Hygiene and Teens

Hygiene and Teens

Puberty is a time of physical changes where a child’s body begins the process of maturing into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. Puberty usually starts for girls between the ages of 7 and 13, and for boys between the ages of 9 and 15. So what does puberty have to do with hygiene? Well, the changes that occur in the body during puberty require some new considerations as far as hygiene goes. For example, body odor is something that can start or significantly increase during puberty – so it is important to be informed about how to deal with it.

Here are some considerations when it comes to healthy hygiene habits:

Oily hair

Sebaceous (oil) glands are important because they keep hair shiny and waterproof. However, during puberty these glands produce extra oil which can make hair look and feel oily or greasy.

So what can you do?

  • Wash your hair every day or every other day. You can even pick a shampoo designed for oily hair.

  • Don’t use too much shampoo or scrub too hard as this can actually irritate your scalp and/or damage your hair.

  • Use a conditioner after shampooing – one designed for oily hair might be a good choice.

  • Use styling products that say “greaseless” or “oil free” so you aren’t adding extra greases to your hair when you style it.

Preventing acne

  • Starting at age 10, wash your face twice a day. Even if you don’t have acne, it is a good habit to get into. Don’t scrub too hard and don’t feel the need to use any kind of special product. You can speak with your primary care physician or dermatologist about the best facial soaps for you.

  • Wash your hair every day or every other day as oily hair can aggravate acne in some people.

Sweat and body odor

During puberty sweat glands become more active and secrete different chemicals into the sweat that give your sweat a stronger smelling odor. You might be particularly aware of the odor under your armpits, and might possibly notice more of a smell with your feet and in your genital area.

So what can you do?

  • Shower EVERY DAY using a mild soap and warm water. Make sure to focus on the face, hands, feet, underarms, groin and bottom.

  • Wear clean clothing, social and underwear every day.

  • Wear cotton clothing that will more efficiently absorb the sweat.

  • Use a deodorant or deodorant with antiperspirant IF NEEDED. You may be fine without using deodorant. Check in with a close friend or family member if you need some honest advice about whether or not you (and the people around you!) would benefit from using deodorant. 

Body hair

Increased body hair is definitely a part of puberty. It can leave guys and girls trying to figure out what to do with that hair. If you are a guy with facial hair, do you want to have it or grow it out? If you are a girl, what do you want to do with your underarm and leg hair?


If you decide to shave, you can use a traditional razor with shaving cream or an electric razor. If you use a regular razor make sure the blade is new, clean and sharp to prevent cuts. Go slowly so you can avoid cutting yourself as you go over the different curves. If you need advice on products, which shaving method to use or on effective techniques, talk to a parent or other trusted adult.

If you are considering shaving your pubic hair, chest hair or a girl considering shaving her face, keep in mind that when the hair starts to grow back in the stubble that will most likely be prickly.

Girls and upper lip hair:

If you have hair on your upper lip and it is really bothering you because you don’t like it there and/or you feel it is truly noticeable to others, you have several choices:

  • Bleach the hair to make it less noticeable.

  • Use a facial moisturizer that contain substances to make facial hair softer and less noticeable.

  • Use hair removers specifically designed for the face.

  • Talk to a dermatologist about electrolysis, a permanent hair removal technique. This should be a last resort for teens and should be a decision made with input from you, your parent//guardian and your doctor.

Oral health

  • Floss daily

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day

  • Go for cleanings and check-ups with your dentist every 6 months


Hygiene myths debunked

It is important to know what to do when it comes to good hygiene habits. However, it’s also important to know what is NOT true when it comes to hygiene. Here are some hygiene myths that you should NOT fall for:

  • Shaving makes hair grow back faster and thicker

  • Girls need to douche

  • Greasy foods cause acne

  • Getting a tan cures acne

  • Every teen needs deodorant

  • The harder you scrub when washing your face or hair, the better


Friends are great, but they are not always the bearer of the most accurate information when it comes to things like puberty and hygiene. If you have questions about the changes your body is going through and/or about hygiene, it would be best to speak to your parent/guardian, school nurse, primary care physician or an adolescent medicine specialist. If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.