Is Personal Hygiene Included In Self-Care?

Someone is washing their hands in the sink

Over the last few years I have seen many debates online over whether tasks that take care of our basic needs, like our personal hygiene, should be included under the self-care umbrella, and I decided it is time to share my opinion on the matter.

But in order to give a complete answer, I believe we need to look at exactly what personal hygiene is, and some examples of it.

What exactly is personal hygiene anyways?

According to the CDC, hygiene is behaviors that can improve cleanliness and lead to good health. It is how we care for the external part of our body.

Why is personal hygiene important?

Personal hygiene is important because it helps us, and the other people around us, to prevent spreading illnesses.

It also helps us look better, which in turns helps our self-esteem and helps us to feel better about ourselves and is good for our mental health.

What happens if we don’t have good hygiene?

Bad hygiene habits can lead to minor issues like unclean skin, bad breath, or body odor, but they can also lead to very serious health issues.

For example, when we don’t brush our teeth regularly this can cause plaque and bacteria to buildup on our teeth which can lead to serious issues like cavities, our teeth falling out, or even things like heart disease.

I think the importance of hand-washing continues to be highlighted in the world and was in the spotlight recently thanks to the pandemic. If we don’t wash our hands routinely, we can transfer viruses and bacteria to ourselves, or others and make ourselves very sick, or even cause death.

Poor hygiene can also cause many other things like: ringworm, pinworms, rashes, diarrhea, scabies and much more.

However, bad hygiene can cause other problems in our life other than just causing illness or health conditions.

It can also negatively damage our self-esteem, our mental health, and our relationships with those around us.

Types of personal hygiene

There are many types of personal hygiene, but the main areas are:

  1. Body
  2. Dental
  3. Hair
  4. Hand

Examples of hygiene activities

Everyone has a different idea about personal hygiene, and everyone’s activities might slightly differ. However here are some examples:

  • Washing our hands
  • Showering
  • Bathing
  • Washing our hair
  • Washing our body
  • Trimming our nails
  • Cleaning under our nails
  • Brushing our teeth
  • Using mouthwash
  • Flossing
  • Doing laundry

So is personal hygiene a part of self-care?

A basic answer would be, it depends on what your definition of self-care is.

According to the World Health Organization, self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.

While a study published in the National Library of Medicine called self-care the self-initiated behaviour that people choose to incorporate to promote good health and general well-being.

In simple terms, I consider self-care to be anything we do to take care of ourself and our health. If something refreshes us, nourishes us, improves our health, or has a lasting positive impact on us, I consider it self-care.

So yes, based on that definition I would consider personal hygiene activities as a part of self-care.

However, I can also understand why that is triggering to some, and people get upset and say that fulfilling a basic human need should not be considered a part of self-care.

To me, I think the issue arises when people are only participating in basic human need tasks for their self-care, and that is it. From personal experience I know that leads to burnout and overwhelm.

People need to participate in all areas of self-care to truly take care of themselves and be happy.

So do I think that having a shower is taking care of your self-care? Yes.

But do I think that having a shower is all you need to do to properly participate in self-care? No.

Tips to help with personal hygiene

Include it as part of a routine

When we do something frequently, we turn it into a habit which makes it easier to do without even thinking about.

For example, washing our hands every time we use the restroom is a hygiene habit that most of us develop when we are young

Use reminders

While as adults, I don’t think most people need to put reminders in their day planners, or in their calanders reminding themselves to shower, I think it can be useful if we are trying a new activity, or for children to have a reminder until they can build a habit.

Include the things you like

Personal hygiene, like all self-care, isn’t meant to be a negative thing or something we don’t enjoy.

But you can set yourself up for success so that you actually enjoy taking care of your personal hygiene more.

Doing things like taking a luxurious bath, instead of a quick shower, and making it a whole relaxing thing by using candles, and bubble bath and lotions and reading your favorite book is one example of that.

Also, by buying products we actually enjoy and want to use, from nice smelling hand soap, to fun bath bombs, it can help us to stick to our routine and making everything much more enjoyable.

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