
"You want to be careful removing nose hair, as you can cause trauma to the mucosa of the nasal lining," said Alexander Zuriarrain, M.D., a quadruple board-certified plastic surgeon with his own Miami-based practice. "This can lead to possible infections and serious discomfort. Ear hair is less concerning when removing. There is no functional concern. It is unlikely to cause trauma to the underlying skin if it is removed with tweezers instead of being shaved."
While trimming either nose or ear hair has aesthetic value, remember to be gentle, specifically with nose hair. As unkempt as it may be, the attached skin is extremely delicate.
The human mouth is a melting pot of some of the strongest substances in the body and some of the touchiest. Think of the durability of our tooth enamel and the sensitivity of the gums.
"When it comes to toothbrushing, harder isn't better. Although your teeth are the hardest substance in your body, your gums aren't," said Whitney Rose DiFoggio, a registered dental hygienist in Chicago. "Gum disease is an infection of the soft gingival tissues around your teeth. The more aggressive the infection is, the more severe your gum recession may become."
'Cleaning your tongue regularly reduces the overall bacterial load inside of your body.'
Every dentist lights up when a patient flosses regularly, but tongue scraping takes oral health to another level. DiFoggio explained that tongue cleaning does more than simply rid the mouth of old bacteria—it helps the entire body.
"The particles that hide between your tongue's papilla can harbor plenty of smelly bacteria," DiFoggio said. "When tongue scraping is paired with the rest of your home-care dental hygiene routine, you'll definitely notice a significant improvement in your breath. Healthy tongues have a nice pink color to them. Having a cleaner tongue means you're not swallowing all those oral bacteria every time you eat or drink something. Cleaning your tongue regularly reduces the overall bacterial load inside of your body."
Doing your immune system a favor has never been more relevant than now, in the midst of a pandemic.
Even if it's covered by a mask or a beard or both, your facial skin requires attention.
"Untreated facial acne will result in possible cyst formation, which would require more invasive treatment," Zuriarrain said. "It is important for men to exfoliate their facial skin, especially with the constant use of masks. Daily facial wash with a product designated for men would be of benefit."
Zuriarrain emphasized consistency and gentleness in grooming.
"Some men shave against the hair follicle, which can cause irritation, folliculitis and ingrown hairs," he said. "This is very much a trend and tends to change across generations."
"Excess moisture that is not controlled will lead to fungal infections that are very difficult to treat," he said.
Head hair garners the most attention, but any body parts covered in hair require attention. Zuriarrain explained by staying clean, you're not eliminating your body's natural qualities but allowing them to shine.
"Heavy use of cologne is a common mistake, [as is] neglecting back hair," he said. "Men produce certain types of skin oils that are unique to their sex. This also is in tune with the production of pheromones that are associated with neurobiological attraction to the opposite sex."
Betsy Greenleaf, D.O., a urologist in Howell Township, New Jersey, unpacked the detriments of stifling pheromones with an overabundance of cologne.
"Hormones are chemical messengers that tell the body to function, [moving] between organs or the brain and organs," she said. "Pheromones are messengers that signal to other beings. Humans may not respond to pheromones as profoundly as other animals, because our sense of smell is not as developed. However, studies have demonstrated that exposure to pheromones may affect mood."
The most dangerous place for your feet is out of sight and out of mind, according to Jeffrey DeSantis, D.P.M., a California-based podiatrist and president of the American Podiatric Medical Association. Simply look at them once a day, or use a mirror if you're unable to bend over and see them.
Beyond a visual check, men with diabetes should make sure they can feel their feet, because the disease can cause neuropathy, or nerve damage. Staying active, even by just walking 20 to 30 minutes a day, can help.
People who have jobs that keep them on their feet for hours are susceptible to foot pain, but ordinarily, foot pain is not normal, DeSantis said.
As our feet determine a large part of our mobility, problems with them can spiral into full-body concerns, such as back pain.
While numbness and pain make themselves apparent, DeSantis encourages men to think critically about any perceived changes in their feet and toes.
"With toenail fungus, the main thing to realize is that it is an infection that could spread to your partner," he said. "[Someone] will get an athlete's foot at the gym, at the pool or something working out [and] will think that their skin is just dry at the bottom. Actually, it's a fungal infection of the skin."
In other words, a case of athlete's foot can potentially infect the toenails. While athlete's foot can hide on the underside of your feet, don't forget about the tops of your feet.
"The one area that most guys don't put sunscreen on is the top of their foot. So we're seeing an incidence of skin cancers on the top of the foot," DeSantis said.
As our feet determine a large part of our mobility, problems with them can spiral into full-body concerns, such as back pain. Keep an eye on your feet and trim your toenails, or ask someone for help with it, and seek podiatrist-approved insoles for your work shoes.
"A custom-molded orthotic by a podiatrist is probably your best thing to do for preventive [care]," DeSantis said.
If you'd prefer professional help, consider choosing a salon and bringing your own tools for the technician so you can further avoid exposure to fungus. Determine whether the foot soakers at the salon have disposable liners in the bowl—this is better insurance of full sterilization.
Your daily shower and tooth-care routine might be OK, but they may not go far enough, especially for long-term health. Consider putting a little more effort into your hygiene, from top to bottom.