Hygiene is one of those things everyone is expected to know but no one ever talks about, and there’s more to it than just wearing deodorant and rinsing with mouthwash.
You probably remember that Sunday afternoon when your dad pulled you aside and taught you how to shave like a man. Unfortunately, this is about the only formal lesson you got in personal hygiene and grooming. From that point on, you were on your own.
Perhaps this is all a big conspiracy put on by the makers of Axe Body Spray; they want to ensure that guys have no idea how to avoid smelling like sweaty apes without dousing themselves in cologne and deodorant. Or maybe it’s just not very cool for bros to sit around and brag about their personal hygiene. Either way, there are some serious hygiene habits that are missing from the average male’s daily routine.
Here’s what you should be doing on a regular basis:
Inside Your Mouth
The freshness of your breath is the ambassador of your words. You could be whispering the sweetest of sonnets into someone’s ear, but if you smell like you just gargled a sewer rat, it’s going to be a turnoff no matter what.
These tips will help keep things fresh all day:
Invest in a decent electric toothbrush. Every time I see my dentist, he slips me a $10 coupon for an electric toothbrush. Either he’s a shill (doubt it) or these things really work. The key is to get a decent one, not just one of those regular toothbrushes that vibrates. You should spend at least $100 on your starter kit, if not a little more.
You can get a Philips Sonicare FlexCare brush that will treat you right for $111 or so. Or, if you’re on a budget, you can spend $35 on an Oral-B Vitality Dual Clean. While clearly inferior to the higher end models, it has something that is guaranteed to improve your brushing: a 2-minute timer. A timer ensures that you’re brushing for the recommended amount of time. You might be surprised at how little time you spend on your teeth currently.
Floss everyday. We all know that flossing is important, but few of us do it consistently. But it’s really, really worth it. It’ll freshen your breath, prevent gum disease and save you from those withering looks from your dental hygienist.
The problem for most guys, though, is the hardware. I’m willing to bet that if flossing wasn’t such a pain in the ass, you’d do it more often. Try buying a cheap reusable floss holder instead of using naked floss. You can get a pack of three for $10 and keep refilling them with normal floss. Heck, with one of these, you might even enjoy flossing.
Avoid those disposable flossers that you’ll see in the checkout lines at grocery stores. Not only will they cost you way more in the long run, but they produce a lot of garbage as well.
Bonus tip: According to the American Dental Association, it doesn’t matter if you brush then floss or floss then brush, just so long as you use an ADA approved product and do both tasks diligently.
Brush your tongue. Buildup on your tongue not only looks disgusting, but it’s the number one cause of bad breath. Giving your tongue a good scrub when you’re brushing your teeth can nix this. But if you have a sensitive gag flex, you might want to try some of these tips:
- Make a fist with your left hand with your thumb inside and hold it tightly. For many people, this suppresses the gag reflex; no one is sure why.
- Exhale through your mouth as you brush.
- Brush perpendicular to your tongue (i.e. side to side) rather than back and forth.
If all else fails, buy a tongue scraper (ask your dentist) or use a piece of floss to scrape your tongue.
Investigate for tonsil stones. Tonsil stones, or tonsillolith, are solidified deposits of food, bacteria and other junk that collects in the nooks and crannies of your tonsils. As you can imagine, they smell pretty nasty. So, if you have chronic bad breath, you may want to scope out the back of your mouth and see if you can spot any of these buggers.
You can see some pictures of what you’re looking for here. To remove them, try gargling with salt water or knocking them out with a toothpick or Q-tip. If all else fails, ask your doctor–you may be prescribed antibiotics, or in extreme cases, undergo surgery to remove your tonsil stones.
In the Shower
Showering feels like hitting the “reset” button on your accumulated stank. But chances are, you’re doing it wrong. Consider changing it up:
Don’t shower everyday. Your mileage may vary on this, but most people don’t need to shower every day. In fact, showering every day strips away the necessary oils in your skin and hair, which makes your body produce more to compensate. You can probably get away with showering once every other day. If you can’t swing that, skip the shampoo every other shower. If your hair gets greasy spots, try sprinkling some baby powder around the roots between shampoo days.
You might also want to consider a dry shampoo for no-shower days. You can make your own by grinding together 1 cup of oatmeal with 1 cup of baking soda. Sprinkle it on your roots, wait a few minutes and then comb it out. Fresh!
Wash your face with honey. If you have extremely sensitive skin, or are just looking for a cheap organic face wash, try this: Wash your face with honey. I mean it. Go to your nearest hippy food co-op or Whole Foods and get some local, raw honey (commercial honey is often too processed to have the same benefits). Honey is a natural humectant (e.g. moisturizes without leaving oily residue) and exfoliant. It even has natural antibacterial qualities.
Wet your face in the shower and massage it into your face. Leave it there as you wash the rest of your body and rinse it off last thing before getting out.
Actually wash your feet. Guess what? Soaking your feet in half an inch of soapy runoff while standing in the shower doesn’t count as washing your feet. Get in there with a wash cloth and scrub your toes and the bottom of your feet. This will help you kick embarrassing foot fungus and other odorous or unsightly issues.
Cool off before hopping out of the shower. This may sound masochistic, but right before you get out of the shower, turn it on full blast cold. There are numerous benefits to this so-called James Bond Shower (see: awesome article from The Art of Manliness), chiefly in the hair and skin department. But in the summer, it also prevents you from sweating the moment you step out of the shower and getting stinky all over again.
This is where things get really dirty. On any given day, all this business in your boxers is yours and yours alone. But when things get up close and personal, bad hygiene downstairs becomes much more noticeable. Follow these measures, or risk having her ask “who’s got the funk?” the next time you get down.
Pop a squat. If you’ve been to the non-touristy parts of Asia or Africa, then you’ve likely encountered a squat toilet. To you, these may seem primitive, possibly gross. But in reality, squatting is the most natural position for taking care of business, with numerous health benefits. It requires less straining and leaves less residue behind. In fact, many public squatting toilets don’t even provide toilet paper, since it’s often not necessary when you’re popping a squat.
Elevating your feet can give you some of the smooth moving benefits of a squat toilet, even on your dumb American toilet. A six-inch footrest should do the trick. If you don’t want guests asking you why you have a step stool in front of the can, then you could try using a big pack of toilet paper as a footrest.
Use baby wipes. And use them for the same reason a baby uses them. Fellow Primer contributor Justin Brown already covered this one in his Five Readily-Available Products You Should Try rundown.
Here’s how he puts it:
Answer me this: when you want to wash your face, do you use a dry washcloth? When you want your hair clean, do you just grab a towel and rub your dry scalp for a few minutes? No. And that’s because the best way to get our bodies (or specific parts of our bodies) clean is with a bit of moisture. See where I’m going with this?
You can try wiping with normal tp then using a baby wipe as final clean up. This trend is becoming so prevalent manufacturers now sell wipes that aren’t branded for babies.
Just one caveat: flushable baby wipes aren’t always as flushable as advertised. They can clog up your plumbing just like a tampon can. Proceed with caution, or dispose of them in a lidded trash can.
At the very, very least you should be getting that area as clean as possible at every shower. Don’t be squeamish. Get some soap and water and take care of it. You’ll be cleaner and more comfortable, I promise. You’d be shocked at how many dudes have admitted to never even considering this step.
Eliminate chafing. If you’ve seen the “Fun Run Race for the Cure” episode of The Office, you already know that chafing is a serious issue. But it’s not limited to your nipples. You might want to check out ChafeStick, a 100% organic skin balm for “Monkey butt, Cycle sores, Runner’s chafe, Diaper rash, Gig butt, Boardie’s rash, Swamp nuts, Harness chafe, Swimmer’s rash, Road burn, and any other skin irritation.”
For a specialty product that’s a bit more targeted, consider Fresh Balls (not joking). Avoid using baby powder. There’s talc and other nasty stuff in baby powder that can seriously over-dry your boys to the point that they become raw.
Cologne below. On a similar note, you should consider a quick spray of cologne on the front and back of your boxers before you head out. Your crotch is like the armpit of your legs, but unlike your pits, it doesn’t get deodorant. Chances may be slim that anyone will be close enough to notice the cologne down there, but if someone is, then odor may be mission critical. As for the back of your boxers, there’s apocryphal testament that cologne can CYA in case of gas. How true this is depends on the circumstances, and perhaps what you ate…
Here are three last tips that don’t fit into any of the above categories:
Keep a cool hand. Sweaty palms are a blight on the business world, or anywhere else, really. A soggy handshake conveys nervousness, dishonesty or just plain ickiness. To stay ahead of the game, try washing your hands with cool (but not freezing cold) water prior to a meeting, social mixer or any other situation where you might be extending your paw. If that doesn’t work, as your doctor to prescribe some Drysol antiperspirant. This prescription strength antiperspirant is so powerful that you only need to use it once a week.
Change your sheets once a week. In college, I bet the only time you changed your sheets was when someone barfed in your bed. That doesn’t fly anymore. Change your bed sheets once a week. Swap out your pillow case just as often, if not more. This will help reduce acne and the dreaded bacne.
If you find yourself breaking out, use a new pillowcase every night or put a clean towel over your pillow.
Pluck your unibrow. Not really a hygiene issue, per se, but if you’ve been shaving the Great Fuzzy Caterpillar that arches across your brow, don’t. Plucking is more precise, lasts longer and doesn’t run the risk of a cut in the middle of your forehead. All you need is a pair of laser cut tweezers–don’t cheap out and use the ones in your Swiss Army Knife. They won’t get the job done nearly as well. Tweezerman is a good brand that’ll set you back just $20.
With all of the above being said, the last thing you should do is follow any hygiene advice blindly. Each person’s body is different. Some of us sweat more, some of us have oilier hair, some of us have sensitive skin or deep belly buttons or hairy armpits. You may need to adjust some of the advice in this article to suit the way your body works.
Got any other hot hygiene tips? Share them in the comments section. Don’t be shy. It’s for the good of humanity.
P.S. A big shout out to redditor NickTheNewbie who kicked off the thread that inspired this article. Hat tips all around to the Reddit community for some truly enlightening hygiene insight.