Personal hygiene is described as the principle of ensuring and maintaining cleanliness and care of the external body.
The benefits of good hygiene:

  • Increased self-esteem and confidence;
  • Projecting a positive body image;
  • Helps reduce unpleasant body odors;
  • Helps reduce the risks of infection and pain.

The Risks of Poor Hygiene:

  • Social embarrassment;
  • Rejection and isolation;
  • Increased risk of getting an infection or an illness

Hand Hygiene:

  • Hand washing is vital. This should be carried out after using the toilet, after handling anything potentially hazardous, after playing with pets, before preparing food, before eating, and before and after having sex.
  • When washing your hands try using warm water and a good soap. Wet your hands thoroughly and apply soap and work into a soapy lather. With a repetitive motion continue hand washing (over the back of your hands, across your palms, in between your fingers, around your nails, and even around your wrists) until you are thoroughly satisfied they are clean (which is usually the duration of singing ‘Happy Birthday to you’ in your head). Rinse and dry thoroughly using a clean dry towel.
  • Keep your nails clean and make sure your nails don’t have rough edges.
  • Treat any cuts or open sores immediately.
  • A latex glove is very handy when engaging in any sexual activity (e.g., finger fucking).
  • In cases where water is not readily available consider using an anti-bacterial wet wipe.

Oral Hygiene:

  • Bad breath (or halitosis) is most commonly caused from poor dental hygiene (e.g. wrong technique used to brush teeth, don’t floss, irregular visits to the dentist etc). Bad breath can also be caused by eating highly aromatic foods such as onions and garlic or in cases where food intake has been severely restricted. Dehydration can cause bad breath, while drinking alcohol can lead to bad breath and body odor. And lastly, smoking, chronic sinus problems and gum disease may also lead to bad breath. Resolving any of these causes is likely to result in a dramatic improvement.
  • In general, teeth should be brushed at least twice a day, followed by some flossing. You could also floss after every meal. Remember to also brush your tongue as this will remove any buildup of bacteria and/or dead cells.
  • You should avoid brushing your teeth before or after engaging in any oral sexual activity as this may cause the gums to bleed, increasing your risk of infection. Rinse with a mouth wash or chew some gum instead.
  • Replace your toothbrush approximately every three months.
  • Keep well hydrated, by drinking at least 6 – 8 glasses of water per day, which is actually good for your overall health.
  • Go to your oral hygienist/dentist for a check-up and clean-up at least twice a year.

Genital Hygiene:

  • Genital care means the way in which women keep their genital area healthy. This part of the body (the vulva) is made up of skin, moist areas and glands. Secretions (moistness) from the vagina keep it clean and healthy and these secretions are normal. These secretions protect the vagina and the skin.
  • The skin and moist surfaces of this part of the body are very delicate. It is important not to wash with harsh chemicals that may irritate the area. Washing too often, or rubbing too hard when drying, can irritate this skin. If you have problems in this area, washing with plain, lukewarm (not hot) water is best. Using soap, shower gels and some cleansers can make the problems worse. Your health care provider may be able to suggest a soap substitute.
  • Gently separate the outer “lips” and bathe the inner skin with plain water, using your hands only. Gently pat dry the outer skin. Do not use a hair dryer.
  • Wear well fitting clothing and avoid thongs and tight jeans. Wash underclothes in a mild detergent and avoid fabric softeners.
  • It is not necessary to wash the vulva every day and it should not be washed more than once a day. Do not wash the vagina. Do not use wipes, deodorants, douches or other cosmetic and cleansing products. Women with a problem in this area should use only treatments prescribed by their health care. International Society for the study of Vuvo-vaginal Disease Patient Information Committee, June 2006.

Anal Hygiene:

  • The anus should only need proper washing once a day and then appropriate cleaning after every bowel movement.
  • Although hygiene is very important, over-cleaning (using harsh internal cleansing products) and over-wiping (using course toilet paper) is not desirable as this may lead to irritation and in some cases bleeding.
  • When cleaning use a soft ‘two-ply’ toilet paper, or if possible, use a pre-moistened, non-perfumed adult wipe.
  • Anal douching is the practice of introducing water slowly and gently into the anus in order to clean out the rectum. This has been suggested as a possible method but there are associated risks to this practice: it can lead to damage of the rectum and can actually increase the risk of infection.
  • When sex toys are used, these should be cleaned in between uses, even if new condoms are used each time. This is especially important if sex toys are shared.

Body Odor:

  • Body odor develops from a buildup of perspiration generally in the groin, armpit and feet. Exercising and hot weather can contribute to this. Perspiration is not preventable but body odor can be controlled.
  • Frequent washing can help reduce the development of body odor. For most, one wash a day may be adequate. For others, two to three washes a day may be required. Ensure that you dry yourself thoroughly to avoid reservoirs for bacteria to breed in.
  • Wearing clean underwear, socks and clothes every day can also help reduce body odor and reduce risks of infection and soreness.
  • The moderate use of anti-perspirant deodorants or roll-ons can help reduce odours developing in the armpits.
  • The removal of excess hair can help reduce the area on which bacteria can breed and odors developing.
  • In cases of severe perspiration, medical treatment may be sought (e.g., trans-thoracic sympathectomy or botox injections into the armpit).