Do generous layers of sunscreen, expensive shampoos and rigorous workouts keep you healthier in any way? Or does making your bed every morning keep the mites away? Now is the time to start rethinking these habits.

1. Washing your hair every day

Shampoos trap oils and may dry the hair out, leaving it prone to breakage and scalp disorders. Angela Lamb, an assistant professor of dermatology in New York, claims that except for those with oily hair, an average of two to five washes a week is considered normal.

2. Using expensive shampoos

Many organic and herbal shampoos claim to thicken and treat hair problems but Dr Ken Williams, a cosmetic surgeon in California, believes there is simply no shampoo that can actually do that.

"Shampoo is designed to clean the hair and scalp of sweat, oils, environmental dirt, and dead skin cells from the superficial dermal layers—that's it,” he says.

3. Douching

Feminine douches in the market often entice women to douche in order to keep the odour out. The truth is that the vagina is self-cleansing and douching can affect the pH balance, making it prone to bacterial infections.

4. Washing your face twice a day

This regime does not necessarily work for everyone; it dries the skin even more. Washing frequently only applies to those with exceptionally oily skin.

American dermatologist Alan Parks says, “People should keep in mind that there is such thing as over-washing your face, and twice a day isn't the magic number for everyone.”

5. Cleaning with antibacterial soaps

Go back to the basics of soap and water, and skip the chemicals.

"Using antibacterial soaps is outdated advice and can even be harmful. Health problems caused by viruses are common, and antibacterial soap does not do anything to prevent from viruses causing harm,” says Rob Danoff, an osteopathic family physician in Philadelphia.

6. Stretching before the run

Most people assume that doing some light stretches before the run will help prevent injury and enhance stamina. However, sports medicine specialist Naresh C. Rao believes that there is no evidence that static stretching decreases injury and increases performance. In fact, it may actually decrease muscle force.

7. Exercising rigorously

A rigorous workout does not guarantee a healthier heart. An hour’s walk can burn just as many calories as a 30-minute run. The aim is to go for regular and moderate exercises. Richard Stein, the national spokesman for the American Heart Association, notes that there is no evidence that additional intensity buys additional heart health.

8. Monitoring blood pressure

Some patients are obsessed with their blood pressure. Guidelines for blood pressure are now more relaxed compared to the previous 120/80 goal. The general population should be treated when blood pressure is 150/90 or higher for older adults who are 60 years and above. For adults below 60 years, the guideline is 140/90. People who are diabetic or who present with other health problems may have different blood pressure goals.

9. Slapping on sunscreen

Slathering on layers of sunscreen will not block all UV rays. Many sunscreen products boast of high SPF levels but when tested by Consumer Reports (USA) earlier this year, more than 40% of sunscreens did not meet their advertised SPF. Regardless of the SPF, the sunscreen only works for about two hours, and it needs re-application. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using protective hats and clothing to protect against harmful rays.

10. Catching up on sleep

Binge sleeping on weekends does not compensate for lost sleep during workdays. Research suggests that making up for lost sleep will upset the circadian rhythm. The key is to follow a consistent bedtime to optimise sleep.

11. Sleeping on a firm mattress

One common misconception is that a firm mattress alleviates back pain. However, a firm a mattress may aggravate the back pain as it exerts more pressure on the hips and shoulders. Since the spine has a natural curvature, the ideal sleeping position to align it as close as possible to this curvature. A medium-firm mattress should offer better support and comfort.

12. Making your bed to keep bugs away

A tidy bed is not necessarily a healthy one. In their 2015 study, lead researcher Stephen Pretlove of Kingston University found that an unkempt bed can keep off millions of dust mites. He said, "Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites will dehydrate and eventually die." MIMS

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