Now that we know that it’s bad to touch our faces, how do we break a habit that most of us didn’t know we had?
When health guidelines for protecting yourself from coronavirus were released, I studied them intensely. Increase hand-washing? Sure thing. Self-isolate if you have any symptoms? Will do. But there was one thing on the list that I knew would be near impossible: stop touching your face.
As soon as I found out that touching your face is something you shouldn’t do, I discovered just how much I do it. My face is itchy; I scratch it. My eye is watering; I wipe the goo away. Thinking; I put my forefinger to my mouth like a villain in a Disney film. A single hair drifts gently across my cheek, alerting every nerve ending in the vicinity that I want to touch it.
CDC: don’t touch your faceFebruary 28, 2020
Yet no matter how much I tell myself to not touch my face, some instances escape my notice entirely—like when I suddenly realize I am resting my whole head on my chin while looking at my computer screen. (Does my chin count as my face in this situation?)
We are now well into a pandemic and resting the urge to touch one's face is only getting harder. One study found that, on average, people touch their faces 23 times an hour. We now also know fetuses touch their faces in the womb, which means we all got into the habit before we were even born. Why we do it remains an open question. There is some research suggesting that face-touching may help us to regulate emotions, Wired reports; it’s also possible it could serve some kind of social function. But what’s the solution? Makeup.
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Hear me out on this. I know it sounds contradictory given the fact makeup is one of the main reasons that I end up drawing my hands to my faces during the day. Lips dry? I smear on a spot of balm. Panda eyes in situ? I try and whip the smudge away with my fingers. Spot peaking through my foundation? Not to worry, a dab or two of concealer with my fingertips, and job's a good'un.
And while my everyday makeup has changed vastly over the past few weeks, I've found on the rare occasion (read: a trip to Tesco to buy snacks) where I actually apply makeup, not only does it make me feel better but I've found I touch my face far less. For example, if I'm wearing bold winged liner - I resist the urge to rub my eye in fear of ruining my work. Intrigued? Read on.
Red lipstick is always a good idea. Powerful women use it to assert their space and others used it to build courage and flirt with the idea of breaking down social norms. Red lipstick has inspired women like Dita Von Teese to assert, "Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people", while it was the driving force for Coco Chanel, "If you're sad, add more lipstick and attack". And even during a pandemic, red lipstick is my saviour. Firstly, it boosts my mood like a chilled glass of rosé and second, even just applying a red lip keeps your hands away from your face. Think about it, if you've spent all morning getting the application of your favourite bold shade just right, you won't go near your face with your hands for fear of wrecking it.
Finished applying your foundation? A touch of loose or pressed powder across your T-zone, or any areas that tend to get shiny throughout the and risk product movement, will keep your look in place all day, meaning no need for reapplication.
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Ever since my teenage years, I’ve been a devoted user of liquid eyeliner. Still to this day, I can't be seen outside my house without it – flicks are a part of my identity. Similar to how red lipstick can transform my mood and keep me away from my face, eyeliner works a treat too. Think about it, if you've spent all morning getting the angle of your cat eye just right, you won't go near your eyes with your hands for fear of smudging. What's more, if you're an eyeliner neophyte, then now is the perfect time to get practising; no one will be around to witness any ghastly mistakes!
Now this one comes recommended by a doctor. In an interview with Refinery29, Dr Susan Mayou recommended using sensory tools such as stress balls, or even jade or other crystal rollers (which must be regularly disinfected) for their cooling and therapeutic properties. "Massage this pressure point every time you have an urge to pick or touch your face, lips or eyes."
As my colleagues will attest to, I spray my face with Avène thermal spring water or Mac's prep + prime spray more times than I probably touch my face. Not only are they great at fixing your makeup in place (that’s also why you’ll often see a setting spray referred to as a fixing spray), but both are also packed with skin-friendly ingredients that act as a final skincare step on top of your makeup. But how does this come into play with getting you to stop touching your face? Well, sometimes your face getting dry during the day is all it takes to bring your hand up to meet it. Dryness can result in itchiness, and itches need to be scratch. Stave off dehydration by misting on a skin-soothing face mist. Simple.
If nail-biting is the main reason you're likely to draw your hands to your face, then allow me to introduce you to nail polish. Not the kind that tastes bad when you bite (although don't all nail polishes taste bad?) but just regular polish. Painting your nails, ideally with a touch of nail art will stop you from biting your nails. How? Well, every time you go to lift your hand to your face, you'll be reminded of the masterpiece you painted and biting it will chip it. We mean, you never heard of Michaelangelo biting his works of art now did you?
eye will stop
Granted, most of the make-up looks we've referenced so far involve a statement look, but if you'd rather go for a barely-there effect and still ward off eye rubs, why not try a natural-look false eyelash? Trust us, it's not as extra as you think and once you've got a set on, you won't touch your eye area all day.
Technically this is more haircare than it is makeup, but hey - anything that will get you to stop touching your face is worth a mention, right? If a single hair falls onto your face, you touch it. It's impossible not to. The easiest way to combat this is to prevent it from happening altogether. Brush your hair up into a high ponytail. Secure with a bobbin and then take small sections of the hair and twist and secure each to the base with hair clips. Easy.
Main image by @nikki_makeup on Instagram