Some teens have difficulty making the adjustment from childhood to adulthood. Much to parental dismay, one common difficulty teens may have is mastering their own personal hygiene.
Adolescence is a time filled with many changes, and the sudden need to be independent about hygiene can be challenging to say the least. As teens experience the normal development of independence, they may not want their parents or guardians involved in their hygiene. However, they may not have acquired the basics of self-care.
Attention to hygiene is important at this time, because normal puberty means body changes that lead to increasing sweat and hair, and the potential for odor.
Although it depends on how dirty or active you are, bathing or showering should be done every day or two, if you have been playing sports or sweating, it is important to get clean that day. A bath or shower should last at least five to ten minutes, and involve warm water, soap and shampoo. If you do not bathe every day, consider at least washing your feet, face, armpits and privates (not necessarily in that order). Keeping these areas clean helps prevent bad odors and treat or prevent facial acne.
Shampoo your hair every day or two, perhaps less depending on the nature of your hair and scalp. Under some circumstances, washing too often can be harmful, but this is rare. However, washing your hair too seldom can leave it greasy and unattractive, and eventually unhealthy and weak. Scalp conditions like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, where white to yellowish scales form on the skin in oily areas, can also develop.
It can be easy to forget the importance of good dental care when thinking about hygiene. Brushing two or three times daily (preferably after every meal) and daily flossing not only keeps teeth and gums healthy, it prevents bad breath and a smile that looks like Shrek’s.
Hand washing not only keeps you from getting sick, it protects those around you too. Remember the key times to wash your hands - after going to the bathroom, coughing or sneezing in the hand or handling a tissue. Always wash before eating or handling food, especially if food handling is part of your job. Wash again after touching someone who is sick or before touching someone who can get sick easily.
How long is enough for hand washing? Use the Happy Birthday rule. Wash your hands and wrists in warm water and soap long enough to sing ”Happy Birthday.” After using a public toilet and washing the hands, avoid soiling clean hands by handling too much in the bathroom.
Clothes should not stink, in style or odor. Keep them clean, stain and odor free. You not only look and smell better, but your clothes last longer. Change and clean underwear and socks daily. Clean other clothes, including shirts and pants, depending on their use and wear. Athletic clothing almost always has to be cleaned after every use.
Remember, good hygiene is especially important during your teen years, as normal puberty leads to body changes associated with more sweat, hair and odor. Good hygiene is part of growing up mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.