Personal Care Poverty Is on the Rise (2023)

Personal hygiene is something that most people don't think twice about. A daily shower or bath and brushing one's teeth, among other practices, all come as second nature, with most never questioning their daily routine. However, the cost of living crisis is continuing to cause consumers to tighten their belts, with inflation rates in the UK at a dramatic 10.1%, followed closely behind by 6% in the US. Many are being forced to discard their personal-care routines, rationing their money for essentials such as food and water. As a result, 48% of consumers plan to decrease their spending on beauty items specifically.

The UK government describes personal hygiene as a fundamental human right, defined as "the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family." Despite this, in 2020, UNICEF reported that 2.3 billion people worldwide lack basic hygiene services at home, and 648 million people worldwide live in poverty, which is sure to have only increased due to the rising cost of living over the past few years.

"Hygiene poverty can be shaming, humiliating and excluding and can result in social isolation. It can lead to a lack of confidence and can negatively affect good health and mental well-being, which can impact early childhood development, learning, employability, and social interaction," states The Hygiene Bank.

Numerous brands and organizations are working to help those facing personal-care poverty regain their independence, making hygiene facilities and products more accessible. In the UK, Tesco, Britain's largest supermarket retailer, partnered with Unilever and In Kind Direct, a charity focused on distributing consumer products to help families tackle hygiene poverty. The initiative saw the consumer goods companies donating items from popular names, including Dove, Radox, TRESemmé, and Simple, for every two selected personal care products shoppers purchased. This was the second phase of the brand's collaboration, with 2021's initiative seeing over 400,000 products donated which supported over 1,391 charities.

"Following the impact of our first hygiene poverty campaign in partnership with Tesco and In Kind Direct last year, it's great to have launched our second campaign already and to share our commitment to working together over the coming years to respond to the growing issue of hygiene poverty and to supporting those who are most vulnerable," says Chris Barron, Unilever General Manager of Personal Care. Tesco Head of Health Campaigns, Oonagh Turnball, added: "At Tesco, supporting the communities we serve is key to our purpose, and now, more than ever, it's important that we work closely with charities and our supply partners to help make a real difference for people who need it most."

Tesco is not the only supermarket that has advocated for better access to self-care products. German native Lidl has also contributed to the cause. Lidl's Good to Give campaign assigns specific labels to 10 essential sanitary and personal care items, including tampons, toothpaste, and diapers, which customers can purchase and donate directly to charities by dropping them in donation points located at the checkouts. The supermarket introduced the initiative in collaboration with the giving platform Neighbourly in 2022 to help diversify food bank donations across Britain. The supermarket reported a surge in demand for sanitary products during research for the initiative and, as a result, pledged £50,000 in grants to local organizations in the Neighbourly network.

"With the cost of living crisis continuing to put pressure on local communities, we want to go beyond our commitment to making good food accessible to everyone by looking at other support we can provide," says Senior CSR Manager at Lidl GB, Mark Newbold. “Hygiene poverty is the daily reality for over 3.2 million adults in this country, and our charity partners working day in and day out with those in need have told us that the problem is only growing. We hope that by providing grants and encouraging our customers to donate a little differently, we can get more local charities more of these basic yet vital products."

Across the pond, 500 million Americans lack access to hygiene facilities and essential menstrual products. Initiatives to help aid the problem have gone beyond brands and supermarkets, with several others getting involved. At American University in Washington, DC, over 330 securable period product dispensers were installed in both women's and all-gender bathrooms, giving access to students free of charge, following a series of discussions with students regarding what they feel they need most from their campus.

Independent members of the public have also taken matters into their own hands, creating programs and independent charities to aid their communities. In 2019, Columbus, OH, resident Kayla Davis founded a nonprofit organization, Step in the Right Direction, designed to help individuals experiencing poverty or homelessness gain access to essential items. Since its beginning, the nonprofit has collaborated with various partners, including Action for Children and the Period Pantry Project. In March, Davis began the Hygiene Free Store, offering personal care products free of charge to anyone who finds themselves in need, with no income threshold requirement. Those using the service can request up to five personal hygiene items and cleaning supplies at a time.

"I know that it can be really hard to ask for help, but I just want people to know that we are out here to try to break down some of the burdens, so people in the community do not have to decide whether to pay a bill or feed their family or buy hygiene products or cleaning items," says Davis. "We're here to say, 'Hey, we will take that off your plate so you can just go ahead and feed your family. You do not have to decide between this, that, or the other right now.'"

Beauty brands have also extended their arms to benefit those struggling. Gen Z–loved brand I Am Proud decided to give back to the community upon the release of its haircare range Hair Proud. The brand did so through its A Cut Above campaign in partnership with youth homelessness charity StandUp For Kids, offering free haircuts to children experiencing homelessness and poverty. The campaign took place after the brand discovered that 69% of 4.2 million American youths experiencing homelessness lack access to basic hygienic care and services.

Independent artist and poet Keke Babers supported the campaign, speaking on her gratitude for StandUp For Kids, who helped her when she experienced homelessness in LA as a child. "Experiencing housing insecurity can make it difficult to prioritize yourself and your wellness, but you have to find a sense of stability within yourself first. While mental health is an utmost priority, there is a sense of joy that comes from having access to services that make your external self feel vibrant, too," she states.

Kelly Fields, a StandUp For Kids board member, adds: "Young people work very hard to fit in and not look homeless. The longer they are on the street, the harder it becomes. Imagine when you finally want to make a change, not having anywhere to clean up. A fresh, clean haircut is an excellent start. This is why we are proud to partner with Hair Proud to raise awareness through this campaign."

It is clear that personal-care poverty is impacting countless individuals across the world, affecting both their physical health and mental health. While several demonstrated campaigns are sure to make their impact and raise awareness, it is the duty of businesses who have the ability to give back to get involved and offer aid in any way they can. By cooperating with local charities, or even beginning initiatives alone, brands are sure to not only help those in need, but also connect on a deeper level with the likes of Gen Z, who wish to see active charitable efforts from brands. As the popular saying goes, "a problem shared is a problem halved."


How does poverty affect personal hygiene? ›

Hygiene Poverty could look like:

Struggling to wash your hair because you can't afford shampoo. Not being able to wash your hands because soap and water are inaccessible. Having to reuse diapers for your children. Not being able to wash your clothes or school uniform.

What causes hygiene poverty? ›

Hygiene poverty is not being able to afford many of the everyday hygiene and personal grooming products most of us take for granted. The reality of low income is that it restricts people's options, leaving us caught between being able to heat our homes, pay the rent, eat or be clean.

What is an example of poor personal hygiene? ›

unwashed or disheveled hair. bad breath, food between teeth, or signs of tooth decay and gingivitis. wearing soiled clothing. dirty and untrimmed fingernails and toenails.

How does poverty impact the daily lives of an individual or family? ›

Living in poverty often means having limited access to health care, food and housing security, greater risk of school drop-out for children, homeless, unemployment due to lack of education or child care and, unfortunately, not reaching one's full potential.

What are three problems caused by poor hygiene? ›

Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as well as typhoid, intestinal worm infections and polio. It exacerbates stunting and contributes to the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

How can we prevent poor personal hygiene? ›

The most important way to reduce the spread of infections is hand washing - frequently wash hands with soap and water, if unavailable use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol). Also important is to get a vaccine for those infections and viruses that have one, when available.

What are the consequences of poor hygiene and unhealthy habits? ›

This is probably the most common evidence of poor personal hygiene. Not only does it lead to discomfort and an embarrassing situation for those around you, but there are also other consequences. You could develop allergies, constant itching, and the result of being socially isolated due to your condition.

What are the 5 personal hygiene rules? ›

What are good personal hygiene habits?
  • Take regular shower.
  • Maintain oral hygiene.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Wash your genitals.
  • Keep your clothes and surrounding dry and clean.

What are the two most serious consequences of poverty? ›

Across the lifespan, residents of impoverished communities are at increased risk for mental illness, chronic disease, higher mortality, and lower life expectancy. Children make up the largest age group of those experiencing poverty.

What are five dangers of poverty? ›

Poverty is associated with substandard housing, hunger, homelessness, inadequate childcare, unsafe neighborhoods, and under-resourced schools.

How often should you shower? ›

Many doctors say a daily shower is fine for most people. (More than that could start to cause skin problems.) But for many people, two to three times a week is enough and may be even better to maintain good health.

What are two poor hygiene practices? ›

Cross contaminating food with utensils and equipment used for foods which should be separated. Poor personal hygiene of those handling the food, including unclean hands, unclean clothes and hair which is not tied back properly.

What are 3 reasons personal hygiene is important? ›

5 Reasons Why You Should Care About Personal Hygiene
  • Reason 1: Good hygiene saves lives. ...
  • Reason 2: Effective hand hygiene can reduce sick days and lost productivity. ...
  • Reason 3: Hand hygiene could be crucial in the fight against antibiotic resistance. ...
  • Reason 4: Great personal hygiene makes you a great role model.
Apr 15, 2018

What is the most important part of personal hygiene? ›

Hand washing is arguably one of the most important personal hygiene practices that we can carry out.

What are 3 interesting facts about body hygiene? ›

Hand Hygiene
  • Research shows that washing hands with soap and water could reduce deaths from diarrheal disease by up to 50%. ...
  • Researchers estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, 1 million deaths a year could be prevented. ...
  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands.

What does poor personal hygiene mean? ›

Poor hygiene can be a sign of self-neglect, which is the inability or unwillingness to attend to one's personal needs. Poor hygiene often accompanies certain mental or emotional disorders, including severe depression and psychotic disorders. Dementia is another common cause of poor hygiene.

What will happen if you don't take care of your body? ›

Poor physical health can lead to poor mental health, and poor mental health can precipitate or worsen physical problems, causing a vicious cycle that may be hard to break.

What can happen to a person who has unhealthy habits? ›

Problems like metabolic diseases, joint and skeletal problems, cardio-vascular diseases, hypertension, overweight, violence and so on, can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. The relationship of lifestyle and health should be highly considered.

What affects personal hygiene? ›

Many factors influence this: Body image, or a person's subjective view about their physical appearance. Age - teens may be more concerned about personal hygiene trends. Society - for instance, co-workers may influence your personal hygiene practices.

What are the effects of poor personal hygiene to food? ›

Good personal hygiene can prevent food poisoning. Bacteria that cause food poisoning can be on everyone – even healthy people. You can spread bacteria from yourself to the food if you touch your nose, mouth, hair or your clothes, and then food. Good personal hygiene also makes good business sense.

How can we improve our personal hygiene and care? ›

Improve your Personal Hygiene on this World Health Day
  1. Not Sharing Personal Belongings. Keeping your personal things personal is one of the best hygienic practices which helps in keeping several infections at bay. ...
  2. Washing Clothes Regularly. ...
  3. Hand Wash. ...
  4. Daily Bathing. ...
  5. Brushing and Mouthwash. ...
  6. Trimmed Nails.

Why is personal hygiene important? ›

Many diseases and conditions can be prevented or controlled through appropriate personal hygiene and by regularly washing parts of the body and hair with soap and water. Good body washing practices can prevent the spread of hygiene-related diseases.

How do you address personal hygiene issues with an individual? ›

6 Ways to (Tactfully) Bring Up Personal Hygiene Issues
  1. Keep the scope of the problem small and the tone relaxed. ...
  2. Be very careful in your use of terms. ...
  3. Share your good intentions. ...
  4. Limit the scope of the problem. ...
  5. Keep the discussion private. ...
  6. If it's feasible, try to give the other person an out.
Oct 12, 2015


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