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During this pandemic, we’ve been continuously told two things: wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Numerous sources have stepped up to show us how to wash our hands for the right amount of time, even offering catchy tunes to help. But how on earth are we supposed to stop touching our faces? It’s a habit many of us never even noticed we had until we were suddenly focused on not doing it. Anyway, is it really that important to stop touching your face?

In a word, yes, and not just because of COVID-19. Many communicable viral infections can be contracted through face-touching. When an infected person sneezes, laughs, or coughs, droplets land on surfaces and transfer to the next person who touches it. If that person is you, and you touch your face, the virus gains an efficient entry point to your body.

Why is it so hard to keep our hands off our faces? Interestingly, humans touch their faces more than any other animal, and we do it as a self-soothing mechanism. Touching our faces with our fingertips, rubbing a soft spot on the skin, or even resting our chins in our hands are actions that cause the release of oxytocin, the calming and stress-reducing hormone. We also communicate subconsciously by touching our faces.

That’s the problem: how does one break a subconscious habit? First, recognize that you’re doing it. You can do this by wearing gloves for an hour and noticing how often you want to take them off to touch your face. You might also put on glasses or goggles to create a barrier that you’ll have to remove in order to rub your eyes or touch the area around them.

To train yourself not to touch your face, try introducing a substitute behavior. You might keep a handkerchief or clean paper towel nearby, using it any time you want to touch your face. You could also use the back of your arm instead of your hand.

Consider working on self-awareness, documenting how many times you’re touching your face during a given time period, and how you’re doing it. The act of writing it down and posting it somewhere you’ll see it may help you break the habit. Be aware that you are not likely to eliminate this habit overnight, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t completely stop. Most health habits take a while to establish, and this one is no different.

Practicing good habits can keep your skin healthy, and when you need assistance, you can trust Arlington Dermatology to help you care for your skin. For over 40 years, our Board-Certified dermatologists have been serving patients, making the health and welfare of our patients our top priority. We offer innovative methods of treatment, using state of the art medical equipment, in our conveniently located, patient-friendly facility in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. For more information, contact us through our website or call 847-392-5440.

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