Personal hygiene is a set of practices performed to maintain cleanliness, promote body health, and prevent diseases (1). Until late childhood, children focus on basic personal hygiene habits, such as washing hands after a meal and covering their mouths while coughing. But as they transition to adolescence, this list populates with some new habits that are crucial for the teen’s health and well-being. As a parent, you can support your teen in developing an effective personal hygiene routine.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the need to maintain personal hygiene for teenagers, how they can do that, and how a parent can help them in this endeavor.
Why Is Personal Hygiene Important During Teenage?
Hygiene during teenage is essential for good health, just like how it is important for children and adults. In addition to the general reasons for personal hygiene, teenagers have some specific reasons (2).
- It helps maintain cleanliness and avoid exposure to infections and diseases. For instance, cleanliness during menstruation helps teenage girls prevent any potential infections.
- It helps them stay comfortable while being around with people. This could boost a teen’s confidence, self-esteem, and motivates them to lead a healthy lifestyle. It also helps them adjust to the social norms of adulthood, where hygiene is a part of one’s personality.
- Personal hygiene is also important because adolescence is the time when children see new changes such as the growth of body hair and an increase in body odor. Hygiene helps them keep their private parts clean and avoid body odor.
- It can also help them stay disciplined and focused on the goals that they have set for themselves.
Types Of Personal Hygiene For Teenagers
Personal hygiene is a dynamic term that encompasses several types of self-hygiene practices such as bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth, etc. Following are the various categories of good hygiene habits (3) (4) (5).
- Skincare: The skin of teenagers might get oilier as they attain puberty. Oily skin traps dust and dirt and thus serves as a breeding ground for germs. It leads to the development of several skin issues, such as acne and blackheads. Therefore, it is good for a teen to develop a proper skincare routine by regularly washing their face with mild soap or facial cleanser and water. Consult a dermatologist if the teen faces persistent skin issues. The doctor can prescribe appropriate skincare products, such as mild acne cleansers and creams.
- Haircare: Teenagers go out more often than children. This way, their hair (as well as skin) tends to become dirty. Also, hormonal changes might make the hair oily and smelly. The thickness of the hair only compounds the problem. Therefore, encourage your teen to wash their hair with a mild shampoo twice or thrice a week. They may also nurture their hair by applying some homemade hair care products after consulting a trichologist (hair doctor).
- Nail care: Teenage is the time when people like to grow their nails, style them into different shapes, and design them. However, fingernails are an ideal breeding ground for germs. These germs can transfer into the mouth while eating with hands. Touching the face can also cause the germs to get into the mouth, eyes, and nose. Thus, it is necessary for your teen to maintain nail hygiene. They can scrub the dirt out using a nail brush. Besides, a weekly clipping should help get rid of dirt and reduce the possibility of painful ingrown nails.
- Oral care: Poor oral hygiene can lead to problems such as bad breath and tooth decay. Make your child brush and floss their teeth twice a day. They should also wash their mouth after meals, either with plain water or with a mouthwash.
- Washing hands: Hands can spread germs to almost any part of the body. It is necessary to wash hands before and after meals, after playing outdoors, after feeding or playing with pets, after using the toilet and after any other situation where they touch a contaminated surface.
- Bathing: Body odor develops due to the development of a new sweat gland in the armpits and genital areas. The bacteria present on the skin feed on the compounds present in the sweat from these regions and cause body odor. Therefore, you need to explain to your teen that bathing, especially after physical activity, helps remove sweat and bacteria and prevents body odor. They may also use an antiperspirant to control sweat production.
- Toilet hygiene: This might not be a new hygiene practice for teens; however, it needs to be updated once they hit puberty. They should be advised on wiping their genitals every time after using the toilet and washing them while bathing as teens experience involuntary secretion of body fluids from genitals.
- Menstrual hygiene: Teaching menstrual hygiene to a teenage girl involves guiding them to track their periods, use hygiene products such as a sanitary pad (reusable or disposable), or tampon, and their safe disposal after use. A teenage girl should also be given directions on the correct usage of these products (6).
- Shave safe: Teenage boys can develop a mustache or beard, depending on their hair growth. If the boy wishes to shave, then you can buy them shaving cream and a teen-friendly razor. Teach them how to shave their facial hair carefully without inflicting injuries. Similarly, teen girls, who want to remove their genital and underarm hair, need to be told about the importance of using sterilized equipment and to be careful while shaving their genital area. Also, teach them about after-shave skin care routine and why they should not be sharing their paraphernalia with others.
- Clean clothes and shoes: It is important to change clothes, especially undergarments and socks, every day. Clothes retain dead skin cells, sweat, and other body fluids that can harbor germs. Teens who wear clean clothes and shoes can effectively combat puberty-related issues such as body odor and smelly feet.
Personal hygiene for teens with additional needs
Teens with additional needs are likely to need extra support.
- Understand your child’s learning ability and style. Acknowledging these factors can help you communicate with ease. For example, if a child understands better by seeing, then demonstrate the steps and show them what to do.
- Consider breaking hygiene activities into small and simple steps. It can make it easier for the child to understand and remember the activity.
- Perform a hygiene-related activity at the same time each day. It will help the teen anticipate the activity, keep track of it, and also make it convenient to recollect the steps. Writing down the schedule of hygiene activities may also help.
- You can take the help of a professional for discussing personal hygiene activities related to menstruation or wet dreams.
Why Do Teens Face Personal Hygiene Issues?
The following are some of the common causes for teens to face personal hygiene issues.
- Lack of awareness: This is one of the most common reasons for a teen to show disinterest in personal hygiene. The teen may not be aware of the importance of hygiene and the steps they need to take in this regard.
- Habit of procrastination: They may tend to postpone their bath or avoid taking a bath or brushing their hair if they have no plans of going out for the day. They may take it easy on washing their hands after using the toilet or before eating. These instances might be fewer in teens who have been oriented into personal hygiene from a younger age itself.
- Delay in cognitive development or mental health problems: Some teens may have an issue in maintaining basic hygiene routine due to cognitive development delay or some mental health problems such as depression. In such special cases, either the teen is not able to understand the importance of personal hygiene, or they forget the steps to perform the practice.
Teens with cognitive delays and mental health issues should see a medical professional to establish a hygiene regimen. In other cases, it is advisable to speak to your teen and make them understand the importance of personal hygiene.
How To Talk To Your Teen About Personal Hygiene?
You may the following steps to talk to a teen about personal hygiene.
- The best phase to strike a conversation about personal hygiene is at the beginning of puberty. It can ensure that by the time your tween enters adolescence, they are well-prepared for the changes they might experience.
- Do a quick research on the issue that you want to discuss. It will help you share correct information with your teen.
- Pick a quiet and alone time for the conversation. A teen who is at ease can participate in the conversation comfortably.
- Keep the participants of the conversation limited to you and the teen to respect their privacy. It will also help your teen develop trust in you, and they will likely confide in you in the future as well.
- Share your observations and tell them how poor hygiene habits could become a problem. However, while talking, ensure that you do not make it seem shameful and embarrassing. It is good to start your conversation by praising your teen and then slowly progress to the areas of improvement.
- Share about the social aspects of hygiene. Share live examples and be a role model. Guide them with examples of how hygiene is important for physical, physiological, mental, and social health. For example, when you talk about oral hygiene activities, talk about a relative or friend, who ended up going for a root canal treatment because they were not brushing and flossing their teeth.
- Once you have shared your part, ask your tween or teen if they have any questions or suggestions to make. Listen to them patiently and make them feel heard. Try to answer what you can and show that you are willing to help them.
- Be supportive and continue to communicate about their personal needs. Bring them all necessary personal hygiene items as per their needs. Take your teen along for shopping their personal care products.
- Praise and reward the teen appropriately when you see positive changes. If the teen does not improve, then set some strict hygiene rules.
- Seek a professional’s help if you observe any erratic behavior related to personal hygiene that you cannot talk out.
Personal hygiene is an inevitable part of overall health. It is good to guide your teen about the importance of personal hygiene while they are in their pre-teens or tweens. Since transitioning from childhood to adolescence is not smooth for every child, ensure that you are their guiding support in the best of your capacity. Patience and perseverance will help your child develop a routine of healthy hygiene.
2. Hygiene: pre-teens and teenagers; Raising Children
3. Clean and Nearly Teen: Personal Hygiene; St. Louis Children’s Hospital
4. Adolescent Hygiene Basics; University of Florida
5. Personal hygiene for children; Health Direct
6. Rajanbir Kaur et al.; Menstrual Hygiene, Management, and Waste Disposal: Practices and Challenges Faced by Girls/Women of Developing Countries; Hindawi
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