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Teen Hygiene Tips

As a parent, it’s your job to help your kids and explain the teen hygiene basics. But where do you start?
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WebMD Feature

How good is your teen's hygiene? Let his or her shoes be your guide.

"A lot of teens really have that sweaty sock syndrome," says Charles Wibbelsman, MD, chairman of the Chiefs of Adolescent Medicine for Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and co-author of The Teenage Body Book. "I walk into the exam room and the smell is so overpowering that I really want to keep the door open."

Of course, sweaty feet are just the beginning. As soon as puberty hits and the hormones start flowing, a preteen's hygiene requirements change dramatically in many ways. But experts say a lot of parents avoid discussing the subject.

"Parents too often assume that 10- or 11-year-olds will somehow naturally learn what they need to know about hygiene," says Wibbelsman. "But that's not true. Someone has to teach them."

Kids with poor hygiene face consequences. Some are medical: they may be more prone to developing rashes and infections. But equally important, they may quickly become known at school for being dirty. That sort of bad rep can be hard to shake and damaging to self-esteem.

So as a parent, it's your job to help your kids and explain the teen hygiene basics. But where do you start? How can you give your preteen daughter responsibility for her own hygiene? And how can you get your teenage son -- who, let's be honest, stinks -- to shower every day without relentless nagging? Here are your teen hygiene answers.

Good Teen Hygiene

When it comes to teen hygiene, what do you need to discuss with your kids? Here's a rundown. 

Showering. "Most elementary school kids don't shower every day, and they don't need to," says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD,a pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls and The Wonder Years. But she says that once puberty hits, daily showering becomes essential. Recommend that they use a mild soap and concentrate on the face, hands, feet, underarms, groin and bottom. Washing under the fingernails is key, too.

Washing hair. Discuss the pros and cons of daily hair washing. Some teens may prefer to skip days to prevent their hair from drying out. Others may want to wash their hair daily -- especially if they have oily hair, which can both look greasy and aggravate acne.

Using deodorant or antiperspirant. Your kid has always had plenty of working sweat glands. But when puberty hits, the glands become more active and the chemical composition of the sweat changes, causing it to smell stronger. When you or your kid begin to notice it, using deodorant or an antiperspirant should become part of their daily teen hygiene.

Keep in mind that many self-conscious teens have a skewed perception of how much they're sweating. You may want to reassure them. "I see a lot of teens who are convinced that they're sweating a lot more than all their friends, even though they're perfectly normal," says Altmann.

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