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9 Ways To Get Yourself To Stop Touching Your Face

The CDC recommends people avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent spreading germs. But it's so dang hard.

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In the wake of the recent community spread of the novel coronavirus in areas of the US, the CDC has issued prevention recommendations — including for people to stop touching their faces.

In particular, the CDC emphasizes to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, three of the most common gateways for viruses to spread.

Problem's really, REALLY difficult to not touch your face.

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Seriously, y'all. A small study of 10 people who were observed in isolated office tasks found that, on average, participants touched their faces 15.7 times per hour. In an even smaller study of me, I have touched my face approximately 15.7 times since starting to write this piece.

If you're looking for a few ways to stop touching your face — both to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the transmission of germs in general — here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Wear a scarf that puts a barrier in front of your mouth.


To be clear, the purpose of the scarf is to train yourself to notice when you're touching your face, not to prevent the spread of germs. One of the most common parts of our faces we touch is our mouths, and a scarf that is already partially obscuring it will serve as a cue that something is different, and likely remind you not to touch your face.

If you're looking for a lightweight, casual scarf you can wear at work or outside now that the temperatures are warming for spring, this sheer scarf on Amazon ($9.98) comes in 22 colors and will get the job done.

And yes — technically, medical masks are a way to do this. But the CDC recommends that only people who are sick or are caretakers of sick people use masks at this time, and with the rate masks are selling out right now, it's more important for them to have access to them than the rest of the population. (You can read more about mask protocols and the questions you have about them on BuzzFeed News.)

2. Put bitter-tasting, clear nail polish on your nails.

Amazon / Via Amazon

This type of nail polish is usually used to curb nail-biting, but people who have used it for that purpose note that the taste is so bad that it generally discourages you from putting your hands near your mouth in general — one reviewer noted that it's overpowering enough that her husband had to peel her shrimp for her to prevent her nails from getting too close to her face. For those of us who unconsciously stick our hands near our mouths or tend to lick leftover food remnants from our fingers, this could be an easy solution. You can get a bottle of this delightfully horrible-tasting nail polish on Amazon for $15.50.

3. Put something else on your hands that will serve as a cue.


Until you can train yourself out of touching your face on your own, try a touch cue that will alert your conscious to the unconscious gesture. One way to do that is with gloves; if you work in an office, try a pair of thin, fingerless gloves (this pair of typing gloves, $8.95, on Amazon is perfect) so you can still use your computer with ease, but will notice the fabric on your face if you reach up to touch it.

If you're more of a fingertip grazer, try a combo of a touch and visual cue by taping very thin pieces of colorful duct tape to the pads of your fingers. You should still be able to type, but will definitely feel the odd texture if you touch your face, and will hopefully notice the bright neon color before it even comes to that. (This set of colorful duct tapes, $13.97, from Amazon should do the trick.)

4. Keep your hands occupied at work with something subtle and nondisruptive.


A lot of the time when we're touching our face, it's in quiet moments when we're distracted or need to think. We express a lot of emotions through our hands, so it makes sense that they'd be in motion with our thoughts.

If you're looking for something subtle to keep your hands occupied at work, try a fidget spinner (I'm personally a fan of this Harry Potter–themed snitch fidget spinner, $12.99, on Amazon), some Silly Putty (like this glittery galaxy putty, $14.95, that can withstand a lot of use), or one of these deeply satisfying bike chain fidget toys ($12) featured on Shark Tank.

5. Keep your hands occupied in your downtime too., Amazon

Another prime moment that we're more likely to prop our heads on our hands or mindlessly touch our faces is when we're relaxing after work. If you want to get into ~relaxation mode~ without having to be so vigilant about keeping your hands from your face, try something more engaging and fun, like a puzzle (this 500-piece Baby Yoda puzzle, $9.97, on Amazon has my whole heart) or a beginner's embroidery set ($8.99). Then not only will you have something to occupy your digits, but you'll have cute lil' pieces of art to admire when you're done (yes, Baby Yoda is art, and should in fact be hung in the Louvre).

6. Remind yourself — and others — about not touching your face as often as possible.

Emma Lord / BuzzFeed,

The fastest way to ingrain a new behavior is to have it at the top of your mind. Ask people to remind you if they catch you touching your face, and if they ask you to do the same, look out for them too.

Beyond that, try setting little alarms on your phone or your desktop to remind yourself, or put Post-It Notes in places you know you'll look often — the desk window you stare out of when you're thinking, your computer monitor, your vanity mirror, the kitchen table.

Heck, invest in a temporary tattoo pen and write the words "Stop touching your face" ($9.98) on your own hands, so you have to look at them every time you type. Make it easier by setting yourself up for success — you'll feel better if you get reminded before you do it than if you're beating yourself up afterward.

7. Make a competition out of it.

Emma Lord / BuzzFeed

Set up a little shared Excel sheet on Google Docs to see how long you and your coworkers or your friend group can go without touching your faces. It helps both because you'll all be able to hold each other accountable in a playful way ("You touched your face, sucker!!" is a lot more lighthearted than legit scolding your office buddy in the break room), and because it spreads more awareness in your own small communities.

Just make sure there's a prize at the end of it (I'm personally a fan of it being candy or the opportunity to pick the theme of your office's next party, but y'all do y'all).

8. Tweet! Make memes! Joke about your face!

Realizing basically all I do is touch my face.

The coronavirus is a serious matter, but that doesn't mean we should leave the memes out of it. All that grim humor millennials and Gen Z'ers are known for started out and continues to be a way for us to commiserate and relate — which in this case comes in handy both because it's a calming reminder that we're all experiencing the same anxiety right now and a more practical reminder to, y'know, stop touching your face. As the saying goes, "Retweet to save a life."

9. Continue to practice handwashing and other CDC guidelines.

Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. What you need to know about handwashing:

The more conscientious you stay about the guidelines in general, the more aware you'll be at modifying little behaviors like touching your face. Other guidelines from the CDC include frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds at a time (here are some songs to sing to yourself while washing your hands to jazz things up!), staying at home when you're sick, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and immediately disposing of it, and disinfecting frequently touched objects like doorknobs, cellphones, and kitchen appliances. You can read more about prevention measures you can take in your community on the CDC's website here.

But most importantly, take care of yourself.

Make sure you're getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and taking care of your body — both for the sake of strengthening your immune system and for the sake of your health in general.

And while it's important to stay up to date with what's happening in regard to the coronavirus, make sure you're staying up to date in a way that protects your mental health — rather than checking for updates all the time, it may mean checking updates on it once per day at a regular time, or asking someone you trust to let you know when important updates come through. Establish your boundaries and do what feels best for you.