Even if your tween is years away from the voice-cracking, hair-sprouting entry to adulthood, it’s not too early to talk about personal hygiene.
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Most kids develop body odor when they begin puberty (usually between ages 8 and 13 for girls and 9 and 14 for boys). Puberty is when physical transformation begins, including sexual maturing and changes in genital areas.
But some kids begin noticing an embarrassing odor at a younger age, prompting parents to ask, “When should kids start wearing deodorant?”
What to do if your kid smells
According to Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatrician Eva Kubiczek-Love, MD, you’re never “too young” to wear deodorant, but parents should first consider their child’s overall hygiene. Her advice:
- Bathe every morning. Start each day with freshly cleaned skin. Washing after sports or other sweaty activities also is a must. Make sure your child thoroughly washes armpits, genitals and feet.
- Use antibacterial, deodorant soap.
- Change clothes daily, especially underwear and socks. Loose-fitting, cotton clothing may help your child sweat less.
If your kid still has body odor despite good cleanliness, there’s nothing wrong with using deodorant.
“For tweens, use products that don’t include aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium,” says Dr. Kubiczek-Love. “There’s no long-term data on the effect of these chemicals, so limit your child’s exposure.”
Look for all-natural products or those marketed for teens or tweens. Help your child choose a type and scent. Roll-ons, gels and solids are easy to apply. Aerosols are better for kids who plan to share deodorant (with siblings or with friends after gym class, for example). Deodorant wipes may be convenient for toting in a backpack.
About body hair
When should kids begin shaving? When they become self-conscious of their body hair, advises Dr. Kubiczek-Love.
“There is no right age. Kids in some ethnic groups develop thicker hair earlier,” she says.
She recommends parents:
- Ask kids why they want to shave. Discuss whether they’re ready for the ongoing responsibility.
- Help choose a razor. Avoid disposable razors, which can be too sharp for inexperienced shavers.
- Teach proper technique. First wet the skin and hair. Then apply shaving cream or another lubricant. Drag the razor lightly over the skin. Don’t use too much pressure or move the razor sideways. “Parental guidance is so important,” says Dr. Kubiczek-Love. “I see too many kids who have obtained razors, cut themselves (often in discreet places) and gotten abscessed wounds.”
If you’re wondering when it’s time to start talking hygiene with your tween, it’s probably time. Get involved before your maturing children start making decisions on their own.