Hands Off Your Face: Strategies to Stop Touching Your Face

Our hands are often a direct connection between ourselves and the world around us. They perform countless tasks throughout the day, inevitably picking up germs from all the countless objects and surfaces we interact with.
And then you touch your face.

Why Is Face Touching a Problem?

When you touch your face, you make it easy for those microorganisms to reach your eyes, nose, and mouth—entry points for infections like colds, flu, and COVID-19.

One study found that people touch their faces an average of 23 times per hour—approximately every 3 minutes.

This may seem like an innocent habit, but it is closely linked to the spread of contagious illnesses.

Why We Touch Our Faces

There are several reasons why we tend to touch our faces so often. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Habit: For many people, face touching is an unconscious habit. It can be a way to self-soothe or cope with stress.
  • Physical discomfort: Itching, dryness, or irritation on the face can prompt you to touch it to alleviate the discomfort.
  • Emotions: Touching your face can be an emotional response involving anxiety, nervousness, or boredom.

Create Conscious Awareness

Becoming more aware of your face-touching habits is the first step in breaking the cycle. Start by paying attention to when and why you touch your face.

Are there certain triggers, like stress or tiredness, that cause you to touch your face more often?

Identifying these triggers will allow you to address them more effectively and make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face.

Mindfulness meditation can also help you become more aware of your habitual postures, gestures, and actions.

Set aside a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or body scans, which can help you become more in tune with your body and its sensations.

As you develop greater self-awareness, you’ll be better equipped to catch yourself when you’re about to touch your face and redirect your attention elsewhere.

Find Alternatives

Once you’re aware of your face-touching triggers, it’s time to find alternative behaviors to replace the habit.

For example:

  • If you touch your face out of habit, try wearing a bracelet or a rubber band on your wrist and snapping it when you feel the urge to touch your face.
  • If you touch your face due to itching or irritation, address the root cause by using moisturizers, or hypoallergenic skincare products, or consulting a dermatologist.
  • If you touch your face due to emotional reasons, find other ways to cope with your feelings, such as stress balls, fidget toys, or deep breathing exercises.

Keep Your Hands Occupied

An effective way to prevent face touching is by keeping your hands busy. Engage in activities that require the use of both hands, such as knitting, typing, or playing an instrument.

When you’re not using your hands, try to keep them folded or resting on your lap to minimize the temptation to touch your face.

Establish a Visual Reminder

Visual reminders, such as a bright-colored bracelet, a sticky note on your computer screen, or a mirror placed near your workspace, can serve as prompts to help you stay conscious of your face-touching behavior.

Whenever you see the visual reminder, take a moment to assess whether you’ve touched your face recently and use the opportunity to refocus on keeping your hands away from your face.

Maintain Hand Hygiene

Even with your best efforts, completely stopping face touching might be unrealistic. Therefore, you’ll need to take extra care to maintain good hand hygiene.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public places, before eating, and after using the restroom. Use hand sanitizer when hand washing isn’t possible.

By being mindful of your face-touching habits and taking proactive steps to change them, you can reduce the risk of illness and improve your overall health.