7 Tips to Avoid Touching Your Face

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  • To help control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), health officials say it's important to avoid touching your face. That's because the virus can infect you by interacting with mucous membranes in your eyes, nose or mouth. The virus can also live on surfaces for several days. If you touch a table that someone with the virus sneezed on earlier, then rub your eye, you could give yourself the virus. However, on average, people touch their faces up to 23 times per hour, and once you’ve been told not to touch your face, it’s suddenly all you want to do.

    Experts have some tips on breaking this habit so you can reduce your risk of infections like COVID-19.

  • 1
    Pay attention to how often—and why—you touch your face.
    Woman on phone

    Experts say the first step is learning your face-touching triggers. Most of us don't realize when we touch our faces, so the first step is awareness. If you catch yourself touching your face, take a moment to consider what prompted it. Often it is habitual; sometimes it's done in response to physical irritation. Do you often itch your nose? Pull back your hair? Rub your forehead to relieve tension? Finding out why you touch your face and addressing those triggers can help you learn how to ease the habit.

  • 2
    Move your hands in different ways.
    portrait of smiling woman with crossed arms

    When you feel the urge to touch your face, do something else with your hands instead. Experts call these ‘competing responses.’ They involve some kind of muscle movement and should be held for at least one minute, or until the face-touching urge passes. Try these movements:

    • Clenching your fists

    • Sitting on your hands

    • Pressing your palms into the tops of your thighs

    • Stretching your arms straight down at your sides

    Eventually, this technique should help you stop habitually touching your face.

  • 3
    Hold something in your hands.
    old man in armchair squeezing stress ball marked with funny eyes

    It can be tough to touch your face if you are holding something in your hands. During times when the urge to touch your face is strong, grab something to fiddle with, such as a pen or a stress ball that you can squeeze. Whatever you hold, keep your hands and the objects in them away from your head. You also may try wearing gloves. It may make you more aware that your hands are nearing your face, so that you can better avoid this behavior.

  • 4
    Replace one habit with another
    portrait of smiling redheaded young woman

    Do you put your chin in your hand when you are listening to someone, such as during a meeting or a lecture? This puts your hand close to your mouth—where you could potentially transfer coronavirus germs resting there. Habit-changing expert Brian Anderson of Texas A & M University suggests you train yourself to instead rest the side of your head against your fingers. You would still be touching your head, so it's not ideal, but it keeps the germs further away from your mouth, eyes or nose.

  • 5
    Change the triggers that lead to face-touching.
    smiling young woman with hair pulled back in hair tie

    Do you rub your eyes after a long day at the computer screen? Keep eye drops handy and moisturize your eyes before they get itchy, or consider wearing glasses instead of contacts. Does your hair drop into your face a lot, causing you to fiddle with it (and touch your face in the process)? Consider a hair tie or barrette to pull it back. Do you constantly dab at a runny nose, due to allergies? Take allergy medicine. By solving the root causes for face-touching, you’ll have fewer reasons to do it.

  • 6
    Enlist friends to help you change.
    smiling woman waving at laptop in the middle of a video conference call

    Research shows if you want to change a habit, accountability to others can help. Consider sharing your efforts to stop touching your face with friends, perhaps by posting on social media. When you are with friends (online, of course), have them notify you if they see you touching your face, which can help you be more mindful of the habit. You can offer to do the same for them, since everybody is encouraged to avoid touching their face to stop the spread of coronavirus.

  • 7
    Wash your hands to avoid spreading infection.

    Sometimes, it's impossible to avoid touching your face. You wash it, put lotion on it, may put makeup on it, brush your teeth, floss your teeth, blow your nose. These daily activities and others make it tough to avoid contact. That's why experts stress hand-washing as a key infection control measure. Wash before and after any hand-face contact, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This, along with stopping as many other instances of face-touching as you can, is one of your best defenses in helping you avoid getting infected by the coronavirus.

    Wearing a cloth face mask can help limit face touching. A cloth facial covering protects those around you by containing your respiratory droplets. (Even if you don't have symptoms, you could still be infected with the coronavirus.) Many parts of the world mandate cloth facial coverings in public. A mask also protects you from becoming infected—new evidence shows tightly woven materials can filter out potentially virus-contaminated particles from the air you breathe.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Mar 26
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Stop Touching Your Face. Texas A&M University. https://today.tamu.edu/2020/03/11/stop-touching-your-face/
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