Skin-Care Tips

COVID-19: You Should Be Washing Your Hands More, but Does That Go for Showering, Too?

Zoe Weiner

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Wash your hands for 20 seconds” has been one of the most valuable—and pressing—pieces of advice as COVID-19 makes its way globally, and has made its way into our daily life. (Other great advice? “Isolate yourself” and “for the love of all things good and pure, stop touching your face”). Thanks to the CDC, we know that soap and water kills the virus, which is an important part of stopping it from spreading. But as we’ve all rushed to rub our hands raw over the last few weeks, the question remains: Should we be showering more often and more carefully, too?

According to pros, the answer is, “not really.” Because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which means it comes from your mouth and lungs, the biggest concern comes from the transfer of droplets—which are more likely to hang out on your hands than other parts of your body. “If there’s any area on your body that you tend to have respiratory droplets go onto other than your hands, you might want to focus on scrubbing that a little bit more, but other than that there doesn’t need to be a lot of focus on cleanliness and soaping,” says Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Files. “So, if you’ve got bare arms and are sneezing into your elbow, you might want to scrub your elbow. But you don’t need to scrub the bottoms of your feet any more than you usually would.”

However, board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, recommends that you should be showering every day, and using soap on your full body instead of only on the usual “hot spots” (your private parts, your feet, and under your arms), as well as washing your hair daily. “We know that viruses can live in moist environments off of the skin for short periods of time, this may include the hair,” he says. In other words, you’re better safe than sorry when it comes to your personal hygiene during this time. Since the virus can be washed away with anything that has surfactant properties (aka anything that lathers), your usual soap, body wash, and shampoo, should be totally fine for getting the job done.

The other major change that pros want you to make to your shower routine is making sure that the bottles you keep in there are being regularly cleaned. “If you have anything that you’re using in the shower and is being shared, you might want to give it a good soap and water wash before you pass it along to someone else,” says Teatro, adding that this is an easy way to ensure you aren’t passing the virus along to someone else who might be using the same shower.

So go ahead and treat yourself to a daily shower as part of your social isolation self-care—and maybe even a DIY blowout, too.

Here are six common myths doctors want you to stop believing about COVID-19. Plus, how to treat those dry, cracked hands while you sleep.

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