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Teenagers & Body Odour

Teenagers are renowned for being stinky (especially the boys), however it is not entirely their fault. Whilst you might be inclined to think teenagers aren’t too fussed about their hygiene, the truth is teenagers do start to sweat differently as they reach puberty.

Sweat is a completely normal human function, everyone sweats. There are two types of sweat glands:

Eccrine glands – found all over the body and produce a slightly acidic watery fluid. The sweat from this gland is designed to cool us down as it evaporates on the skin; we rely on it to control body temperature. This sweat doesn’t have an odour, however when it comes into contact with bacteria on the surface of the skin it can produce a smell.

Apocrine glands – found in the armpits, belly button, ears, groin and nipples; these glands come into action during puberty and produce a thick, waxy, greyish substance which is diluted by fluid from other nearby glands. Again, this sweat does not have an odour however when it comes into contact with bacteria it does produce a very distinct odour which we all recognise as body odour. This sweat does not play a role in temperature regulation like that of the eccrine glands; it is produced in response to stress, emotion and sexual excitement.

As adolescents enter into puberty a few things change causing body odour. Firstly, they just sweat more. Due to an increase in hormones, the sweat glands produce more fluid. The apocrine glands switch on and start to produce the thicker sweat which is sweat combined with oils produced by the body. The sweat also contains different chemicals that are produced due to the new hormones circulating the body and these chemicals can produce a much stronger odour when they are broken down.

Whilst it is a completely normal part of adolescence and puberty it still does not make it pleasant to live with. So, what can be done to minimise the stink?

  • Wash – it’s important to wash the armpits, groin and feet thoroughly each day and after exercise. Your teenager may be taking a shower each day; however they may need to pay more attention to those areas.
  • Use soap – of course this is obvious, but nonetheless you should never assume! Teenagers may think water is enough to get clean so get them a natural soap or body wash.
  • Use deodorant – we will always advocate a natural deodorant that does not contain any harmful ingredients. Although there are anti-perspirant deodorants on the market they contain aluminium to block the sweat gland from producing sweat. We do not know how harmful aluminium can be to our bodies with mixed research on whether it can have adverse health outcomes. It also is designed to interfere with the body’s normal function so in young people we believe it is best to avoid ingredients that alter their body’s function and could possibly pose a risk to their health. Some natural deodorants contain baking soda and coconut oil that can help neutralise odours or a natural mineral crystal that can stop the growth of odour causing bacteria on the skin.
  • Change clothing regularly – this includes socks. It can help to wear loose fitting clothing made from natural fibres.
  • Change bedding regularly – you would be surprised at how much you sweat while you sleep.

It’s important to teach your kids about good personal hygiene but also that some body odour during this time is completely normal and part of growing up. Teens should not feel embarrassed but rather learn ways to best manage it. If you have concerns about excessive body odour we recommended speaking to a healthcare professional.