When doing research for my teen series, I went straight to the source.
I asked my 16 year old, “What are important healthcare concerns for you as a teen?”
I mentioned that I already had anxiety, stress, the stresses of general hormones and puberty, and skincare problems on my list.
Without batting an eye, she replied, “Smelling good!”
Ahhh, yes! Deodorants, body cleansers, hair care rinses, mouthwashes, natural perfumes – personal hygiene!
Why do teens have a harder time with body odor?
There are a few reasons why teens start to have a stronger odor, especially when they start the process of puberty.
First of all, the increase in adrenal gland production and hormones produces an increase of body sweat produced from the sweat glands. The chemicals in the sweat change during puberty as the hormones created during puberty increase.
At the same time, different glands become active, producing sweat and oils in both the armpits and the groin area. While the sweat itself do not smell, the bacteria breaking down the sweat and oil does create an odor.
Interestingly, while feet have sweat glands, they do not produce oils. The smell of stinky feet is a combination of sweat with the socks and shoes trapping in the moisture.
Why do clean clothes often smell when worn by a teen?
Have you ever washed your teens clothes, only for them to shower and put on the clean clothes and almost immediately begin smelling again?
This occurs when the bacteria from their body has locked onto the fabric and stays put even when washed. When your teen puts on their clothes, their body heat reactivates the bacteria, causing the odor to re-emerge.
How to eliminate set bacteria odors in clothing
There are a few ways to combat bacteria caused odors from setting into clothing and to remove the odors once they have set. Try out one of these methods:
* Try spraying isopropyl alcohol or vodka onto the sweat stains. This can be used as a quick fix as it doesn’t need to be washed out before wearing. The alcohol quickly evaporates, taking the odor along with it.
* Another way to help remove the embedded bacteria is to soak the clothing in a basin filled with warm water and 2 cups of baking soda. Let them soak for 6-8 hours. Follow up by washing as usual.
* This can also be done using vinegar instead of baking soda. Soak 6-8 hours in a basin of warm water with 1 cup of white vinegar added. Wash as usual.
Another tip to help eliminate bacteria is to line dry clothing instead of using a dryer, which can heat set odors into clothing.
As teens start producing body odor, they are ready to use deodorant. As a parent, your teen’s health is very important so offering an all-natural deodorant is probably number one on your mind.
There are many natural deodorants available. Some work great, and some don’t work at all. What works for you might not work for your teen and vice versa. Be persistent to find a combination that works best with your teen’s body.
* Salt crystals – These are a block of mineral salt that is dampened then rubbed onto the armpits.
* Aluminum free deodorants – There are many aluminum free deodorants on the market now. If one doesn’t work out, try another brand as I have found that they all vary in effectiveness.
* Aluminum free creams – Similar to deodorants, these are cream based and smoothed onto the pits by hand.
Alternatively, you can make your own natural deodorants. There are loads of recipes online or you can try the recipes in my book Herbalism at Home.
Doing away with stinky feet
Stinky feet can be embarrassing for anyone, but as a teen, it’s often a nightmare. There are a few things that can be done to help combat the odor.
Sprinkle baking soda in shoes after each use to help deodorize and kill bacteria.
Have teens thoroughly dry their feet after washing them and keep the socks and shoes off until they are completely dry.
Stay barefoot as much as possible to help keep the feet aired, allowing the bacteria to evaporate.
Apply a natural deodorant to the bottoms of their feet before putting on shoes and socks or sprinkle a mixture of half baking soda and half arrowroot powder into the socks before putting them on. Alternatively, they can dust their feet with the powder as well.
Masking odors with perfumes
It is often tempting for teens to apply perfume or cologne but that can often lead to overwhelming scents that make it hard for everyone around them to breathe.
Encourage teens to apply only 1 squirt or splash of their favorite scent, using the old adage “a little bit goes a long way.”
Natural perfumes and colognes
If your teen is open to it, play around with creating a natural scent using essential oils to skip the chemical scents altogether.
This is a great way for them to create a custom scent that works well with their body and they enjoy the smell of.
Both young men and women often enjoy creating a scent that they prefer by blending together scents they like. Take a trip to a local health food store or natural grocery store and scout out the essential oil samples.
Let them pick out 2-3 scents that they really resonate with and hold them up together to see if the scents blend well. After choosing those scents, take them home and blend together in a carrier oil such as jojoba oil to create a perfume or cologne that can be dabbed on pulse points. Or, if they prefer a spray, combine it with a blend of half isopropyl alcohol and half distilled water in a spray bottle.
Combatting bad breath
Diet, hydration, and oral hygiene all play a role in keeping breath from smelling bad. A diet high in processed foods will contribute to foul odors, so this is another good reason (as if we don’t already have enough reasons!) to convince teens to eat foods that are as least processed as possible.
Switching out sugary drinks for water is another way to help keep the mouth fresh.
Encourage teens to keep up with good oral hygiene as well. They should be brushing at least twice a day, and flossing daily. They might also find using a tongue scraper to be beneficial for helping to remove excess bacteria from their mouth.
Many teens have braces, making it extra hard to keep bad breath at bay. Gently remind them to stay on top of their oral hygiene. Setting daily timers on their phones and finding toothpastes and mouthwashes they enjoy the flavor of can all be helpful.
Be sure they are rotating their toothbrushes out every 3-4 months and wiping their tongue scrapers with mouthwash after every use.
There are a variety of natural toothpastes available on the market now that offer a selection of flavors and applications. If your teen doesn’t like paste, try a powder. There are even powders and toothpastes that contain activated charcoal that helps with killing off bacteria while whitening teeth at the same time. Teens who are self conscious of their tooth color may find these offerings to be a good incentive for brushing.
Mouthwashes can also be made very easily with a flavor they find pleasing. Some of our favorite flavors are Cinnamon, Spearmint, Basil, and Lemon Balm. Adding a bit of Echinacea can help to fight off bacteria.
To make a mouthwash, you will need a tincture of the chosen flavor. If you are adding Echinacea to the mouthwash, fill a 1 ounce bottle half full of the chosen flavor tincture and half full with the Echinacea tincture. To use, add 30 drops of tincture into a shot glass and then add a few tablespoons of water. Swish for 1-2 minutes then spit out.
Being a teen comes with its own set of challenges, including body odor, but it doesn’t have to be an embarrassment they have to live with. By applying these tips to their everyday hygiene routines they will feel confident in their ability to conquer odors while their body learns to self regulate.