Dispelling myths about hygiene and social status

March 15, 2018
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It’s probably safe to say that most people associate better hygiene with a higher social standing. The association is nothing new. For centuries, the upper crust and members of royal families have indulged in more regular baths than the rest of us mere mortals.

What we now generally take for granted (unless of course you live in PE or Cape Town at the moment), involves a few minutes standing under clean running water, gently scented gels and scrubs and lovely fluffy towels, all making bathing a pleasant experience. In times gone by, it was more of a light wash of the essentials, probably with a cold bowl of water and of course lots of fragrance to mask body odour.

Our modern privileges mean that we have little excuse for poor hygiene and it is frowned upon if we fail to comply with expectations in this regard. Given our harsh South African climate and the large labour component of our workforce, it’s not difficult to see that we probably need to invest in more deodorant and shampoo than most. Our rands are certainly not safe under the bar of soap here in SA!

So, is it true that the lower your income group, the more likely you are to be less vigilant about personal hygiene?

• We can safely assume that there is less disposable income for extravagant lotions and potions but a good old fashioned bar of soap still does the job just as well.

• We can also infer that there is less access to running water from municipal taps in rural areas so commuters (who are also stuck in crowded taxis and trains) might have to do a soap and cloth wash rather than a full shower. This can be just as effective even though it is not as enjoyable. What may be an issue is regular stock of deodorant and that may lead to less than fresh underarms in little or no time.

What about teeth

Bad breath is not good for business but then again, it’s probably even worse for personal relationships. Floss, the essential tool to eliminate halitosis is out of reach in terms of price. It’s a shame that this essential item is so very expensive. But all is not lost. Good old salt works well to reduce bacteria in the mouth and a homemade mix of clean water and salt will help tremendously.

And greasy hair

Again, it’s got more to do with attitudes to hygiene than circumstance. If individuals are concerned about their appearance and have been taught basic hygiene rules, they are likely to wash hair regularly. Be sure that given our hot summer nights, pillows need to be washed regularly too and perhaps this is where things get a little messy. Product left in hair for days on end is left on pillow cases and ends up being a hot mess of sweat and gel.

Essentially, personal hygiene is a personal choice. It comes down to individual perceptions and has less to do with social status and more to do with education and self respect.

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