Teens go through various bodily changes after puberty. Body odor may be one of them, and teens usually complain about it. A teen may be concerned, but there is no need to worry. It is normal for teenagers to develop body odor (1). It tends to occur more in boys.
Body odor could commonly happen due to sweating, but there might be other reasons as well. In this MomJunction post, we give you an insight into the possible causes and tips to control teenage body odor.
Possible Causes Of Body Odor In Teens
Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) is the primary reason for body odor in teens. This is due to overactive sweat glands. Besides that, some of the common reasons for teenage body odor could be:
- Hormonal changes: During and after puberty, hormones rise and cause increased secretion by the sweat and oil glands. The sweat produced is odorless. But bacteria on the skin surface decompose the sweat into ammonia and fatty acids that emit a peculiar or pungent odor (2).
- Poor hygiene: Not bathing or changing clothes regularly can cause excess bacteria to accumulate on the skin, especially in the underarms, groins, and on the feet. It increases the possibility of developing body odor (3).
- Food choices: Consumption of certain foods such as strongly-flavored spices, garlic, milk-based products, fish, soya beans, and plants from Brassicaceae or Alliaceae families may cause distinct body odors (4). However, this is not just specific to teens but for children and adults too.
- Bromhidrosis: It occurs when the skin bacteria interact with sweat and break it down into malodorous compounds, thus causing body odor (5). This condition usually occurs in the palms, soles, and skin folds.
- Trimethylaminuria: It is also called fish odor syndrome, and may occur in teenagers and adults. The condition occurs when the body is unable to process trimethylamine, a compound naturally produced within the body. Accumulation of trimethylamine in the body causes a fish-like odor to develop in the person’s urine, breath, and sweat (6).
- Premature adrenarche: It is when the adrenal glands attain maturity earlier than normal. It can cause the teen to develop body odor (7).
- Superadded infections: Scabies is common in the underarms or groins. This causes intense itching and a body odor. There maybe superadded bacterial infections, which teens tend to hide. The underarms should be carefully examined.
- Phenylketonurea: It is a condition whereby the body does not process phenylalanine and excretes it in the urine or sweat. This is a mousy smell. The child should be on a protein restricted diet i.e not eat meat or consume protein.
How To Get Rid Of Teenage Body Odor?
Take a healthy diet and be well hydrated. In addition to that, here are some tips you may follow to prevent and control body odor in teens:
- Shower with antibacterial soap: Regular bathing with antibacterial soap and washing parts like armpits, groin, and feet could remove sweat and body odor-causing bacteria.
- Wear clean clothes: Wearing clean cotton clothes (including inners, t-shirts, socks) could help in reducing body odor as they are breathable and absorb sweat. Materials, such as rayon, silk, and polyester, are not breathable and may cause more perspiration.
- Deodorants: Deodorants may cover or block the body odor, while antiperspirants dry up or prevent sweating. Antiperspirants containing aluminum zirconium and aluminum chloride are considered effective (8).
- Cutting down certain foods: Limiting strong-flavored and strong-smelling foods such as garlic, fish, and spices may help reduce the body odor.
You may even try some home remedies for body odor in teens.
- Apple cider vinegar: Anecdotal evidence suggests that apple cider vinegar can adjust the pH level of the skin, thereby eliminating the odor. However, it should be diluted in water and applied using cotton on the armpits. For foot odor, soak the feet in warm water (with one part of apple cider vinegar) for about 15 minutes.
- Epsom salt: Soaking feet in Epsom salt may also help in reducing foot odor (9).
- Wheatgrass juice: According to the International Journal of Chemical Studies, wheatgrass juice is known to have odor-reducing properties (10).
- Natural deodorants: Some natural alternatives to deodorants include lemon juice (can kill bacteria causing odor), coconut oil (antibacterial properties), and baking soda (neutralizing odor). These can be applied topically or mixed with some more ingredients to make a homemade deodorant (11).
We have a DIY method to make a deodorant on your own.
You would require:
- 3tbsp baking soda
- 3tbsp organic corn starch
- 3tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
- 1tbsp natural beeswax
- 20 drops essential oil (any with antibacterial properties)
- Use a double boiler dish to melt the beeswax
- Once the beeswax starts to melt, add all the other ingredients
- Stir well by adding oil
- Once the blend is mixed well, add essential oil
- Pour the mixture in one container for use
These remedies are a good way to control body odor at home. Test the remedy on a small part of the skin to know if it suits your body.
When To See Doctor?
If the body odor seems strong and out of control, then it is good to seek a doctor’s opinion. Also, see a doctor if these home remedies do not provide any relief. If the teen sweats excessively and already has another medical condition, then it becomes essential to visit a doctor.
Body odor is not a severe condition to stress about. Ideally, it goes away when certain lifestyle changes are made. Your teen may also be able to manage body odor better as they grow older. Patience and regular day-to-day hygiene can help tackle body odor in teens.
Do you have any tips to reduce body odor in teens? Please share it with us in the comment section below.
2. S. R. Patel, An External and Internal Understanding: Female Puberty; University of Tennessee (2019)
3. What is hygiene?; St. Petersburg College
4. J. Havlicek and T. Saxton, The Effect Of Diet On Human Bodily Odors; Nova Science Publishers Incorporation (2009)
5. E. Langenau, Chapter 180: Odor (Unusual Urine and Body); Pediatric Care Online
6. Trimethylaminuria; National Organization for Rare Disorders
7. Premature Adrenarche; Boston Children’s Hospital
8. Sweaty, Smelly Teens and Tweens: Deodorants that work and other tips to keep them smelling sweet; Childrens MD (2015)
9. 5 Reasons to Soak Your Feet in Epsom Salt; Epsom Salt Council
10. M. Chauhan; A pilot study on wheat grass juice for its phytochemical, nutritional and therapeutic potential on chronic diseases; International Journal of Chemical Studies (2014)
11. Natural Alternatives to Deodorant; A Healthier Michigan
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