What Makes It So Hard to Avoid Touching Your Face

3 years ago

At times we want to control our gestures and movements, but since many of them are unintentional, for example using our hands to express our feelings, it might be trickier than expected. Think about touching your face, for instance, which is one of the most common reactions for the human body, and it goes so unnoticed that it might surprise you to know how many times we do it every day.

With that in mind, Bright Side wants to share with our readers some of the reasons why we find it so hard to keep our hands off of our faces and advice on how we can avoid doing this.

A natural response from our bodies

Have you ever noticed that when someone stops paying complete attention to you while you are talking they have a tendency to cover their faces with their hands, making themselves look bored? Many people do this most of the time without even noticing. That’s because we’re wired to express our emotions through reactions, gestures, and body language.

Body language: a way of expressing our culture

Using our hands to express emotions is not just an instinctive thing to do. Since so many people do this and we see it everywhere, we are kind of used to it. Body language is such an effective way of telling others how we feel, that our culture and habits have incorporated it very easily.

If you add to that the fact that we are constantly using our brain to learn from each other in what is known as learning by imitation, then everything becomes clearer. Think about someone yawning. You’ve probably experienced that person’s yawn is contagious and you catch yourself yawning as well. That’s because we’re very good at imitating. Now imagine how many people we see touching their faces! There’s a lot to imitate right there.

A reflex to stress

Besides imitation, there are other reasons why we touch our faces. Stress, for instance, can trigger your body’s need for comfort. This is expressed through the parasympathetic nervous system. Despite its wild name (you don’t have to memorize it unless you’re a doctor!) one of its functions remains very straightforward: to help you cope with difficult times. Since touching certain parts of your face can activate it, touching them is a reflex.

Body language when flirting

There is another common situation that causes us to touch our face: flirting. During normal activities we touch our faces up to 23 times per hour, according to this study. Another study, carried out in 1967 at UCLA, found that non-verbal communication is dominant when it comes to expressing emotions. Now imagine you’re in front of that special person that makes your heart sing... You’ll probably find it difficult to not touch your face or lips. This is actually something that people do when they like someone.

Changing habits

  • A good starting point is to actually be aware and find out what’s making you touch your face. Once you know that, it’ll probably be easier to stop yourself from doing it again.
  • Try using an anti-stress ball if you’re feeling anxious, so that you have something to keep your hands busy. Just make sure to clean it well!
  • Some people find it helpful to use Post-its put in places where they spend a lot of time, as reminders.
  • You can use smell to your advantage by wearing perfume or lotion on your hands. That way, you’ll be reminded when your hands are getting close to your nose (and face).
  • If stress is what’s triggering it, maybe it’s best to address the problem at its root with meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises. You can even consider taking some time off of work.
  • But most importantly, don’t give up! According to psychiatrists, forming a new habit might take up to 66 days, so perseverance will definitely be an ally with this one.

As we showed before, our behavior often follows our way of seeing and facing the world — so changing habits is a matter of rethinking how we can communicate the same things, but in a different way. It’s worth doing, especially if it is a question of hygiene and public health.

As a closing tip, it is important to always try to keep your hands clean, since germs cling to our skin without us even noticing them. And, while many of them are necessary for our body to work well, others are not!

Do you touch your face very often? What other advice could you add to this list? How do you manage to keep your hands off of your face? Let us know in the comment section. We’d love to read what you have to say!


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You forgot it also helps spread Corona, so the need to touch the face. :p


I never really noticed anyone do it, I hope it's not one of those things you can't stop looking at as soon as you notice it


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