You Should Be Cleaning Your Belly Button More Than You Think

Cleaning your belly button has a bigger impact on your skin health than you may have thought. It's the one part of the body that some people tend to overlook when it comes to personal hygiene. Unfortunately, neglecting belly button cleanliness can have some serious consequences.

Known as a "breeding ground for bacteria," failure to clean it can lead to yeast infections, smells, or even navel stones known as omphaloliths, which are made of the same materials as blackheads (via Healthline). Although uncommon, these stones are an accumulation of skin oils, sebums, bacteria, dirt, soap, and clothing lint, and they're often accompanied by damage to the skin (via Women's Health). If left untreated, the stones can grow too big and will need to be removed using tweezers with the assistance of a medical professional.

Just as it's important to wash other parts of the human body, such as your feet that also build up potentially dangerous bacteria, it's important to thoroughly clean the belly button to avoid foul smells or infections

Doctors emphasize the importance of belly button hygiene

According to a 2012 study published in Plos One, the average human skin contains "trillions of individual bacteria." Specifically, the average belly button alone contains 67 different types of bacteria.

"The navel is an occluded area where skin rests on skin, creating a dark, moist environment in which bacteria and yeast can breed and can become a cesspool for microbes if not properly maintained," Dr. Susan Bard of Sadick Dermatology told Teen Vogue. Belly buttons can be known as either an innie or outie, but it doesn't change the importance of keeping them clean. However, innies require more digging and cleaning as they are deeper holes in the body where bacteria can hide easier. If an infection occurs, it is important to speak with a dermatologist to seek treatment which may simply consist of antibiotics.

Thanks to social media platforms such as TikTok, some doctors have been able to stir conversation about belly button hygiene among many audiences who may have not given it a second thought (via Cosmopolitan). Dr. Karan Rajan, an NHS surgical doctor with 4.9 million followers on the platform, explains in several videos why a clean belly button matters.

"If not washed out on a regular basis, this material can accumulate and harden into... a belly button stone," Dr. Rajan said in his video. He states that they can come in a wide array of colors, referring to them as "our bodies' own natural jewelry." "So, unless you want to go mining for black gold," Dr. Rajan advised his followers, "Keep this area clean."

How to clean your belly button

Cleaning your belly button can be just as simple as a skincare routine that meets your basic cleaning needs. All you need is a cotton swab or a washcloth, soap and water, or rubbing alcohol. The cleaning process for an innie belly button is a little bit more involved, but not at all hard to do. Dip the cotton swab into your choice of soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Then, gently rub it inside your belly button. Repeat that process until the cotton swab comes back clean. Finish with a clean cotton swab dipped in only water to rinse out the remaining soap or rubbing alcohol.

An outie belly button is much less of a hole in the body with fewer creases, therefore more simple to clean. Using a washcloth with soap and water or rubbing alcohol, gently clean the surface of your belly button, making sure to rinse afterward (via Seventeen).

Whether you're doing this in the shower or not, it's always important to dry your belly button when you're done. Some medical professionals, such as Dr. Susan Bard, recommend cleaning your belly button daily, per Teen Vogue. If you still need to get in the habit of cleaning your belly button, other doctors recommend cleaning about twice a week (via Shape).