Whether you're taking a shower or brushing your teeth, your bathroom is the place you go to get healthy and clean—and the unhealthiest things in your bathroom may surprise you. There are some everyday items lurking in this sanctuary that simply aren't healthy at all. "Damp bathrooms are breeding grounds for bacteria and molds without many people realizing it," says Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., Professor of Public Health at New Mexico State University. Check out these seven unhealthiest things in your bathroom.
Your (Unwashed) Shower Towel Can Be Gross
When you step out of the shower and dry off, you should feel clean and refreshed. But if your shower towel hasn't been washed in a while, you're just wiping germs all over your clean body.
Wash and dry your shower towel after using it three times, suggests Philip Tierno from New York University Langone Health. "If there is odor coming from the towel, wherever there is odor, there are microbes growing, so it should be washed," says Tierno. It's also important to let your towel dry completely between each use.
Soaps with Harsh Chemicals Can Hurt Your Skin
If you opt for an antibacterial soap to use in the shower or some other type that promises to get rid of every speck of dirt, you may be exposing your skin to harsh chemicals.
When choosing a soap for your everyday shower routine, keep in mind, bacteria isn't necessarily your enemy and you don't need chemicals to kill it. "Unless you've been hanging out in an Ebola ward, the vast majority of microbes on your skin and hands are not virulent germs that cause serious infection; they're harmless bacteria that won't hurt you," says Dr. Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE from the Digestive Center for Women.
Chutkan says by "scouring ourselves in the shower every day, we are actually stripping our skin of bacteria that keep us acne and eczema free."
Your Scale Can Be Misleading
Eating a healthy and balanced diet and adapting a regular exercise routine are the best ways to stay healthy. But most people judge their "health" by the number on the scale. Your bathroom scale can be a misleading tool that may make you stress for no reason.
"BMI and weight can be useful tools for assessing a person's size, but health is better measured by improvement and maintenance of healthy behaviors," says Dr. Michael Richardson, MD. How do you feel? What are your habits? These are more important questions to answer than "What's the number on the scale?"
Your Vinyl Shower Curtain Can Be Poisonous
Between mold, soap buildup, and rips, your shower curtain is obviously not made to last forever. But before you replace it with a vinyl one, consider the chemicals that may be used to manufacture your curtain. That smell a new shower curtain omits may not just be gross, it could also negatively impact your health.
In a study published in Epidemiology, several brands of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) shower curtains were analyzed for the presence of diester phthalates and organotins. The study found "Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) comprised 16% to 25% by weight of three of the shower curtains, while diisononyl phthalate (DINP) comprised 38 to 39% of the other curtains." Consistently breathing in these chemicals may cause throat or lung irritation.
Replace it with a natual one and wash it regularly.
Shampoo with Parabens Can Harm You
You may have noticed that many cosmetic products, including shampoos, now market themselves as "paraben-free." "Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products," according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA doesn't currently regulate the use of parabens in products and more studies are needed to learn about the potential side effects of these chemicals.
However, a 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology found parabens present in breast cancer tumors, providing they may play a role in cancer development and hormonal regulation. "These studies demonstrate that parabens can be found intact in the human breast and this should open the way technically for more detailed information to be obtained on body burdens of parabens and in particular whether body burdens are different in cancer from those in normal tissues."
Your Loofah Can Be a Hub for Bacteria
Using a loofah to lather up in the shower seems like the most healthy and natural choice. While loofahs are great for removing dead skin cells, they can actually trap these dead cells inside, causing bacteria to grow. When you clean yourself again with this loofah, you expose your skin to this bacteria, which can cause skin irritation or infection.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology analyzed used loofahs and found several types of bacteria, including Bacillus spp. and Staphylococcus epidermidis. Loofahs "can serve as a reservoir and a vehicle for the transmission of potentially pathogenic species to the human skin," the study concluded.
To ensure you're really getting clean in the shower, "make sure you keep your loofahs clean, replace them regularly and use them gently — do not rub your skin too vigorously," suggests Dr. Melissa Piliang, MD from the Cleveland Clinic.
Your Make-up Brushes Can Have Bacteria
If you're not on a regular make-up brush cleaning schedule, these beauty tools could be full of bacteria that cause rashes, skin irritations, and breakouts. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology analyzed cosmetics and make-up tools and found that 70% to 90% of these products had loads of bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Citrobacter freundii.
"To protect your skin and kill any harmful bacteria that lingers in your makeup brushes, it's a good idea to wash your brushes every seven to 10 days," according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA). And to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.