April 9, 2020

How to Actually Comply With the Don’t-Touch-Your-Face Advice From Health Experts

Tips to squash this sneaky habit

man keeping his hands busy using a stress ball

If you’ve been heeding the advice of health officials lately, you’ve probably been washing your hands a lot, keeping your distance from others and crafting a homemade face cover to wear if you need to go out.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

You’ve probably also become woefully aware of just how often you rub your eyes, itch your nose or bite your nails.

Health experts recommend that you avoid touching your face because it can potentially protect you from infection. While the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to be spread mostly by inhaling droplets released when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, these droplets can also land on surfaces. If you touch an infected surface with your hand and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth — which are also entryways for viruses into your body — you could potentially become infected and get sick.

But not touching your face is easier said than done. Here’s some advice on breaking the habit.


Step one: awareness

Hand-face contact happens often throughout the day — most of the time without us even realizing it. One study of medical students found that participants touched their faces some 23 times an hour, and nearly half of those instances involved their eyes, nose or mouth.

“Most likely it’s an unconscious or even nervous behavior, like twirling your hair,” says behavioral health clinical therapist Karen Tucker, LISW-S, ACSW.

So the first step to keeping your hands away from your face is simply becoming aware of when and how you do it. You might try to:

  • Observe others: Noticing how and when others touch their face might cue you in to your own habits. Does your child rest their chin in the palm of their hand whenever they’re bored? Are you doing the same?
  • Use a scented hand soap or lotion, or wear a little perfume: If your hands or wrists smell, you might be more likely to notice when you’re about to touch your face and can reverse course.

Step two: trade in the habit

Once you become aware of your face-touching habits, changing them can take time and patience.


Here are some hands-off strategies to try.

  • Wear a face mask: The CDC now recommends that Americans wear a homemade face cover if they go out in public. This can protect you in multiple ways, one being that it makes it harder for you to touch your mouth and nose.
  • Keep your hands busy: When you’re not up and about, find something to fiddle with at your desk to keep your hands occupied, like a stress ball, fidget spinner or rubber band.
  • Change your position: If you’re sitting at a desk or table, avoid putting your elbows on the table. Instead, place your hands underneath you, or fold them in your lap, so you have to do more work to bring them up to your face.
  • Be prepared with alternatives: Keep tissues nearby that you can use if you have an itch or need to wipe your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Keep washing your hands and social distancing: Even with a concerted effort, you’re probably never going to completely stop touching your face. But if you’re keeping a safe distance from others and keeping your hands clean, that’s not such a big deal. So hand-washing and social distancing remain your first lines of defense.

Related Articles

crowd of people at music concert
February 5, 2024
What Constitutes a ‘Superspreader Event’?

Any large social gathering — from a family birthday party to an indoor music concert — has the potential to spread serious infection

Teacup of tea and plate of toast
February 2, 2024
What To Eat, Drink and Avoid When You Have the Stomach Flu

Start slowly with clear fluids, and then move to bland, easy-to-digest foods

Male with eyes closed sitting hunched over, pinching area between their eyes
January 29, 2024
Headache and Fatigue: 11 Possible Causes That Can Trigger Both

Many factors, like dehydration, a cold or even your medication, can result in these common symptoms

Female wrapped in blanket laying on sofa looking fatigued or unwell
January 23, 2024
How To Manage COVID Fatigue and Regain Your Energy

It’s important to connect with a healthcare provider, get quality sleep and balance your activities with your energy levels

Sick person on couch using tissue on nose with medication bottles on coffee table
January 19, 2024
How To Know if It’s COVID-19, a Cold or Allergies

Symptoms can overlap and be hard to distinguish, but there are some telltale differences

Close-up of hands in lab gloves sorting vials and covid-19 blood sample
January 17, 2024
Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Variants

Just like the flu, COVID-19 will continue to evolve every year

Adult female on couch, coughing into crook of arm, holding thermometer
January 15, 2024
Prepping for Flurona: When COVID-19 and the Flu Strike at the Same Time

It’s best to treat flu-like symptoms as if you have COVID-19

female with fingers pressing on bridge of nose in distress
January 4, 2024
Got a Sinus Infection That Won’t Quit? When To Worry

Give it seven to 10 days, but if your symptoms linger or get worse, it’s time to see a healthcare provider

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes