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Personal Hygiene for Girls

Teaching Your Daughter About Personal Hygiene

It's difficult to prepare preteen girls for adolescence. What can you tell them that isn't a bit, well, negative? That the assault on their body by hormones will impact them both emotionally and physically? That emotionally, they may feel happy one minute and upset the next? Or how about that they get to develop hips, breasts, suffer from acne and may even begin to sweat profusely?

Yvette Deluca Davis of Glendale, Ariz., says that being upfront and honest with your kids about the changes of adolescence and the hygiene these body changes require is the only way to go.

"I dealt with personal hygiene directly and honestly," says Deluca Davis. "I tend to be very upfront, open and direct with my kids. We talk openly about everything, and when there's a problem we address it quickly."

This is particularly important when body odor becomes an issue. Deluca Davis' 12-year-old daughter began using deodorant very early. She told her daughter that body odor was a sign of growing up and discussed the changes her body would make as positively as possible.

"We went to the store together and spent close to an hour as she smelled each and every deodorant stick the store sold until she settled on one," Deluca Davis says.

Why Preteens Sweat

"Everything happens at puberty," says Dr. Eric Berger, a skin and laser specialist at Berger Medical Aesthetics, PC in New York City. "The profuse sweating that occurs during the preteen years is hormonally linked. Factor in the high levels of activity preteens and teens are involved in and you may have a real problem."

There are two types of sweat glands. The eccrine gland stores water and helps cool you down when you get overheated. The apocrine stores sweat. Everyone has harmless bacteria that live in their armpits. Odor results when that bacterium eats your sweat. Because of the hormonal fluctuations preteens and teens endure, they are much more likely to have malodor than at any other period of their life.

Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant

Cindy Dumlao is a Dove research and development scientist and played an integral role in the development of Dove Ultimate Clear Antiperspirant Deodorant. She says there is a definite difference between deodorants and antiperspirants.

"Deodorants are products that work primarily by masking the odor caused by the bacteria interacting with perspiration," Dumlao says. "They are formulated to be highly effective in reducing odor-causing bacteria."

On the other hand, antiperspirants are products that help control wetness by slowing the flow of perspiration to the surface of the underarm skin. By helping control perspiration, it also helps control odor; less perspiration for bacteria to interact with. Bacteria grows best in warm damp environments. Because antiperspirants block perspiration they are making the environment less friendly to bacteria growth. This decreases the odor.

Most products contain both deodorants and antiperspirants: antiperspirant to control the wetness that causes odor and deodorant to control the odor that stems from any wetness that does occur.

Urban legend has it that antiperspirants can clog up sweat glands and cause cysts. Dumlao says this just isn't true. "They form a superficial plug in the underarm sweat glands to reduce the flow of perspiration," Dumlao says. "As with any product, there is a potential to cause a skin reaction. Typically, discontinuing use will alleviate the symptoms. However, if the skin reaction persists, please seek medical attention immediately."

When Should She Start?

Preteens should begin using deodorant when body odor becomes noticeable to others. If you are unsure as to when a child should begin using an underarm product, consult your child's health care provider. Because they know your child, they will be able to give more personal suggestions on when would be a good time for your particular child.

"You stink!" is probably not a good way to open the topic of conversation with your child. Most girls are self conscious about their growing bodies and are amenable to using some kind of deodorant if parents present it in a positive manner and link the use of underarm products with growing up.

The type your child uses, a straightforward antiperspirant or deodorant, is a personal choice though most people choose a product that combines both. Make sure your daughter is a part of the decision-making process. This will encourage her to use the product more regularly than if you just spring it on her.

Teaching your child to use underarm products is simple. Both underarm deodorants and antiperspirants are used in the same manner. After showering or bathing, dry under the arm thoroughly. Apply a thin, even layer to the underarms area and you're good to go. Try finding a product that doesn't leave a tell-tale white mark on your daughter's clothing to save her from possible embarrassment.

Using deodorant is a part of taking care of oneself and growing up. It is just one more milestone in a child's journey to becoming an adult. By presenting this in a straightforward manner, you are teaching your child good hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.

Facts on Sweat

  • Sweat is odorless. It's the bacteria that feed on sweat that cause the odor problem.
  • In 2004, Americans spent an estimated $1.7 billion on antiperspirants and deodorants.
  • Only one percent of the body's sweat comes from under the arms.
  • Sweat is 55 to 60 percent water, but also contains salt as well as ammonia, calcium, chloride, copper, lactic acid, phosphorous and potassium.
  • The active ingredient in antiperspirants is an aluminum-based compound. By forming a temporary plug in the sweat duct, this aluminum compound decreases wetness and odor.

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