Did you know that on average, the human body has about 2 square meters (21.5 square feet) of skin? And in addition to that, we produce about 1 pint of sweat every day [source: Nemours]. It may sound like a lot to maintain, but good personal hygiene habits can help keep you healthy. Hand washing, for example, is the best way to avoid getting sick. Washing your face can help reduce your risk of bacterial infections such as trachoma, an eye infection. Good hygiene is good for more than just washing away bacteria and other potentially dangerous things -- it also helps us smell fresh and feel confident. How? Let's look at five easy ways.
Use Deodorant and Antiperspirant
There's a tool most of us use to stay feeling and smelling fresh all day: antiperspirant. Americans spend about $2.5 billion per year on antiperspirants and deodorants, and almost all of us adults use these products at least once a day [source: Mintel].
But first things first: Antiperspirants and deodorants aren't the same thing. Antiperspirants plug your pores to stop your sweat, whereas deodorants mask body odor with fragrance. If you want to keep your shirt dry, try an antiperspirant. If you want to cover odor, choose deodorant. Some products contain one or the other; some products contain both. Personal preference will dictate which one's best for you.
Brush and Floss
The bad news? An estimated 40 million people have bad breath [source: American Dental Hygienists' Association]. The good news? Daily oral hygiene practices that include brushing and flossing will help keep your breath fresh, as well as keep your teeth and gums healthy. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth two or three times every day. They also stress the importance of daily flossing. And if you haven't tried it, consider using a tongue scraper: Tongue scrapers help remove all the residue that can hide in the tongue's nooks and crannies, and less residue means you're less likely to be one of those 40 million.
Wear Clean Clothes Every Day
Clothing can be dirty with more than you might want to imagine, harboring everything from both normal and potentially dangerous bacteria to feces and viruses. We also perspire in our clothing, whether it's your workout gear or your office suit, and this can make you smell like sweat. Without proper and frequent sanitizing, some of this bacteria can hang around for weeks (although when it comes to jeans, some suggest a wear-and-wear rather than wash-and-wear approach, recommending that jeans be washed at least once a month).
If it's sweat you're worried about, natural fibers such as cotton and wool are always good choices. Wool, for example, is quick to wick away your sweat and naturally defends against bacterial growth (which can cause body odor). And foot odor? Wash feet daily, dry them thoroughly and wear socks made of natural fibers (such as cotton) instead of synthetics, which can exacerbate a sweaty, smelly foot problem.
Smelling fresh is about more than just your clothes, so keep reading.
A daily shower is part of many Americans' morning ritual. It reduces stress, washes away dirt and leaves you smelling nice. Taking a daily shower (or bath) will help to wash away the grime of the day, but bathers should beware. Too much showering can strip the normal, good bacteria from our skin. And a hot shower can dry out your skin, putting you at risk of infection. If daily showers help you feel clean and fresh for the day, keep them short and use warm water rather than hot.
Clean Up Your Diet
So we know that good hygiene, including keeping your body clean -- from your hair and teeth to your skin and feet -- can help you feel clean throughout the day. But you can help yourself feel fresh all day, every day, by also eliminating certain foods from your diet.
Some foods make us stink. Strong dishes such as curries and chilies can be to blame, as are foods such as garlic and onions, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli) and some types of cheese. These foods contain volatile organic aromatic compounds that are most often to blame. Smell like the garlic from the Italian lunch you had? It's the volatile organic aromatic compounds that are released as part of our sweat.
Another food to blame for affecting how we smell is red meat. Researchers have found that men who refrained from eating red meat were considered better smelling than those who ate it regularly [source: Havlicek and Lenochova].
For more tips about hygiene and staying fresh, check out the next page.
After a certain age, a lot of men start growing hair in places they don't want it — and stop growing it where they do. HOwStuffWorks looks at why.
- American Dental Hygienists' Association. "Want Some Life Saving Advice? Ask Your Dental Hygienist About Understanding and Eliminating Bad Breath." July 16, 2010. (Feb. 14, 2011)https://www.adha.org/sites/default/files/7234_Bad_Breath_Fact_Sheet_1.pdf
- Canning, Andrea, and Rich McHugh. "How Clean Are Your New Clothes? Find Out." ABC News. Good Morning America. Jan. 7, 2010. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/gma-found-clothes-clean/story?id=9482373&page=1
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Hygiene Fast Facts." Jan. 29, 2010. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/fast_facts.html
- Cotter, John. "Student wears unwashed jeans for 15 months." Toronto Star. Jan. 19, 2011. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/924787--student-wears-unwashed-jeans-for-15-months
- Go Ask Alice! "Foot odor." Columbia University. Health Q&A Internet Service. Jan. 11, 2008. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/0728.html
- Havlicek, J. and P. Lenochova. "The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness." Chemical Senses. October 2006. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16891352
- Larson, Elaine. "Hygiene of the Skin: When Is Clean Too Clean?" Emerging Infectious Diseases. March - April 2001. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol7no2/larson.htm
- Toda, Masahiro et al. "Change in salivary physiological stress markers by spa bathing." Biomedical Research. February 2006. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/biomedres/27/1/27_11/_article
- Medical News Today. "Is Your Daily Shower Blasting Your Face With Pathogenic Germs?" Sept. 15, 2009. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/164004.php
- Metzler, Brian. "Sweat Equipment." Running Times Magazine. July - August 2007. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://runningtimes.com/Print.aspx?articleID=11294
- Mintel Oxygen. "Antiperspirants and Deodorants - US - February 2007." (Feb. 14, 2011)http://oxygen.mintel.com/sinatra/oxygen/index/&letter=1/display/id=226537&anchor=a226537/display/id=262586
- Nemours. "Skin, Hair, and Nails." October 2009. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/body_basics/skin_hair_nails.html
- Saint Louis, Catherine. "The Great Unwashed." The New York Times. Oct. 29, 2010. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/fashion/31Unwashed.html
- Shah, Riddhi. "Why do some foods make us smell funny?" Salon. June 23, 2010. (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.salon.com/food/feature/2010/06/23/foods_that_make_you_smell_funny
- Unilever. "Understanding deodorant & antiperspirants." (Feb. 14, 2011)http://www.unilever.com.au/brands/hygieneandwelbeing/Understandingdeodorantandantiperspirants/