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do not touch!

Any student of mine could tell you that the sentence 'hands off your face', is a favourite for me.

We scratch, pick, touch, lean on and pull at our faces constantly, and this is generally not an issue, however with compromised immunity, poor barrier function and acneic skins, skin infection is likely when exposed to potential pathogens and contaminants.

If you really think about it, the amount of times we touch our face throughout the day is exhaustive. So let me enlighten you to why it pays dividends in skin health to be aware of your own pesky hands...

  • the bathroom, I can't deny I have been known to jump up and down trying to 'hold it', rather than pay a visit to a public toilet. Did you know,1 gram of human faeces (about the size of a paper clip) can contain 1 trillion germs?! Can you blame me? And don't get me started on those that cough or sneeze openly, into the air and onto the benchtops... ewwwwwww. We have doors, toilet rolls, taps and toilet seats to contend with, what you come into contact with is entirely dependent on the hygeine of those that visited before you.

  • the kitchen, this room actually takes the award for harbouring more bacteria than any other room in your house (bathroom included). The humble dishcloth, yes the item responsible for cleaning all utensils you eat with, collects 6 times as much bacteria as toilet handles.

  • your mobile phone, be honest... where does your mobile phone travel with you, hmmmm? I have had clients admit to sleeping with their phone, and even taking it with them to the toilet. I also couldn't count the number of times students have jumped on the clinic bed and, unable to be without their phone, have hidden it against their naked skin! This little lifeline contains more germs than a toilet seat, and has been found, when swabbed, to commonly contain pathogens such as E.coli and Staph.aureus.

  • your fur-baby, I'm not sure about you, but when I get home I'm looking forward to seeing my dogs, Bud & Harold. I'll scoop them up ruffling my hands through their fur while trying to avoid the kisses they attempt to land on my face (from their butt to my face? No thanks!) Amongst the glorious spectrum of bacteria, parasites and fungi our pets can share, is Ringworm. This fungal skin infection resides on your pets coat and makes the jump from pets to people an estimated 2 million times a year.

  • your pillow case, how often do you wash this little evening face towel? Dermatologists recommend once a week for the general population and daily for those who suffer chronic acne. Along with the evening dose of our sweat, sebum, dead skin cells, mould (do not go to bed with wet hair!) and bacteria our pillowcases collect, our beds are also prone to house dust mites. These are relatively harmless bugs that love to feast on our dead skin cells, however, they are impolite about it, leaving their faeces and eggs behind for us dream in. Mites can cause allergies and inflammatory responses, further compromising our skin health. Wash your pillow case regularly and opt for silk or cotton!

In addition to environmental contaminants, we naturally have an incredible diverse ecosystem that calls our skin home, teeming with life.

We have,

  • the good (microorganisms that contribute to maintaining skin health)

  • the bad (unnecessary microorganisms that don't help or harm us.. unless given the opportunity), and,

  • the ugly (harmful pathogens that cause disease and disorder).

Propionibacterium acnes (p.acnes) is one of the opportunistic bad guys and a major player in acne (usually acne vulgaris types 2-4), by touching our face we can aid the spread of bacteria, cross-contaminating our skin and spreading infection.

Now I have you thinking, I don't want you to panic and start feverishly washing your hands... our adaptive immunity is dependent on our exposure to germs, and our body produces a number of innate defences against colonisation and infection.

However, if you suffer from poor skin health, be aware of the contributing factors and do your face a favour... do not touch!

With love,

x L

With thanks to the following sources,

5 Common Ways Germs are Spread - Minnesota Dept. of Health. (2017). Beumer, R. R., & Kusumaningrum, H. (2003). Kitchen hygiene in daily life. International biodeterioration & biodegradation, 51(4), 299-302. Can you guess which household item is dirtier than the toilet?. (2017). Mail Online. Features of an Immune Response | NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (2017). Green, W. F., Woolcock, A. J., Stuckey, M., Sedgwick, C., & Leeder, S. R. (1986). House dust mites and skin tests in different Australian localities. Australian and New Zealand journal of medicine, 16(5), 639-643. Grice, E. & Segre, J. (2017). The skin microbiome. Platts-Mills, T. A., & Chapman, M. D. (1987). Dust mites: immunology, allergic disease, and environmental control. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 80(6), 755-775. Science, A., Questions, F., Acne?, W., & Treatments, A. (2017). What is Propionibacterium acnes? – Science of Acne.

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