Setting up a healthy hygiene routine
FOSTERING CLEAN HABITS EARLY IN CHILDHOOD CAN PAY OFF IN ADOLESCENCE
Children seem to think they can go through life without washing anything. That’s an understandable concept for a 5-year-old, but when you have to ask your teen if they showered, it gets hairy.
Thanks to puberty, a teen’s body releases so many hormones, which wreak havoc everywhere. Body odor is caused by these hormones, as is excessive oil on both the scalp and face, causing greasy hair and acne. The sebaceous glands are to blame for this phenomenon because they are over-active during puberty. The bacteria on the skin attach to these oils and produce an odor. Girls can start puberty as early as 8 years old until maturity around 14. Boys will start later, the earliest around 9 years old, and can mature much later. So, starting a good regimen at a young age may thwart any cleanliness challenges going forward for both parents and teens.
Dr. Stephanie Strozuk of Evolved Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine in Ridgewood offers this insight.
“When tweens and teens are going through pubertal changes their hygiene requirements change dramatically,” she says. “Parents may assume that their teens realize this, but we, as parents, definitely need to guide them.”
Showering daily is a must. Be sure to have mild soaps and shampoos on hand that are not laden with hormone disrupting chemicals like parabens and phthalates.
The challenges brought on by puberty and overactive glands are not a teen’s fault, but starting good habits young will prevent greasy hair, smelly armpits and more.
Common sense items include hand washing as a preschooler, before every meal, after every trip to the bathroom, in the hospital and after touching animals. Carrying around hand sanitizer is a good idea, but hand washing should become part of the norm after all of these activities.
It may seem obvious that hair washing and showering are an everyday occurrence, but kids and teens don’t necessarily see it that way. Don’t take for granted that it will happen; insist that it does. Greasy hair isn’t just unpleasant, it’s a hotbed for dirt and infection that can be transferred all over the body. Keeping hair clean and washing regularly is paramount to keeping the rest of the body clean. Washing the face with a good, mild cleanser two times a day is a must.
Girls face a challenge once menstruation hits because vaginal hygiene becomes essential, especially during that time of the month. However, vaginal hygiene does not have to be excessive. The vagina internally cleans itself, but a mild hygiene wash during a daily shower or bath routine is helpful to keep away yeast infections.
Teens often avoid the use of deodorant or antiperspirant. Introducing the use of these products at a younger age makes it part of the daily routine. Hygiene is about habits, both good and bad.
Changing clothes is another element that will keep the smells away, but it isn’t something a kid always does. Young children get into the habit of wearing the same stuff because it’s comfortable or they have an attachment to the article of clothing. However, when the hormones have a say in the wardrobe, you just can’t put on the same shirt and socks four days in a row and not have an impact. Parents need to make sure young teens know the basics of laundry and provide clean clothes to set an example.
There can be no waffling when it comes to hygiene because it is damaging from a physical perspective, but mentally as well. Aside from facing the health consequences of infections and illness, children with hygiene poor enough that is noticed by others can suffer self-esteem and social consequences.