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Hygiene and teens

Hygiene and teens

To better undestand

It’s a well-known fact that during puberty, starting around age 10 to 12, teens experience many changes in their bodies. Some of these changes make hygiene more important than before and new habits must be formed. See the information leaflet Puberty and hygiene for more information.

Even though this may seem simple for us, it can be difficult for teens to follow hygiene advice. Some will become excessive, while others don’t manage to follow the advice. We often think that not following instructions is related to laziness or opposition. However, that isn’t always the case! Don’t forget that teens have to deal with many psychological changes during puberty and have to adapt to their changing body. Teens are also influenced by social and cultural norms (friends, media, family). This means that difficulties that arise may stem from different sources.

Following are a few examples:

  • Misunderstanding or uncertainty about the hygiene rules or how to use hygiene products.
  • Prioritizing other activities to the detriment of their personal hygiene or difficulty fitting time for their personal hygiene into their schedule.
  • Difficulty adjusting to their changing body and discomfort seeing themself naked.
  • A lag between the physical and psychological changes: sometimes teens go through physical changes before being psychologically mature enough to understand the reasons and to apply the personal hygiene advice.
  • Trying to find an area of their life they can control.

Quite often, these difficulties are transient. However, neglecting their hygiene can be a sign of depression when it is accompanied by other symptoms. If you think your teen is depressed, see a health and social services professional.

In the next section, we’ll provide advice about how to support your teen.

To better support

Communication

  • Explain the physical and psychological changes related to puberty to your teen. Be positive about puberty and the changes your teen is going through.
  • Talk to your teen about the benefits of taking care of their body: feeling good, smelling good, feeling comfortable with others, preventing infections, etc.
  • Explain the various options they have for personal hygiene, in particular managing hair (shaving, epilation, keeping it), armpit odours and menstruation. Let your teen choose their options.
  • Explain to your teen how to use the hygiene products, in particular menstrual hygiene and hair removal products.

Supervision/Guidance

  • Rather than imposing strict and rigid rules, use a positive approach, explaining the benefits of following the personal hygiene advice, by helping your teen put the advice into practise and by positively pointing out when your teen follows the advice.
  • Be careful to not talk to your teen about their personal hygiene only when they are neglecting it.
  • Avoid negative confrontation or putting your teen down if he or she is having difficulty following personal hygiene advice, especially in front of other people. Calm moments are the best time to point out your observations and discuss possible solutions.
  • Establish a personal hygiene routine with your teen (times set aside for personal hygiene, set times for doing their laundry, for doing housework.). Don’t hesitate to remind them or review them!

Support

  • Positively but discretely note your teens personal hygiene efforts. For example, “You smell good when you get out of the shower!”; “Your breath smells good when you brush your teeth!”
  • Encourage your teen to gradually become independent with regard to their personal hygiene.
  • Allow your teen to choose their personal hygiene and hair removal products: soap, shampoo, deodorant.
  • Put together a period kit (menstrual pads and change of clothes) for your teen’s backpack in case her period starts when she’s not a home.
  • If your teen has difficulties (excess or negligence), take the time to talk with them about what they understand or feel about their personal hygiene.

At home

  • Establish a family schedule for sharing the bathroom for personal hygiene if you have a limited number of bathrooms and there’s a lot of you having to use it. Make sure each family member has a daily time for personal hygiene.
  • Make sure the personal hygiene products they’ve chosen, for their body or for menstruation, are available. Develop a method for keeping these products in supply.
  • Use mild shampoos and soaps that are not too strongly scented to avoid skin and scalp irritation. Same thing for deodorants!

Tips and tricks

You don’t have to pay exorbitant prices for personal hygiene products. There are several low-cost personal hygiene products that work very well! It’s even possible to make your own soaps, shampoos and conditioners!

For teens who take excessively long showers, there are all kinds of tools to regulate water consumption such as shower timers and flow regulators. The ecological argument also usually goes down well with teens.

In brief

  • It’s important to talk about puberty and personal hygiene at home.
  • Young teens need time and support to adjust to their changing body and to become independent with regard to their personal hygiene.
  • Offering them advice and a family environment that makes this easier can be helpful.

Resources and practical tools

1. For support:

If you are concerned about a situation, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:

Community organizations: family centre, youth centre, etc.

Some community organizations offer support programs for parents of teenagers. Call your local organization for information.

School staff members

2. To learn more:

Several municipalities offer grants for purchasing reusable menstrual products. Check with your municipality!

Consult the page Stages of development at the website EnModeAdo to find out about the various changes that occur during adolescence.

Latest updates : November 2023

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