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Healthy Living

Grooming Routines
  • Hair
  • Skin
  • Teeth
  • Hands
  • Nails
  • Feet
  • Menstrual Hygiene

  • Hair

    It is your crowning glory. Nuns were required to cover it. Orthodox Hindu widows were required to shave it. Perhaps because a good head of hair can add that much to sex appeal. If you are blessed with hair, it is easy enough to maintain it. Keep it at a length and style at which you can maintain it.

    Wash your hair at least once a week using soap or mild shampoo. Avoid shampoos with borax or alkalis. Rinse well. This is more important than working up a head load of lather.

    Dry your hair after a wash.

    Brush your hair three to four times a day with a soft bristled brush or a wide toothed comb. Wash your brush and comb every time you wash your hair.

    Oil the scalp, once a week, preferably an hour before hair wash.

    There are no completely safe or permanent hair dyes as of now. Apart from causing scalp allergies, dyes can also cause allergic colds and throat conditions. Perform a sensitivity test every time you use hair colour.


    In Victorian England, modest young women were taught to wash themselves without getting quite naked. In Hindu culture baths were, apart from daily ablutions, mandatory as part of observing pollution for various reasons and occasions. But ritual bathing, or a dip, is quite different from the daily bath personal hygiene demands.

    Soap and water are essential for keeping the skin clean. A good bath once or twice a day is recommended, especially in tropical countries like India. Those who are involved in active sports or work out to a sweat would do well to take a bath after the activity.

    A mild soap will do the job adequately. Germicidal or antiseptic soaps are not essential for the daily bath. You can use a bath sponge for scrubbing. Back brushes and heel scrubbers are available. But do not use abrasive material.

    The genitals and the anus need to be cleaned well because of the natural secretions of these areas, in unhygienic conditions, can cause irritation and infection.

    Wash off well after soaping. Drying with a clean towel is important. Avoid sharing soaps and towels.

    Change into clean underwear after bath.

    Around middle age the skin tends to go dry a bit. A moisturising oil or cream can be used. It is better to use this at night, because if you go out in the sun or commute on dusty roads when the skin is wet, dust sticks to it and oils may also give you a tan.


    Have you heard of the sixty-second battery operated wonder brush? It has been analysed that it takes only that long to give your teeth a good brush. You have to hold the brush to your teeth and say cheese (and then perhaps S-A-U-C-E for the brush to get a good scrub inside!).

    Well, whether it is a neem twig or battery brush, you cannot give brushing a miss.

    Brush teeth twice a day and rinse well after every meal. Brushing before going to bed is important. (Especially recommended for people with a sweet tooth). For normal teeth this is adequate.

    While brushing, pay attention to the fact that you are getting rid of the food particles stuck in between the teeth and in the crevices of the flatter teeth at the back, the molars and pre molars. Brush down on the upper teeth and brush up on the lower teeth. Use a circular motion. Pay attention to the tongue and the inner surface of teeth as well.

    The brush should have resilient bristles. It should be rinsed well and left to dry after use. There are no perfect toothpastes or powders. Use one without harsh abrasives or strong antiseptics.


    The world around us swarms with micro-organisms. Some bacteria are found on our bodies. In countries where food is eaten and prepared with bare hands extra attention has to be paid to the cleanliness of hands. Besides, a permanent layer of dust or grime reduces the sensitivity of the hands.

    Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after every meal and after visiting the toilet. Soaping and rinsing should cover the areas between fingers, nails and back of the hand. Hands should be dried with a clean towel after wash. The towel at the wash stand has to be washed and changed everyday.

    While cooking, especially when packing lunches, you can prevent food from spoilage and minimise contamination by keeping your hands clean. While handling food avoid scratching, or touching the ears, nose, mouth or other body orifices. If you need to use a handkerchief or tissue, wash your hands after that. Keep your nails short.

    Nail Polish users should see that it does not chip off into the food.


    For horny, largely vestigial growths at the tips of your fingers, they are pretty important. For reasons of hygiene and for the multi million dollar cosmetic industry.

    It takes five months for nails to replace themselves. Grow nails only if you can keep them clean. (Sridhar Chillal has clawed himself into the Guinness Book of World records with nails on each finger of his left hand measuring about 3½ feet. With nails like that the hand must be pretty useless). Short nails make less trouble. Clip nails short, along their shape. Don't cut them so close that it pinches the skin.

    A healthy body ensures healthy nails. Brittle or discoloured nails show up deficiencies or disease conditions.

    Do not keep your nails painted continuously. It causes the keratin, of which nails are made, to split. Pamper your hands and nails once every three weeks with a manicure. This requires soaking your hands in warm water for ten minutes, massaging of hands, thorough cleaning and shaping of nails. Choose your manicure kit with care. In some kits, the instruments are crudely made and they will do more harm than good.


    Give your feet a good scrub with a sponge, pumice stone or foot scrubber that is not made of very abrasive material when having a bath. Dry after bath between toes. Keep toenails clipped.

    In many Indian households it is mandatory to wash feet as you enter the house. This is fine, but make sure that your skin does not become dry due to washing too often.

    Those who use shoes constantly need to slip them off now and then. This airs the socks a bit and makes them less smelly. Wear cotton socks. Wear a clean pair everyday. Powder your feet before wearing socks. Many people have sweaty feet, and socks and shoes can get quite smelly. If possible do not wear the same pair of shoes every day. Keep atleast one more pair and use it alternatively. Go for a pedicure once in three weeks.

    Give importance to wearing comfort in the choice of footwear. For those who go barefoot indoors, door mats must be cleaned or changed frequently. Extra foot care is required for diabetics.

    Menstrual Hygiene

    No woman feels completely comfortable when she has her period. If it is not pre menstrual tension or stomach cramps it is the problem of dealing with the menstrual flow.

    Technology offers sanitary pads, tampons or menstrual cups or caps to deal with the flow. The user has to decide what suits her best. Absorbent pads may be noticeable in form fitting clothes. They cause some soreness on the inner thighs.

    Some women prefer tampon to external pads. A plug of absorbent cotton or gauze is inserted inside. But these should not be left unchanged beyond six hours. Some brands state that tampons left unchanged for more than 12-18 hours increases the possibility of toxic shock.

    It is not clear what causes toxic shock. But there seems to be a link between tampons and Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Approximately 1% of all menstruating women carry the bacteria in question (Staphylococcus aureus) in their vagina. Absorbent tampons provide the medium for them to grow and spread infection.

    TSS cases were first reported in 1978. It is marked by high fever, severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The cases can be mild to fatal.

    The menstrual cup (or cap), is inserted within and collects the flow and can be emptied, cleaned and re used.

    Whatever the preference, washing is important. There need be no taboo about bath on these days. Some people have the problem of odour during menstruation. Cleanliness and change of pad/tampon as often as is necessary reduces this problem. It is not advisable to use perfumed pads or tampons. In fact, using powder in the genital area is not recommended.


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