When you’re headed to the bathroom, your hair might be the last of your concerns. However, according to some TikTok users, the way your hair sits on your back while you’re pooping might cause new pimples on your face and body.
The viral TikTok video with almost 3 million views was posted by a medical student and influencer who calls herself @dr.mehss and claims using the toilet with your hair down can cause breakouts on your face.
According to the video, long hair that hangs close to the toilet seat can trap the bacteria found in poop. And even if you don’t have long hair, flushing the toilet with the cover open might cause bacteria to spray out and stick to your hair, face and body. The TikTok claims that as a result, you may get breakouts and infections from the poop bacteria stuck to your hair.
“It can cause breakouts and irritation that most commonly appear on the forehead,” said Daria Sadovskaya, a nephrologist who appears in another TikTok video on the subject, seen above. “When you poop, all the bacteria spread from the stool to the bathroom and on your hair first. When your hair is down, it rubs against the skin on your face and transmits all the germs to your face.”
But actual board-certified dermatologists say that these claims might be a little overzealous.
Although it is possible that bacteria can be trapped in your hair, the toilet might pose your biggest risk for breakouts, said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. Instead, acne can form from the oil on your hair coming into contact with your face, rather than trapped bacteria from poop.
“Theoretically, if you are straining on the toilet for an extended period of time, and oily hair is rubbing against the face ... it may contribute to blocked pores,” Zeichner said. “However, there is no greater risk for this whether you are sitting on the toilet or on the couch watching TV with your hair down and over your face.”
“The bacteria in our feces is different to the bacteria that is attributed to acne, so this transferability is unlikely.”
Normally, feces is made up of 75% water and 25% solid matter, including dead bacteria, indigestible food and other forms of living bacteria. The biggest concern is if the bacteria from your poop contains E. coli, salmonella, shigella or vibrio. You can transmit these bacteria to other people if you don’t wash your hands after using the bathroom.
However, these bacteria do not cause acne, as the TikTok suggests.
“The bacteria in our feces is different to the bacteria that is attributed to acne, so this transferability is unlikely,” said Dr. Emma Craythorne of the British Association of Dermatologists. “Acne is caused by a disorder of the pilosebaceous units in your skin, not because of exposure to bacteria.”
As a result, it’s pretty unlikely that pooping with your hair down will cause skin breakouts or acne.
That said, some experts we spoke to said it’s worth taking a few easy steps to prevent bacteria from spreading when you go No. 2 ― whether it’s for the sake of your skin or just your overall hygiene.
According to the Microbiology Society, putting your toilet lid down before you flush can prevent the spread of up to 50% of pathogens that are usually propelled into the air when you flush with the lid up. During flushing, pathogens can be ejected from the toilet and transmitted onto different surfaces in the bathroom. As a result, closing the lid can help to minimize the potential of pathogen transmission.
“The bottom line is that bacteria from fecal matter can be harmful to your health, but it does not cause acne.”
Pathogenic bacteria that build up from toilet use over time can cause skin infections, Zeichner said. However, these pathogens are not known to cause acne. “They can be spread to the face through the fingers coming in direct contact with toilet soiling. My best advice is to wash your hands after using the toilet, and to keep your face away from toilet water that potentially splashes when flushing.”
Here’s how to really protect yourself (and your skin) from bacteria.
Although pooping with your hair down might not be causing breakouts, your bathroom can be a breeding ground for bacteria and pathogens that you come in contact with every day.
Cleaning and disinfecting with soap and detergents is important for controlling your exposure to pathogens in the bathroom — especially on your toilet seat. If you don’t clean, biofilm, a barrier of bacteria, can build up and pathogens including salmonella will persist.
“Microorganisms like pathogenic bacteria can build up in the toilet from everyday use,” Zeichner said. “That’s why it is particularly important to sanitize the toilet regularly and to wash your hands after using the toilet.”
Germs can spread from person to person or onto surfaces if you don’t wash your hands. So, instead of worrying about your hairstyle when you poop, worry about hand hygiene, especially before applying anything to your face and body after using the bathroom.
“It is always important to wash your hands after going to the bathroom and avoid touching your face before washing,” Zeichner said. “The bottom line is that bacteria from fecal matter can be harmful to your health, but it does not cause acne.”