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It isn’t fair to stereotype nerds as slobs who are either too lazy to make themselves publicly presentable or too inept to know how. But as a nerd who’s been there and done that, and as a nerd who’s made the acquaintance of many other nerds, I’ll say this: many stereotypes have a kernel of truth to them.
For me, it was a mixture of laziness and ineptness that made me a sorry sight for most of my life: oily hair, broken skin, smelly breath, clothes that didn’t fit right, and more. With a bit a know-how, I’ve leveled up my hygiene—and my confidence alongside it.
I’m still lazy, of course, but I’ve learned to maximize my cleanliness in the least amount of time required. Here are my tips so you can fast-forward through the trial-and-error phase.
Floss: 2 minutes. Here’s what most people don’t realize: flossing is actually more important than brushing. It’s better to floss and not brush than it is to brush and not floss. The in-between buildup will cause more damage to teeth and gums over the long run.
Use disposable floss picks. Flossing sucks, but it’s way more pleasant when you use disposable floss picks. They’re easier to use, and some of them even double as tongue scrapers.
Scrape: 1 minute, twice a day. That’s right, scrape your tongue! Debris and bacteria build up on your tongue over time and cause smelly breath. Scraping can also improve your sense of taste. Just make sure you’re gentle or else you can damage your tastebuds. You can scrape when you floss (if your floss pick has a scraper) or when you brush (use your toothbrush).
Brush: 2 minutes, twice a day. Self-explanatory. Brush when you wake, brush before you go to sleep. But again, it’s more important to floss than to brush, so if you’re going to prioritize one, go with flossing.
Use a soft, electric toothbrush. Not only is an electric toothbrush more effective at cleaning your teeth, it’s less likely to cause gum erosion (which can happen if you have bad brushing technique like I do). They’re definitely worth the investment.
Rinse after meals. Take a swig of water, head to a sink, flush out debris from between your teeth, and spit. A little goes a long way.
Wash: 1 minute, twice a day. Start and end your day with a splash of water. Cool water triggers an involuntary response that gets your blood flowing, and this not only helps you wake up but also helps you fall asleep. Plus, it leaves you feeling fresh and renewed.
Pluck: 1 minute. It may seem feminine, but get over it. Grab a pair of high-quality eyebrow tweezers and clean up that unibrow. If you have time, you may even want to shape your eyebrows and/or pluck the longer hairs sticking out of your nostrils.
Lotion: 2 minutes. Use a non-comedogenic lotion for your face and whatever you like for the rest of your body, which will probably be a non-greasy body lotion. When your skin feels healthy, you’ll feel healthy.
Use lukewarm water. Hot showers feel great, but they aren’t good for your skin. In addition to causing inflammation, hot water strips the natural oils that protect you. While cold showers are the best, not everyone can withstand them. Switch to lukewarm showers at least.
Use unscented bar soap. Unscented means no scent added, whereas fragrance-free means it doesn’t smell. Unscented bar soaps are often gentler and healthier for skin when compared to scented and/or liquid soaps.
Use lip balm. Your lips need as much care as the rest of your skin, so it’s important to use a moisturizing lip balm—especially if your lips frequently peel or crack.
Switch to a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates are used to promote foaming for lather, which causes aggressive stripping of oils from your hair and scalp. In response, the body overproduces oil and you end up with oily hair. (Assuming no other health issues.) Sulfate-free shampoos are more expensive and don’t feel as luxurious, but your hair will thank you.
Try No-Poo if you have the resolve. The “No Poo” movement encompasses all kinds of hair-washing techniques that don’t involve commercial shampoos. Many only use water, others use homemade dry shampoos, and some still use commercial shampoos but only once a week or less. Many advocates claim cleaner, healthier hair after six weeks of No Poo.
Trim: 1 minute. It’s important to keep your nails trimmed to prevent buildup of dirt, bacteria, and other gunk. Unclean nails can cause infections when scratching, especially on open wounds like broken pimples or itchy scabs. Trimming can also help break a nail-biting habit.
Wash regularly. Washing your hands after you pee has less to do with urine getting on your hands and more to do with the gradual buildup of dirt and bacteria throughout the day. It’s good to wash them once or twice a day, and since you’re already in the bathroom when you pee, you may as well hit the sink while you’re there.
Deodorant: 1 minute. Whether you have body odor or not, it’s polite to wear deodorant. There are unscented deodorants for those who don’t want to smell like rain, grass, or flowers all day. Just make sure you get one that doesn’t contain aluminum, which has been implicated as a potential risk factor in Alzheimer’s. Aluminum is mainly used as an antiperspirant, so look for a non-antiperspirant unscented deodorant.
For very little effort, you too can look and feel your best every day. Got any other hygiene tips for nerds like me? Share them in the comments below!