Touching our faces is a fundamental behaviour that’s difficult to avoid.
Natasha Tiwari, a psychologist from Veda Group, explains that we know this because even foetuses touch their faces.1 Tiwari explains that touching your face can help calm us down by activating specific pressure points and allowing the parasympathetic system to kick in.2
Other leading psychologists say touching the face also plays a crucial role in cognitive and emotional processes.3 This means that even when you actively tell yourself not to touch your face for health and hygiene reasons, it can feel unnatural; you’re trying to stop a natural, often unconscious response.
Why should you avoid touching your face?
Touching your face can increase the risk of infections by viruses and bacteria that enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Given that we touch our faces on average 23 times an hour, this can significantly increase the risk.4 Reducing hand-to-face contact can, therefore, lower the possibility of infection.
It’s easier to be diligent with washing your hands more frequently than touching your face less often. However, touching your face can increase the chance of recontamination even after washing.
Tips and tricks to stop touching your face
It is almost impossible to stop touching your face completely.5 However, by following the below tips and tricks, you can significantly reduce the habit.
Build a substitute behaviour
When you’re aware of irritation, like an itch, on your face, try using the back of your arm instead of your hands to relieve it. Using your arm might feel unusual, but it can help reduce your risk of picking up an illness or disease.
Eliminate old habits
Try to notice the times you touch your face and see if there’s anything you can do to eliminate the habit. Instead of wearing contact lenses, which might irritate your eyes, switch to glasses to avoid touching the eyes as often. Similarly, you can try wearing less or no makeup or reduce the amount you top it up throughout the day.
Create new habits
As well as changing old habits, introduce new mindful thought processes to reduce how often you touch your face. You can make an effort to keep your hands clasped and put them in your lap or even sit on them.6 Then when you do bring your hands up to touch your face, there will be a longer delay and more opportunity to stop yourself.
Keep your hands busy
Keeping hands busy can be an effective way to keep them away from your face. When you’re at rest, hold something in your hands to keep them occupied. Having a stress ball nearby can come in useful and act as a constant reminder not to touch your face. Be wary that the more items you contact the more these need to be disinfected too.7
For more information on how to reduce the risk of infection, check out our How to Stay Safe FAQ’s.
Last updated: 21 April 2020
2 As above
4 As above
5 As source 1
6 As source 3
7 As source 2