5 Simple Tricks to Stop Touching Your Face So Much

It’s easier than you think.

Today, you likely rubbed your eyes, scratched your nose, wiped away a crumb from your mouth, smoothed over your temples—or something in between. In fact, you've probably touched your face dozens, if not hundreds of times, without realizing it. And now's as good a time as any to try to stop doing it so much. "Our hands carry bacteria," says Lucy Chen, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida. "When you touch your face, you can unwittingly spread oil, dirt, and bacteria from your hands to your face." And this doesn't just trigger breakouts and clog pores, but it can also cause premature aging.

"Rubbing the eyes can create tiny tears in the [surrounding skin] tissue," she says. "This can age the eyes and break the capillaries in the eyelids, which can then intensify dark circles." And as tempting as it is to try to drain a pimple by squeezing it, "it's best to leave touching your face for when you're moisturizing, cleansing, or applying makeup or sunscreen." Most importantly, if and when you do touch your face—because it's somewhat inevitable—Dr. Chen urges you to "please be sure your hands are very clean."

How to Stop Touching Your Face So Much: woman touching her face
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Of course, there's also the worry of spreading germs and viruses, like COVID-19 or flu viruses, from your hands to your face as well. But breaking the habit of constant face-touching is easier said than done; it's a habit that's well ingrained in human behavior. Here are a few easy-to-follow tips and tactics from experts to help break the cycle of face touching for good.

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Keep your hands busy.

According to Dr. Chen, one of the easiest ways to break a face-touching habit is to keep your hands busy. "You can use a stress ball or a rubber band around your wrist to snap every time you want to touch your face," she says. You can even "use ready-made children's slime to mush around." Looking for something more productive? Dr. Chen suggests taking up a hobby like crocheting to keep your hands occupied.

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Visualize what you're passing around.

One other Dr. Chen-approved method to kick this behavior is to visualize all the icky stuff you may be spreading onto your face because of it. "Use visualization techniques and picture your hands as 'dirty instruments' and think of all of the disgusting things and places they have touched all day long," she says. "Put this image in your mind even if your hands are clean." If it sounds slightly disturbing, this may be the perfect solution.

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Count your touches.

Steven Hayes, a researcher and psychologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, shared on Nevada Today that some 40 years ago, he and fellow researchers studied exactly how often people touch their faces. He found his subjects touched their faces some 0.5 to 3 times a minute. "Do the math. That means if we are awake for 16 hours, we touch our faces hundreds or even thousands of times a day," he wrote. So what's his tip to stop? It's simple: Count every time you reach for your face.

"Keep track of the touches," he says. "It does not matter what the [method for counting] is–it could be a golf counter, a sheet of graph paper, or the lap timer on your smartphone. Religiously record every single time you touch your face and within minutes, it will drop to a rate low enough that you can keep track of it for a long time without disruption." Simple yet brilliant.

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Bust out the markers.

If counting is too much, Dr. Chen suggests trying a more physical reminder. "Use a black marker to draw a dot on each palm and on the back of each hand," she says. "Every time you raise your hand to touch your face, you'll see the large ink spot and remember to keep your hands away from your face." You may end up rubbing some of that marker right onto your face, which will really remind you to stop touching it later.

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Ask a friend for help.

If counting, visualization, and keeping busy don't work, try asking a loved one to help, suggests Joycelyn A. Datu, MD, at Cape Cod Healthcare's Rogers Outpatient Center. A friend or family member can "say something when they see us touching our faces unconsciously," Dr. Datu shares in a blog post. "We need to consider what triggered the touch to make us more aware."

Face Cleansing Tips in the Meantime

As you take steps to break this habit, keep your face as clean as possible without drying it out. "Use a gentle cleanser morning and night. To control acne, use pads that contain glycolic or salicylic acid once a day to cleanse and exfoliate. "And before applying your makeup, use a non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizer with hyaluronic acid."

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