Hygiene

July 10, 2021

Introduction

I have written before on the importance of education on things not talked about in the open, such as personal hygiene. This article is my attempt to work towards that ideal, providing some of my experiences with everyday personal care and habits, which will hopefully be helpful for the younger readers of this site.

Dental care

There is a very damaging habit accepted in society, of eating dessert last. This is damaging because sugar molecules and their derivatives tend to be highly adherent and provide nutrition to bacteria in the mouth, thus finishing a meal with dessert means there will be ample time after the meal for the bacteria to eat the sugar and multiply. This includes sugary drinks and juices served along with the meal. I use a reverse approach, starting a meal with the dessert, then having the main savory course, and finishing with a salad. Except for rare occasions, I only drink water, and avoid sugary drinks and juices. The best way to clean teeth and mouth surfaces is not with a brush, but by chewing vegetables and fruits, whose spongy and fibrous texture acts as a "chewable toothbrush". Finishing every meal with a salad (a plain salad, without a sugary and oily dressing) leaves the mouth in a state that will reduce bacterial growth in the interval after the meal.

Finishing a meal with fruit is also an option, but less preferred because fruits have a higher sugar content and tend to be acidic. After eating fruits, I recommend doing at least three full mouth rinses with water, to remove most of the acidity, and for particularly acidic or bitter fruits, do a rinse with water and baking soda to neutralize the acid. I keep a container of baking soda for this purpose, to mix in whenever needed. If there are situations where it is not feasible to follow this regime, such as at a social gathering where it is expected that everyone eats dessert last, it is important to excuse yourself immediately after the meal and brush your teeth to remove at least some of the adhered sugar, though over the years I've come to care less about following harmful social protocols so I often skip dessert altogether in these situations.

It is important to be aware of the role of saliva in keeping the gums and teeth healthy. Saliva contains enzymes which help process and remove food nutrients from the teeth surface, thus reducing the opportunity for bacteria to grow there. These enzymes also help to inhibit bacterial growth, which is why it is instinctive for animals to lick wounds as a sort of first line defense against infection. Staying well hydrated, having a healthy diet with limited meal times (as few as once a day, rather than snacking all day long), and being mentally balanced, all contribute to production of saliva that coats the teeth and contributes to dental health. Breathing through the mouth dries the saliva and is detrimental to dental health.

There are three other habits which help maintain healthy teeth. First, avoid rapid shifts in temperature (hot to cold, or cold to hot, and around water freezing point) - teeth are a sort of natural ceramic and like all ceramics they form cracks when stressed from uneven thermal expansion. After eating ice cream, wait a few minutes for teeth to slowly return to body temperature before drinking hot tea. Second, if drinking sugary drinks (soda, juice, sweet tea) use a straw to direct the sugary liquid onto the tongue so it does not touch any teeth. This prevents sugar from adhering to the teeth and supporting bacterial growth there, and also prevents thermal shifts in tooth temperature as the cold or hot liquid does not touch the teeth. Third, avoid consuming staining foods and drinks like wine, coffee, and tea, as well as cigarette smoking, as all these will over time stain the teeth and make them look less clean. If you do consume these, follow up with a thorough fresh water rinse soon afterwards to help remove the staining material (I do not recommend brushing soon after eating because acids from the food may leave the enamel softened for a while and brushing at that time can cause damage to it more easily).

When I am able to end all meals with vegetables or fruits, I haven't found a need to brush more than once a day, in the evening before going to bed (so that the time spent in bed, which is free time for bacteria to eat and multiply, is minimally damaging since there will be little nutrition left for the bacteria). It is important to add to this procedure an antiseptic mouthwash gargle (I like the Listerine brand, and have been using the purple colored one with alcohol), as well as flossing. For the order, I start by flossing, then brushing, then the mouthwash. When flossing, use a long string of floss (about 50 cm) and slowly cycle through the whole length, such that each space between teeth gets a new section of the string, which avoids cross-contaminating bacteria from the spaces between teeth and provides a more effective dry textured surface of the floss to remove adhered particles. I really don't like the small plastic-handled flosser devices for this reason, since that tiny length of floss should only be used for one or two spots and not whole mouth. With the floss, apply tension such that one then the other surface of adjacent teeth has the string sliding across it with friction, as this is what will displace adhered matter. I use the large 240 yd container of Reach waxed floss, so I never worry about using too much floss in a day. The Reach brand has been what I've returned to after trying others, due to its grippy texture (this helps trap and remove particles) and its tear resistance (this helps exit tight spaces between teeth without tearing the floss and leaving tiny uncomfortable bits of floss between teeth - probably my least favorite experience in flossing).

When brushing, replace the toothbrush every few months, use only slight pressure (the brush should not look like it's been chewed through - the bristles should remain straight facing upwards throughout its life, if they become bent sideways you're using too much pressure - remember the cleaning action is at the bristle tips not bristle body), and make sure to reach all tooth surfaces with a circular motion which will take about 2 minutes in total (use a timer to make sure - this might feel longer than it seems). I use the Philips Sonicare toothbrush, and highly recommend it, because its high frequency vibrations (some kHz) effectively remove adhered contaminants - much more effective than hand brushing or "cheap" low frequency electric brushes. I also use the Hand&Hammer toothpaste with baking soda, because the baking soda provides an acid neutralizing advantage as well as a light scrubbing action. I avoid using whitening products, and also avoid consuming staining foods like coffee, tea, coca-cola, cranberry juice, and wine; my teeth are not bright white but I don't really care about that as long as they are healthy.

It is also important, and much under-appreciated, to brush your tongue. The tongue is a textured surface with high surface area, where bacteria and nutrients can hide out and provide a source of chemicals harmful to the teeth even after you have cleaned all tooth surfaces. Use the toothbrush, with light pressure, to brush along the full length of the tongue (including all the way back to the throat), and rinse with fresh water, then repeat this a few more times to ensure most particles have been displaced. Doing this thoroughly might take 1-2 minutes. After done with brushing, make sure the toothbrush is stored in a manner that will allow it to completely dry. When rinsing with mouthwash, swish it in the mouth vigorously to cover every surface including between teeth and roof of mouth, and also gargle with head tilted back to reach the back of the tongue which cannot be easily brushed (but still capable of holding substantial adhered matter which provides nutrition for bacteria and often leading to tonsil stone formation). The recommended time for the Listerine mouthwash is 60 seconds, which is a lot longer than most people seem to do (they just swish it around once and spit out), but this long time is essential for the antiseptic effect to work. (As a side note, this is also true for hand sanitizer - after applying the sanitizer to your hands, the goal is not to dry it out as quickly as possible, but rather to keep it wet as long as possible so that the alcohol in the gel disrupts the cell walls of bacteria on the skin.)

Household

Cooking is not all that difficult, and in case no one bothered to teach you, it doesn't take much work to learn by yourself. Cooking is basically carrying out a very simple chemical reaction: raw ingredient + heat + time = cooked ingredient. So once you have your ingredients, the only two things to worry about are the heat and the time to apply the heat for. An important skill is patience and just letting the heat do the work; when I was starting out I felt the need to constantly check and stir everything and was always getting undercooked food, then one day I was busy and distracted, and barely attended to the cooking, and the result was great. The reason recipes call for boiling water is that this is an easy way to tell the water is around 100 C (less with elevation), however there is no requirement for this precise temperature: you can cook with much higher energy efficiency by keeping the water at 90 C (where you won't be losing as much energy making steam that doesn't do anything, although there will be reduced convection of water and slightly lower heat transfer to cold ingredients), or you can cook much faster by having the water above 100 C in a pressure cooker. On efficiency and convenience, it is difficult to beat the microwave - it delivers energy directly to the food so is much more efficient (meaning also faster) than other methods. The microwave is often seen as only relevant for heavily processed foods like hot pockets and frozen dinners, however it is perfectly usable for "real" cooking like vegetables, rice, potatoes, beans, and sauces (avoid microwaving full eggs as they can blow up and make a big mess). I avoid using any plastics in the microwave or when applying heat otherwise, because various chemicals in the plastics can melt and enter the food leading to poor taste or possible health effects. Instead, I have a set of various sizes of glass containers, and use these when microwaving and storing food. The containers will typically have plastic lids, and the lids should be removed when heating (a plastic lid may be replaced by a ceramic plate flipped upside down) so that steam from the food does not heat and soften the plastic and then condense and drip various plasticizer chemicals into the food. I always cover food in the microwave and use low power for longer cook times to avoid boiling and superheating near the edges of food containers, this keeps the inside of the microwave very clean even after years of use.

Picky chefs will insist pasta should be placed in water that is already hot, so that it forms a firm layer on the outside that keeps the pasta shape and texture; if placed in cold water (or stored in a high humidity location) the pasta will be soggy. Rice, beans, and grains on the other hand should be placed in cold water to maximize the time for water to permeate into the grain to give a more palatable result. Still, the difference between the two approaches is not anything dramatic, the food will still be edible if cooked for long enough even if it's not gourmet level. Vegetables are best served steamed (vastly better appearance and flavor than boiled) because steaming does not leach the nutrients and flavors (as much), and maintains a vibrant color - you can buy a steamer type pot to do this conveniently. Eggs are easy to make by boiling or by frying, and even if you undercook them, they're not too dangerous to consume, so they are a good animal product to practice cooking with. With meat you should take a lot more care because all contaminated surfaces should be cleaned, and the inside temperature should be measured (use a cooking thermometer for this). I largely avoid meats because of moral and practical concerns, as well as the sketchiness of the meat industry (adding colors to make sick anemic meat look more healthy, washing diseased carcasses in bleach to get rid of the stench before cutting the meat for sale, animal abuse).

Diet

There are major economic forces at play that want you to consume their products. Much like the opium dens of old, these corporations are very happy to supply you with a product that you will get addicted to, because then they have a permanent income stream. It is important to critically evaluate everything that goes in your mouth to confirm that it is not part of such an addiction cycle. Various caffeinated and carbonated soda products are addicting, coffee is addicting, meat is addicting, fried food is addicting. A human can live perfectly fine without consuming any of these things. I place particular emphasis on the meat industry because its addicting product involves animal suffering, so consuming it is not morally neutral. From birth, I was trained to eat animal products at least three times a day as the main portion of each meal, but there is no reason for this: I have now transitioned to a diet where I don't eat any animal products for weeks or months at a time, and I have observed no change in mental or physical performance. Unlike a decade ago, vegetarian and vegan products are now readily available in all major stores in the US. There is no reason to eat meat or eggs or drink cow milk, regardless of how the meat industry has convinced society that these things are life essentials. There is no cruelty-free meat (or eggs or milk), and the various "cage free" and "pasture raised" labels are just a marketing tactic, because an industry that does not care about animal life cannot be expected to care about human life either. If there were anything moral about the animal product companies, they would not be so secretive about their operations. Assuming you are on this website for more than just gawking at the lines of text, and maybe we have something in common, I want to confidently say that no ill effect will occur if you reduce your consumption of animal products, and that you should do so if possible (as the Dalai Lama says, "it is always possible").

Losing weight is done primarily in the kitchen. There is a belief popularized in western society that to lose weight one has to go to the gym and become sweaty and miserable from all the hard physical work. This is not so. All it takes is reducing caloric intake and re-balancing other consumed nutrients. Because I am going against deeply ingrained beliefs, let me repeat: if you want to lose weight, the way to do this is by controlling what you eat (and drink - especially the sugary sodas). Forget about gym and exercise, and focus all your efforts on tracking and systematically improving your food (and soda) intake, and results will inevitably follow. The fact is, this mental effort of facing a dependence on food, that is to say an eating disorder, is significantly more difficult and unpleasant than going to the gym and lifting some weights, and this is why so many people try to follow the relatively easy solution, get discouraged and annoyed with exercise, then return to their old comfortable habits. If you intend to use exercise to aid weight loss, once you have established a healthy caloric intake through your diet, the aerobic long-lasting type of physical effort, like walking, bicycling, hiking, and swimming, will tend to burn more calories than lifting weights. Also there is a significant use of calories for maintaining body heat - so wear lighter clothing all the time (including lighter blanket at night) to burn more calories continuously.

I recommend always drinking ample water. If nothing else, think of the risk of kidney stones forming as a reason to stay well hydrated. A gauge on this is the color of urine - it should be a faint yellow color, with little odor. If it is fully transparent you're over hydrated, which is slightly preferred to the case when urine is a rich dark yellow which means you're under hydrated. There are other benefits to being hydrated - water helps maintain body temperature, improve blood circulation (viscosity impact) and brain function, and it helps with immune function. However, it is important to not suddenly increase water intake. After physical activity in summer heat, it is likely that you will be under hydrated due to loss of water through sweat, and then returning indoors it may be tempting to drink lots of water, but doing so will lead to an electrolyte imbalance and probably a massive headache (since the brain retains a high concentration of electrolytes to perform its signal conduction tasks, an increased presence of fresh water in the blood will tend to cause swelling of the brain leading to the headache). Instead, return to a normal water consumption rate slowly, such as 500 mL over the first hour following under hydration, and drink (or eat) salty items like gatorade. When I feel ill, I increase my water intake along with food intake, because when the immune system fights intruders the harmful chemicals (dead and decomposed cells) are removed in urine and feces, and with a higher water consumption I increase the rate of these processes thus reducing the harmful chemical concentration within my body.

Medicines and health

I try to avoid taking any prescription medications. The human race has lived for thousands of years just fine without these medications. The only supplements I take are vitamins and minerals, such as a "once a day" vitamin pill, and an increased dose of Vitamin D, Zinc, Calcium, and Magnesium. I have done experiments where I have not taken any of these supplements for months and noticed no ill effects, so it may be just as well to not take any supplements. With a healthy diet, the effects of these supplements, if any, are subtle. Vitamin D helps immune system function especially with low sunlight - in the paraphrased words of a doctor (whose name I can't remember), "Nothing about the flu itself makes it seasonal. There is no flu season, but there is low vitamin D season.". Zinc is another supplement that has been linked with better immune performance. Magnesium helps me with overall energy. I believe medicines are overprescribed and overbought in the US and some other countries. There can be a dangerous feedback loop of medications causing side effects, for which new medications are prescribed, leading to new side effects and more medications, and so on, which I have personally seen affecting people I know. To avoid this, it is important to always critically evaluate any medications you are regularly taking and test whether they are actually contributing to your welfare. I find no use for tablets like Tylenol and Nyquil, even when I feel sick, I prefer just letting my immune system do the work and powering through it rather than burdening my liver with additional chemicals, and I have noticed no impact on the duration of colds from taking such pills. What does seem to reduce cold symptoms and severity is drinking lots of hot water (the water aids in excreting undesired substances from the body, while the heat applied at the throat aids in stopping bacterial multiplication), and eating delicious sugary foods (the sugars and fats give energy and nutrients for the immune system to make new cells and fight the invading cells). Fever reducers also don't make much sense to me, except in emergency scenarios, because fever is part of the body's arsenal in using heat to compromise the invading organisms; when I feel particularly ill I find thick blankets and retreat under them, being very hot and uncomfortable, but knowing that the heat is helping my immune system fight back.

Regarding hospitals and doctors, my view is that unless you have an ailment that is very obvious to diagnose (such as a broken bone, but even then I have heard stories of patients receiving inappropriate remedies that worsened their condition) and also this ailment is obviously life-threatening, you would be better off avoiding doctors and hospitals altogether. If you suspect some disease, order and carry out your own tests (you can order all types of blood and urine tests online) rather than letting some random doctor charge you a huge bill for writing a referral to do the same tests. If you need to take some medicine, either purchase it yourself, or do a cheap online consultation with the lowest cost practitioner as a means to get a prescription. If you need a major operation, plan a trip to Thailand or Turkey or some other medical tourism country, where you can schedule the operation at your convenience with a doctor that explains all the steps and the price of the trip and operation together will be a fraction of what you would pay going to a hospital in the US for worse care (you can even spend a few recovery days at a tropical resort, while still paying less overall). The only reason to see a doctor in the US is if you really like being made to wait and pay lots of money. The best investment you can make is in maintaining and improving your own health so that you can avoid the healthcare mess altogether. As an example, over time I noticed some inflammation on my toe, due to an ingrown toenail. I went to the doctor, where I waited for almost an hour, and paid an absurd amount of money, only to be prescribed an antibiotic (which they won't even bother to give you - you still have to go to a pharmacy, wait some more, and pay even more for the medicine) and told that if the condition gets worse I should come back (to pay more money) and get a referral to a surgeon who will charge lots more money to remove the toenail altogether. I took a course of the antibiotics, which must have affected my gut bacteria, as for a few months following the antibiotics my mood and libido were lowered (it is increasingly becoming recognized that diet and gut bacteria are linked to emotions and mental health and I can attest to this). Predictably, the inflammation stayed right where it was, because nothing had been done to address the cause of the problem. Rather than repeating the initial mistake, I took a few hours to listen to my body and reflect. I realized that the toenail was becoming ingrown not just randomly, but because it had been externally instigated - the prevailing design of shoes and socks squeezes the toe in such a manner that the toenail is rotated (not just pushed laterally) about the axis of the leg. It is quite obvious then that the solution is to buy loose-fitting socks (or socks with toe 'caps') and wide toed shoes, and stretch the toes to prevent them from being rotated in this manner. I threw out my old shoes and socks and bought new ones (this is the investment part), began doing toe stretches every day, and since then the inflammation went away on its own and my toes are slowly returning to a natural outward-pointing orientation (recovering from decades of improper treatment in poorly designed shoes, which is a process I expect will take multiple years). This is what self-guided healthcare looks like, and it should always be attempted on all fronts before giving any trust or money to doctors.

Exercise

There is a significant misconception, that conflates going to the gym, exercising, losing weight, and gaining muscle, perhaps because people want to feel good about doing hard physical work for no reason. Weight loss is done in the kitchen, period. If your goal is to lose weight, going to the gym will only be a distraction (which may be useful to the extent it keeps you away from the kitchen). (Chances are, if you're overweight, you're eating a lot outside the kitchen as well, but the point still stands - it is the eating (and drinking sugary sodas) that is causing the weight, not the absence of gym attendance) If your goal is to gain muscle, the issue is not so clear. I will say that muscle growth is done with nutrition and supplements, but this is not the full story, because the body does react to muscle loads in growing muscles (much as it does with bones). Still the primary impact is part nutrition and part genetic, so start gaining muscles not by going to the gym, but by improving your nutrition, and more importantly by going back in time and editing your genetic code so that your body builds more muscles. Or more simply, inject various growth hormones that will have the same effect. After all, the meat industry has as its sole purpose the production of muscle tissue, and they don't do that by putting animals on treadmills. Milk is produced using cows injected with growth hormones, and these end up in the milk to some extent, so you can begin by drinking lots of milk (and eating lots of meat, from similarly injected animals).

For my part, I did an experiment where I did anaerobic upper body exercises on an almost daily basis for 6 months, but without substantial dietary changes, and at the end I had some marginal performance improvement but nothing extraordinary. To further prove the point, for the next 6 months I did barely any of these exercises, and afterwards my strength performace was pretty much identical, though the appearance of my muscles was not as good as after the training. Because of my moral beliefs, I don't feel justified in increasing my consumption of animal products (namely milk, eggs, and meat) for the sake of muscle gain. Nowadays, multiple world-class athletes have shown that a high level of muscular performance may be achieved with a largely or completely vegan diet, and this approach is to be commended. My genetics predispose me to a medium build, and I've come to design my life around being comfortable with that, as changing that would take too much effort away from other more enjoyable pursuits.

Continuing debunking the gym myth, it is important to note that physical exercise and gym are only distantly related. Walking around is perfectly good physical exercise, as is doing manual labor, going skateboarding, playing soccer, churning butter, woodworking, climbing boulders, or having sex. There are many opportunities to use your muscular strength and feel the joy of physical effort, without stepping foot in a gym. In fact I would say the gym is the least fun and interesting way to exert physical effort, a convenient but boring way, an artificial construct that the brain recognizes as such. It is more rewarding (and thus habit forming) when the physical exercise has both a competitive and a social component, so if your goal is to feel good about exerting physical effort, and potentially improving your muscle appearance in the process, then find a sport activity that you enjoy and can progress in, and make it your hobby. Better yet, plan out a career that involves physical activity (that is, a non-sedentary one, which is increasingly hard to find) - this way you will feel rewarded by using your muscles to do actual useful work instead of moving weights around aimlessly for the sake of exercise. But remember, if you don't improve your diet, your gains will be severely limited (both muscle gain and weight loss), because nutrition is key, and ultimately hormones and genetics set the direction and extent of bodily changes.

Still, on the topic of training, I would offer a general guide: medium exertion for tens of minutes to hours is good for training aerobic performance, and high exertion for under ten minutes (repeated multiple times) is good for training anaerobic performance. What constitutes medium and high exertion must be determined by the athlete: for me a high exertion level on a workout means that if I attempt the same workout in 24 hours my performance won't be as good because my muscles haven't recovered yet. If I can repeat the exercise in 24 hours with similar performance, then it was only medium exertion. Tiredness is not a good guide for muscle exertion - one can be tired without having put much load on the muscles, or one can feel energetic with the muscles having done a lot of work. I would recommend exercising with progressively heavier loads until one becomes aware of what high exertion "feels like". Then, to develop big muscles, it is necessary to use large loads - one will not build much muscle with a 10 kg barbell, even if raising it many times. To develop lean muscles, it is necessary to use long durations - one will not become capable of running a marathon by training in 1 minute sprints, even if done many times in a row. Once in touch with how your body responds to exercise, from low to high intensity, you can make an exercise plan according to your goals. It is good practice to load the body evenly - for instance after a biceps curl set, do a triceps extension set, and after exercising the abdominals do an exercise for the lower back. Stretching before and after the workout (and even between sets) is a good idea - this is something I mostly ignored when younger, but the positive impact on performance and well-being is noticeable when stretching is incorporated in the routine. When newly starting an exercise plan, it is important to have a slow and steady increment of load over a period of 4 to 8 weeks, starting with almost zero load at first, because exercises condition not only the target muscles, but also bones, joints, ligaments, as well as smaller muscles that help keep the joints properly aligned under load. The target muscles can build strength quickly, but if the bones, joints, and ligaments are not able to support the extra load, injuries will occur, and these body parts take a long time to heal. Rapid, jerky, high force movements place extra loads on the joints and ligaments, and these loads are generally not felt (in contrast to how muscle loads are felt immediately) until an injury has already occurred. For this reason I hold the opinion that weight exercises should be done slowly and smoothly, demonstrating control of the weight rather than exerting a burst of force and dropping the weights all over the place. When picking exercises, one should evaluate them from the standpoint of statics and mechanical leverage; an effective exercise will maximize load on muscles and minimize load on joints and bones. Broadly, this implies that loaded bones should be at approximately a 45 degree angle to the load path. If you are interested in sport climbing, note that the most impact (to knee and ankle joints, which do not have many nerves to signal the damage of impact and are slow to heal) comes from jumping off the wall at the end, thus I always recommend down-climbing - this removes stress loading from joints and has the further benefit of training your endurance for a few extra moves after the route is done. A good climbing gym will have easy holds set up for down-climbing at the end of difficult routes.

Shaving

Shaving face and neck: If using a razor, shaving against the direction of hair growth seems to lead to irritation, while shaving along the direction leads to pulling, so I prefer to cut at a perpendicular angle to the hair direction. I rarely use a razor nowadays, because I don't feel a need for such a close shave and I can avoid skin irritation by skipping the razor. If you do use a razor, make sure to apply shaving cream beforehand and a moisturizing protective lotion afterwards. I have taken to using a hair trimmer (the type used for hair cuts, with ceramic blades no less) in place of a manual or electric shaver, for all of my facial hair. My hair is very thick and tough, so it gets stuck in the tiny openings in the standard electric shavers and razors leading to clogging and pulling, whereas the hair trimmer has an open blade surface that easily cuts through thick hair; the trimmer won't achieve smooth skin and will leave a stubble, but the painful pulled hairs and ingrown hairs will be a thing of the past, so this is my go-to method now. Make sure to also periodically shave around the neck and the back of the head, to maintain a tidy look in between haircuts. Also trim your nose hairs and hairs on the outside of the ears (these might not show up until late 20s), and while we're at it, trim your fingernails and toenails as well (using a nail clipper). But don't use the nail clipper for nose hairs - it's difficult to fit up there and you might get "athlete's foot in your nose" (House MD S3 E12); I use tiny scissors advertised for baby nail trimming - they have short (about 1 cm length) blades with safe curved edges and can be easily maneuvered inside the nostril.

Shaving whole body: I was quite skeptical of the idea at first, especially since in our current culture this is seen as "feminine", but after getting over the mental barrier, it is actually quite nice and helps me feel cleaner. My genetics are fairly hairy, not werewolf level, but it would be close if I just let everything grow out. Doing a body shave about once a month maintains a tidy appearance and makes showers more enjoyable (also no more stray pubic hairs showing up around the house). As with the face, I avoid close shaves because that leads to ingrown hairs and irritation. Two areas of concern are the butt where pressure is applied while sitting causing the hairs to retract slightly, and the underarms where drawing the arms inwards lead to a similar retraction, so I make sure to leave maybe 0.5 mm length hair by trimming a bit away from the skin. I again use an electric trimmer, but not the ceramic blade one as that is too aggressive; my favorite has been the Philips Norelco Bodygroom series which has a blade with rounded points so even if you push it into the skin it won't cut the skin. The cut hairs are a bit sharp so for about 2 days after shaving, you will notice the sharpness when touching your skin, eventually the points get rounded off and this goes away. This sharpness does not lead to skin irritation by itself - the irritation appears if the shave was too close. With practice, doing a full body shave takes about an hour, though it was closer to two hours when just starting out as reaching some areas can be surprisingly tricky. It helps to have bright lights and a few large mirrors to make sure you get even coverage.

Toilet and genitals

When urinating at home, I sit on the toilet seat; I don't care if it's "girly", as there's nothing "manly" about spreading microscopic droplets of urine all over the bathroom floor and building up a layer of dried urine over multiple days, as inevitably happens if urinating from a standing position into a toilet bowl. In public bathrooms, urinals reduce the need to touch common surfaces, but you can be sure there will be microscopic droplets all over your pants and legs after using one. When urinating, it is important to retract the foreskin back enough for a clear unimpeded stream of liquid to come out, and at the end, to squeeze out all remaining liquid going from the penis base to the tip (the "shake" method, seemingly founded on a fear of touching one's genitals, does not adequately remove all the liquid which leads to later wetting of the underwear and an associated urine smell). The foreskin should be held back until all the liquid is emptied, so once it folds back the inside stays dry. When showering, the foreskin should be pulled completely back and all penis surfaces washed with gentle soap and then rinsed to remove all soap residue (it is a complete myth that an uncircumcised penis is less hygienic, but it is a fact that a circumcised penis suffers from a lack of protective oily secretions around the penis tip). The smell of the urine, sweat, and the genitals is a direct outcome of the diet and overall body metabolism. With a clean healthy diet, the urine and feces as well as the genitals will have very little unpleasant smell, while with a poor diet the urine and feces (and genitals) can emit a terrible stench. Other bodily fluids follow this trend, which should be kept in mind for those interested in sexual explorations.

When defecating, it is important to not "push". The rectum, the final section of the large intestine which compresses and dehydrates the output of the small intestine into solid feces, should feel "fully loaded" and ready to release the load. It should be enough to sit down, release the anal sphincter, and feces come out without any effort. In early childhood I had been trained to "push" by impatient daycare workers who didn't want to wait while I was using the toilet, and I continued to do just that into early adulthood, but this can only lead to injury. If there is effort of the abdominal muscles required, or you're holding your breath straining, then simply stop defecation and go on about your day until the body is ready. Again diet is a key factor in the overall cleanliness and smell of the feces, ranging from neat logs that barely require any cleaning to a soggy oily mess that stinks and is impossible to wipe. If you experience the latter, that is a call to seriously reconsider your diet. Following defecation, toilet paper generally is unsatisfactory in fully cleaning the anal area, so I have installed a bidet at home, and in the absence of that flushable wet wipes should be used for a complete clean (although some say they are not truly flushable). In a public bathroom, wetted paper towels may be used, which should be thrown in the trash can afterwards. Also cleanliness can be greatly improved by shaving the body hair around the anus thus reducing the surface area for feces to cling to, however make sure to be careful shaving there as cuts on the anus are slow to heal (dramatically portrayed in the 2013 movie Wetlands).

Skin care

I had really bad acne in high school. My face was absolutely greasy, red, and painful (and all the other students made sure to remind me of that). The hormonal changes of puberty definitely play a role, as do the impacts of stress level (also hormonal). Another important factor is diet - at that time I was eating largely processed food (the terrible processed food that was the only option available in school, I still get flashbacks of the pizza slices served which could saturate about a dozen napkins with whatever hydrogenated oil the pizza was covered in), and I'm sure this contributed to the acne, because the acne formed as an inflammation reaction to chemicals that my body did not like to handle (which came from the greasy oily food I was eating). Nowadays my skin has mostly returned to normal but I can get acne from time to time - whenever I do, it is always traceable back to an unhealthy meal, and this is not necessarily a calorie-rich meal but rather one that is highly processed, oily, and not something I usually eat. My body responds especially poorly to greasy foods and particularly cheese, so if I eat a slice of pizza or a bunch of breakfast sausages, I may as well set a timer for the acne to flare up. I would recommend coming up with a list of potential problem foods (for me cheese and potato chips as they are both high fat content) and going on an exclusion diet for these items for about two weeks to see if any difference in acne is observed (excluding cheese and chips, as well as derivatives such as pizza, led to a noticeable decrease in redness and pimples for me). A gluten-free diet is another one to try, due to gluten's possible ability to interfere with how the body absorbs nutrients from other food. There is also a fairly conclusive link between stress and various skin conditions including acne and eczema, this is because stress causes changes in metabolism. So, make sure to eat a varied diet (with fruits and vegetables, reduced fat (liquid and solid), and reduced gluten), and try to reduce stress levels as feasible.

Still I think even all that would not have done much for me back in the day when faced against the impact of puberty. For me it didn't make much of a difference as to how often I washed my face - acne formation starts due to irritants under the skin and is a process of expelling those irritants in the form of the "white goo" that is inside pimples. The usual acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid did nothing but dry out my skin, and the "you must use it twice every day for 4 weeks before you see any changes" is just an excuse to blame the patient for an ineffective medicine. Prescribed antibiotic pills didn't do anything, and antibiotic cream helped a tiny little bit. The only treatment that did anything of substance was retinoid (Accutane), but it required an oppressive blood test for every prescription so I stopped this after three months when there had been adequate improvement. I was also warned of various severe side effects, but I did not notice these. The beneficial effects of the treatment seem to continue for a few months after discontinuation. At some point after that it seems my hormonal levels slowly mellowed out (over years) so now my skin is decently ok, though patches of redness still remain. I do recommend using a moisturizer, shop around to find one that works well with your skin, I like to use Lubriderm as it feels non-greasy and absorbs well. It may be tempting, especially if your skin produces a lot of oils, to clean off the oil with solvents like alcohol wipes, however this does not help with acne, it just dries out the skin and makes it irritated while potentially allowing more bacteria to enter the underlying skin layers. Instead, wash with soap, dry with a clean towel (the towel helps absorb oils and exfoliate), and apply a moisturizer. There are "non-greasy" moisturizers which feel really dry (the moisturizer mechanism of action is not in wetting the skin, but rather in forming a protective layer on the skin that keeps the skin's natural moisture levels from escaping into the air) which can be a pleasant option if your skin is oily.

Hair care

I cut my hair short, and this makes it quite easy to keep clean. With long hair, you will need to be a lot more selective with what products you use and what routines you develop. Hair has a tubular structure that is permeable to water, so controlling the humidity of the hair is an important step in styling. For example, drying hair rapidly in air leads to a "ruffled" texture, while drying it slowly wrapped in a towel for an hour or so leads to a softer flowing texture. It is also a good idea to use a shampoo and conditioner, with different amounts of water in the shower, and giving additional time for the conditioner to coat the hair (some people also insist on finishing the conditioner step with cold water - this helps retain more of the conditioner oils in the hair and gives a different texture). With short hair, none of this is noticeable, so life is a lot simpler. I just use a combination shampoo + conditioner, apply, lather, and rinse. I wash my hair every time I shower, which is every day (with long hair it may be more practical to not wash the hair during every shower, but it is still useful to wash the scalp).

Haircuts - I never enjoyed getting a haircut; I am not very social so I don't like the awkward situation of coming up with something to talk about, I don't really know how to explain what style I'm looking for so I get a random result each time, and I don't like spending the rest of the day walking around town covered in small hairs. Thus I've taken to doing haircuts myself, it doesn't look pretty, but I don't really care about looking pretty at this point (and anyway that is a function of my genetically defined facial structure more than hair), so I just set a trimmer to 0.75 inch length and cut all around, then touch up around the ears and back without the length guard. The trimmer with guards (Wahl Corded Clipper Color Pro) can be purchased for less than a single barber shop visit, and is fairly foolproof, as long as you're not looking for a stylish cut. I do all this in the shower, with mirrors and lights set up so I can see all around the neck area, and then cleaning up is easy and quick.

Cleaning

Wet sponges and washcloths are like a germ hotel: bacteria and fungi thrive in wet environments, and in the absence of growth-inhibiting substances they will eat the materials absorbed into the sponge or even the sponge itself. If you want to minimize germs in the kitchen and bathroom, the biggest step to take is proper management of sponges, mops, rags, and towels. Ensure that sponges are stored so they dry thoroughly after each use, and as the last step of the washing process saturate the sponge with soap solution so that the wet environment inside the sponge is not amenable to germs. Similarly towels should be always hung up to dry, exposing maximum surface area to the air, so that they can remain hygienic. If there is any trace of a moldy smell coming from the towels or sponges, throw them out and get new ones, and dry the new ones better.

The process of cleaning involves moving "dirt" or contamination from one surface to another. Contamination is typically of a sort that is adherent to surfaces and nonpolar, such as "greasy" hydrocarbons that may look or smell unpleasant. These may be produced and excreted by the body, especially if the diet is not well matched, resulting in eventual contamination of skin, worn clothes, and other touched surfaces. There is a range of volatilities in the excreted substance, so some molecules evaporate easily and can deposit on the walls, ceiling, and other surfaces of a living space, where the relatively cooler temperature keeps the molecules adhered over longer timescales. Other molecules do not evaporate easily and instead form a layer on the skin, which may move through diffusion to materials in contact with the skin. In the process of taking a shower or bath, hot water and detergent are used to remove the contamination from the skin. Hot water both raises the temperature of the skin which makes the contaminant molecules more mobile, and is better able to dissolve nonpolar substances compared to cold water. Detergent such as soap helps further dissolve nonpolar substances in water by coating them in a spherical shell layer of surfactant; this requires physical encapsulation of the substance by the detergent, which is aided by applying a scrubbing motion. After a shower or bath, using a clean towel provides further beneficial effects: subtances that are too thick or insufficiently volatile to be removed by water and detergent alone, will be capable of being absorbed into the clean towel, because the towel material can be wetted by nonpolar substances, meaning the contaminants "stick" to the towel and diffuse into the high surface area between the towel threads. For this reason, regularly washing and drying towels is important: when washing the towels, again hot water and a much stronger detergent are used along with physical motion to transfer contaminants from the towel to the detergent solution, after which the detergent solution is discarded and the towel is dried, leaving the towel in a clean state that can be used to absorb more contaminants from the skin.

I collect clothes to do laundry once a week. This gives typically one or two washing machine loads, and it is good practice to load the washing machine lightly so it can move the clothes around during the washing process (loaded too heavily the clothes don't move and there is no washing action). I add detergent while the water is filling (different washing machines will have different procedures), so that the detergent does not concentrate in small areas on the clothes which may lead to skin irritation later on. Fabric softener can optionally be used, I don't really like the texture and smell that results so I do not use this. A fairly recent product is freshening pellets that add some fragrance to the clothes (Downy Fresh Protect), though if you use this, make sure the scent is matched to your detergent, shampoo, and deodorant. In my experience most clothes can be washed with all colors combined and it won't be a problem, even if the care instructions on the label are more conservative. When buying clothes, it is worth checking their care instructions, and picking wrinkle-resistant fabrics can save effort later on. If you need white clothes like for shirts and formal wear, it is a good idea to wash them separately (or do dry cleaning). Drying clothes in a dryer can lead to shrinkage due to the high temperatures. Clothes that require a proper fit should be air-dried instead, and this has an advantage of energy savings as well (the clothes dryer is likely the most power-hungry appliance in a typical home).