Mindlessly touching your face is never a good idea—especially not now, during the coronavirus pandemic. Here's how to stick to your routine, but minimize contact.

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woman applying cream touching face in mirror
Credit: Getty / JGI / Jamie Grill

Your skincare routine is a simple daily ritual, but with the increased caution surrounding the spread of COVID-19, your once beloved regimen has become more complicated. From double-cleansing to layering on our serums and moisturizers, there's room for a lot of contamination—not to mention that the process requires a lot of face-touching. To keep you safe and your complexion clear and healthy, we spoke to leading dermatologists to figure out which precautions you really need to take.

As long as you're washing your hands, you're safe to approach your routine normally.

It's understandable that you'd want to minimize touching your face—especially the areas surrounding your eyes, nose, and mouth—as much as possible these days, which is why you might be considering using tools that will help prevent direct contact between your hands and your face. Take caution, however. "You can use a handheld cleaning brush or a washcloth, but remember the device's brush itself could harbor bacteria that was on your skin," says Dr. Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. "If you're properly washing your hands before washing your face, you can use your hands to wash your face." Just be sure your nails are trimmed, she adds, since "they can harbor bacteria" or traces of the virus beneath them, she notes.

But using disposable tools can't hurt.

Disposal tools should be a key component of your routine right now. "Cotton swabs, cotton pads, and makeup wipes are great for removing makeup and debris gently and hygienically," explains dermatologist Blair Murphy, MD, FAAD. "They are especially useful for removing makeup from the delicate eye area because during this viral pandemic, skipping washing this part of your face is a no-no," she says.

Take caution when applying potted products.

If you use several jarred products—packaging that requires you to dip your hands into the product before applying it to your face—"make sure you properly sanitize or wash your hands before application and always use a sanitary instrument like a cotton swab if it is in a twist-off top jar," advises Dr. Campbell, who recommends making the switch to a product with a pump. "This is an even better option, as you are less likely to contaminate the larger jar." 

Don't make drastic changes to your routine.

Pandemic or not, it's never a good idea to overhaul multiple parts of your routine at once, but it's especially critical now. Introducing a new formula or eliminating a step during this time "could cause skin irritation—and it will be harder to see a dermatologist during this time to help with any issues if they arise," notes Dr. Murphy. Irritation can also cause itching—which makes it that much harder to not touch.

Ease up on exfoliation.

Cap exfoliating to once a week, providing your skin can handle it, continues Dr. Murphy; now is not the time to ramp up this step's frequency. "Harsh products and abrasive exfoliators can irritate your skin, which requires more frequent moisturizing and, therefore, more frequent face touching," shares Dr. Murphy.

Don't ever touch your face when using cleaning products.

When you're not (safely) applying your favorite skincare formulas, keep your hands off your face—especially when you're disinfecting your home. "Not only is it important to keep pathogens off of your skin—especially the eyes, nose, and mouth, which are ports of entry for viruses and other germs—but many people are also sensitive to the disinfecting products we are using more often. The face is particularly prone to allergies and irritation. So, avoiding the transfer of these products from your hands to your face is important," concludes Dr. Campbell.

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