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Everyday objects, bacteria…and your acne

February 20, 2013 by Works with Water

If you suffer from ‘problem’ skin such as acne, spots and blemishes just take a moment to consider how, unknown to us, everyday objects and how we interact with them can contribute to the condition of our skin.

A study from Stanford found out that your touchscreen device has 18x more bacteria on it than a men’s restroom toilet handle.

The reason for these hoards of bacteria on your screen is because your hands are in constant contact with a litany of potential sources such as light switches, keyboards, door knobs…all bacteria sanctuaries that you handle without much thought. And those bacteria can go back and forth between the screen and your hands.

Without getting everyone into a germ panic, let’s take a look at some of the truth and fiction around what’s a breeding ground for bacteria.

Dirty Door Handles
Claim: The bathroom-door handle on the public restroom is the germiest place.

False: Door handles actually have the least bacteria of any surface in public restrooms, according to a test by Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. That’s because, according to Gerba’s tests, 68 percent of people wash their hands before leaving the restroom. To pick up something like salmonella, which can cause diarrhea, from someone who didn’t wash up, you’d need a huge dose of the bacteria.  Also, most bacteria need a warm, moist environment to survive and can live on hard, dry surfaces for only one to two hours.

Unclean Office Objects
Claim: Your office desk is way dirtier than a toilet bowl.

True: The average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet bowl, simply because people usually don’t clean their desks on a regular basis. Most of these germs are harmless, but in a recent study Gerba and his colleagues found the parainfluenza virus, which causes colds and flu, on about one-third of office surfaces. The ‘germiest’ object?: the phone. Viruses such as the flu can survive for two or three days on desktops, phones, and computer keyboards. They’re transmitted when you touch contaminated objects and then put your hands on your nose, mouth, and eyes, says Gerba. (By the way, the door handle on the microwave in the office kitchen is also a very germy place)


  • Keep microbe levels on your desk down by regularly cleaning with a disinfecting wipe
  • Don’t apply disinfectant directly to equipment, which can damage it. Spray first on a paper towel.
  • If you share a phone, clean it every day.
  • Wash your hands often (with warm water and soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer)
  • Try not to touch your face!

Sleeping with the enemy
Claim: If you’ve had the same pillow for years, you’re bunking with billions of bacteria.

True: But don’t lose any sleep over it. The organisms found on pillows are normally harmless bacteria that live on your skin. “You’re more likely to become uncomfortable sleeping on a pillow before you reach a point where you’re going to get a serious infection from it,” says Brown. Plus, pillows themselves aren’t breeding grounds for germs: Bacteria need something to live on to multiply, and they can’t do that on the materials in pillows (including the stuffing). Worst-case scenario: If you’ve got a staph infection with a boil, you could reinfect yourself or transfer it, says Brown. “But the chances are low if the pillow has a clean case, which provides a barrier.”


  • Wash pillowcases once a week and pillows regularly (most can go in the washing machine).
  • You can change your pillow every five or six years (although experts suggest this for comfort reasons, it sounds pretty sensible!)

Cosmetic purse breeding ground!
Claim: Your makeup is a breeding ground for bacteria.

True: “Any bacteria on your hands or face contaminates the makeup when they come in contact,” says Elizabeth Brooks, a professor of biological sciences at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. Two possible problems can result: pimples, which are caused by bacteria trapped inside pores; and pinkeye, a bacterial infection caused by staphylococcus.


  • Avoid infection by washing your hands before applying makeup and cleaning your applicators weekly.
  • Toss makeup after two months.
  • For foundation, instead of touching the tube or bottle with your fingers, pour it on your hand or an applicator to apply.
  • Wipe brushes with alcohol when you don’t have time to wash them.
  • Never share makeup; you can easily transfer infections this way.
  • Clean your cosmetic purse regularly

Dirty Money!
Claim: Money is by far the germiest stuff around.

False: In general, because paper money is dry, it doesn’t give bacteria a chance to multiply to levels that would make you sick, says Gerba. Plus, the metal in coins actually acts as an antibacterial agent. You certainly don’t have to run to the bathroom and wash up after each transaction — unless you sit down to eat afterward, he says. And you should always wash your hands before eating anyway!

Tip: Spend quickly to avoid contaminated money in your purse…or save it diligently for something special!


  • Don’t get too hung up on germs and bacteria – they are all around us and they are a fact of life unless you live in a bubble!
  • Just think sensibly about the link between your skin and the everyday objects that we all touch on a regular basis and make personal hygiene a priority
  • If you do have a skin problem such as acne, psoriasis or eczema, then it’s even more important to be conscious of everyday hygiene
  • Acne is not caused by poor hygiene but constantly touching your face – and squeezing your acne spots – thereby introducing further bacteria is definitely not advised if you want to have clear skin
  • help: clear skin and help: clear skin for men contain milk protein, rich in lactoferrin, which has been proven to reduce acne by boosting your body’s natural defences.  By limiting the growth of acne bacteria, lactoferrin reduces the appearances of blemishes and speeds up the skin’s innate healing process, leaving you with clearer and more radiant skin.

Whilst typing this, Jules estimates she touched her face approximately 15 times.  She must do better…! 🙂

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