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The head-to-toe hygiene guide for guys

Photos logoPhotos 14-04-2018
Men's hygiene : Photo © Man's face (Peathegee/Getty Images) Photo

Some men get it. Somewhere along the way, they’ve learned about grooming and good overall hygiene. They might even know how to moisturize and exfoliate, once exclusive skills of the fairer sex. But some men still don’t. And while they might not be the hapless slobs often stereotyped in the media, they could still learn a thing or two about how to get clean. What body parts should a man focus on? Which ones require a little more attention – and which ones maybe a little less? Here, experts weigh in on 11 body parts that guys should clean more or better – or at least a little differently. -- By Michael Ko for MSN Healthy Living

1. Skin

Men's hygiene - Skin: Photo © Man in shower (Tim Kitchen/Getty Images) Photo

The average human is covered by about 20 square feet (1.8 square metres) of skin, making it the largest organ in the body, essential for protecting a person from infections. Keeping it clean is important. If you don’t clean your skin, bacteria, fungi and yeasts make their home on the skin’s surface. The problems start when they worm into the bloodstream through a cut or a scratch. That could lead to soreness, itching or worse. Though rare, a bacterial bloodstream infection could be fatal. If you’re obese, skin folds could develop yeast infections that break down skin, making it vulnerable to disease. A bar of soap and a bath will probably work fine. But it’s OK to explore your options. American consumers spent about $2.5 billion on men’s skin-care products and cosmetics last year, according to market data firm Euromonitor International.

2. Toes and feet

Men's hygiene - Feet: Photo © Man getting a pedicure (s-cphoto/Getty Images) Photo

Guys can be lumped into two groups: those who wear flip-flops in a public shower and those who take their chances in bare feet. The Institute for Preventive Foot Health’s 2012 National Foot Health Assessment found that about 44 million people have experienced athlete’s foot – 29 percent of men versus just 12 percent of women. One of the theories is that men typically wear heavier, airtight shoes, and the fungus that causes the itching loves dark, warm places. Athlete’s foot, if left untreated, can lead to painful blisters or spread to the toenails, discoloring them or even causing them to crumble off. The fungus can also spread by touch to other areas of your body, such as your groin, where it’s called jock itch. So change your socks. Wear well-ventilated shoes. Keep your feet dry. And put on those flip-flops.

3. Hands and nails

Men's hygiene - Hands: Photo © Working hands (Jitalia17/Getty Images) Photo

Most guys know they should wash their hands after using the bathroom. But how many of them really do it? The American Society for Microbiology conducts an annual hand-washing study at prominent public restrooms across the country, including the bathrooms in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Their researchers found that just 77 percent of men wash their hands before they left, compared with 93 percent of women. The numbers are also grim for guys after diaper duty (80 percent of men, compared with 88 percent of women) and before touching food (71 percent versus 83 percent). Many respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses are transmitted when contaminated hands touch eyes, noses and mouths. Disease-causing bacteria can lurk under your nails. “Hand washing is a no-brainer," says Nancy Bock of the American Cleaning Institute, which co-sponsored the study. “Washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or more is a simple way to stay healthy.”

4. Armpits

Men's hygiene - Armpits : Photo © Man putting on deodorant (Zlatko Kostic/Getty Images) Photo

Sweaty, itchy armpits can smell bad and be a social nightmare, not to mention a serious drain on your dry-cleaning bill once your shirts start to get the dreaded yellow armpit stain. Your body has between 2 million and 4 million sweat glands. The ones in your armpits are called apocrine glands; they secrete an oily fluid with proteins and fats. The sweat itself doesn’t smell, but when it contacts bacteria on the skin’s surface, it can stink. You can wash that smell away with soap and water and keep it at bay with daily showers. About 3 percent of the population suffers from excessive sweating, a condition called hyperhidrosis. The International Hyperhidrosis Society says antiperspirants can help, including stronger ones that can be purchased with a prescription. But watch out, though. The chemical compounds in some antiperspirants can exacerbate underarm stains.

5. Mouth, teeth and gums

Men's hygiene - Oral care: Photo © Man flossing (Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images) Photo

Be careful not to skip your daily brushings. It’s not just a matter of bad breath. When you don’t brush and floss, bacteria can coat your mouth in the form of plaque, which produces acid that destroys tooth enamel and causes cavities. That could lead to tartar, a hardened super-plaque, which can irritate gums and lead to inflammation called gingivitis. When it gets really bad, you can suffer from infection and disease. Research has found that men with periodontal disease may be more likely to develop cancer in their kidneys, pancreas and blood, as well as be three times more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, according to a December 2012 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. “Previous research has suggested a potential link between gum disease and other conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis,” says Dr. Susan Karabin, former president of the American Academy of Periodontology. Women are twice as likely as men to get regular dental checkups, according to research published in the Journal of Periodontology.

6. Ears

Men's hygiene - Ears : Photo © Man cleaning ears (Emma Innocenti/Getty Images) Photo

Do you wipe your ear with a cotton-tipped swab after a shower? Maybe it’s time to stop. Doctors say you could puncture your eardrum or pack wax deeper into the ear canal, leading to temporary hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo or pain. Earwax, also called cerumen, is supposed to be pushed out by your jaw muscles while chewing. But some people are earwax overproducers, as a result of genetics. People who use cotton swabs, hearing aids or earbuds are more prone to blockage. The American Academy of Otolaryngology recommends using simple water- or oil-based solutions instead of swabs. Clean ears have become an industry in Japan, where trendy “ear parlors” have recently taken off. Men go there to drink tea and rest their heads on the laps of kimono-clad women, who clean and massage the ears.

7. Scalp and hair care

Men's hygiene - Man washing hair: Photo © Man washing hair (Slater King/Getty Images) Photo

How often should you shampoo your hair? An estimated 93 percent of American adults do it daily, according to one study conducted by Mintel, a market research firm. But many dermatologists and stylists think that daily washing – while more necessary for those with particularly dirty or oily hair, or those with dandruff – can strip your hair of beneficial oils and cause dryness and damage. They say it’s fine to shampoo three times a week. And does it matter when you step into the shower and all you see is a bottle of your wife’s shampoo? There’s no real difference between most men’s and women’s shampoos, besides branding, packaging and fragrance.


Men's hygiene - Back: Photo © Man washing back (PNC/Getty Images) Photo

Ever heard of “bacne”? You probably don’t think much about your back. It’s hard to see in the mirror and difficult to reach in the shower. But acne can appear on backs as well as faces. The glands there that keep your skin and hair moisturized can get clogged with dead skin cells or excess oil, which in turn can attract the bacteria that cause inflammation and breakouts, or back acne. You can apply acne medicine to your back or buy a body wash with salicylic acid for your morning shower. Or just pick up a loofah with a long handle to reach your back more easily. Also remember your back hair. More than 70 percent of women surveyed recently by Remington Products, which sells grooming and shaving equipment for men, said they wished their male partners would at least trim off some of their back hair. A third said they would prefer that their partner’s back be shaved.

9. Face

Men's hygiene - Face: Photo © Man shaving (Caroline von Tuempling/Getty Images) Photo

We shed millions of dead skin cells every day. When we wash our faces, we can get rid of the buildup, along with any excess oil or other debris that might be clogging our pores. In general, a man’s facial skin is thicker than a woman’s, so it’s less likely to be sensitive to the ingredients in facial cleansers and moisturizers. Find something that works for your skin type – whether oily or dry or somewhere in between – and that helps soothe the irritation after shaving or beard maintenance. Electric grooming products might be an option.

10. Genitals

Men's hygiene - Genitals : Photo © Man in underwear (Glow Images/Getty Images) Photo

It’s the part of the body that men value the most. How exactly should you take care of it? Doctors recommend that you gently wash your penis regularly with warm water. If you’re uncircumcised, remember to pull back the foreskin and wash underneath. If you don’t, a cheesy-looking substance called smegma may begin to gather. Smegma is a natural lubricant that helps keep the penis moist, but too much can start to smell and become a breeding ground for bacteria, causing redness and swelling in the penis called balanitis. Washing too hard has also been associated with swelling. Doctors also suggest avoiding powders or deodorants on your penis, as they may cause irritation. While you’re cleaning, it’s a good idea to check your testicles for lumps, a warning sign of testicular cancer.

11. Sinuses and nose

Men's hygiene - Sinuses and nose : Photo © Sinuses (Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images) Photo

Your sinuses and nose can harbor viruses and bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, that can cause infections. Unclean sinuses can have a more practical, immediate downside. Dr. Thomas Connelly, a New York City dentist, described in a 2012 Huffington Post article how inflames sinuses and excessive mucus dripping into the back of your mouth can cause the growth of foul-smelling bacteria, leading to “sinus breath.” Finally, stuffy sinuses might also contribute to snoring. Clearing them out with decongestants, a hot shower or a gargle with strong mouthwash might help. Some swear by a nightly nasal rinse, in which water is flushed through the nasal passageway to clear it of debris.

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