Grooming and Hygiene


Grooming and Hygiene

You might think that you are only supposed to sweat when you are hot, but once you hit puberty, you also will sweat when you are nervous. Your sweat glands (which make sweat) become more active during the teen years, causing both more sweat and also some smell. You actually have 2 million to 4 million sweat glands all over the body. Most are on the soles of the feet, the palms, forehead, cheeks, and in the armpits. Don’t panic, though. Sweat and smell are normal parts of becoming an adult. Sweating also does an important job – it helps to cool your body down when you are hot.

How to help keep sweat from smelling badly:

  • Shower or take a bath every day.
  • Use a deodorant (covers smell) or an antiperspirant (decreases sweating), or a product that has both.
  • Talk to your doctor if these things do not work or you are worried.

Worried About Bad Breath?

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is caused by bacteria that grow in your mouth. The bacteria gather on the small food pieces left in your mouth, especially between your teeth. The bacteria release sulfur compounds, which is what makes your breath smell. Strong-smelling foods such as garlic and onions can cause bad breath, and so can smoking.

Tips for preventing bad breath:

  • Don’t smoke! It is good for your health in many ways to avoid smoking.
  • Brush your teeth (and tongue!) for at least two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, especially after meals.
  • Floss every day.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and an exam to check for cavities.
  • Eat right. Avoid foods and drinks that can cause bad breath such as cabbage, garlic, raw onions and coffee. Don’t diet. Not eating enough or cutting out certain foods (such as carbohydrates) can cause bad breath.

Bad breath that won’t go away also can be a sign of a medical problem, such as a sinus infection or gum disease (gingivitis).

Be sure to talk to your dentist if your bad breath does not go away. It’s normal to be embarrassed, but it’s a very common problem and a dentist can help you try to fix it.

Your Skin

Your skin is just one more thing that changes when you go through puberty. Acne often starts in your early teen years because your body is making more oil glands, which is normal. A few different skin problems are a part of acne: whiteheads, blackheads and cystic acne.

  • Whiteheads are made when a hair follicle (root) is plugged with oil and skin cells.
  • If this plugged up stuff comes up to the surface of the skin and the air touches it, it turns black and becomes a blackhead. So, blackheads are not caused by dirt.
  • If a plugged follicle breaks, the area swells and becomes a red bump. If this happens close to the surface of the skin, the bump most often becomes a pimple. If it breaks deep inside in the skin, nodules or cysts can form, which can look like larger pimples. This is cystic acne.

Acne is common among teens, but not everyone will have the same troubles. It may be worse in boys because they have more oils in their skin. Also, it can run in the family. If your mother or father had bad acne, the same may happen for you. Some people also just have more sensitive skin.

How Is Acne Treated?

First, wash your face regularly. If the acne does not go away, there are over-the-counter products (you can buy these without a doctor’s order) available in different forms, such as gels, lotions, creams and soaps. Common ingredients used in these products to fight acne are benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur. If you have a bad skin reaction to any products you buy on your own, tell your doctor. Also, it can take time for these products to work. If they do not make your acne better after two months, ask your doctor for help. The doctor can give you stronger medicines, including antibiotics or other pills and creams that have either retinoids or adapalene in them. Retinoids can make you very sensitive to the sun, so avoid those rays or use a strong sunscreen to protect yourself. Another word of caution: the medicine isotretinoin (the product is called Accutane) can cause birth defects and miscarriages (losing a baby while pregnant) if taken when a woman is pregnant.

What Can Make Acne Worse?

  • Oil-based make-up, suntan oil, hair gels and sprays
  • Stress
  • Your period
  • Picking at your pimples
  • Scrubbing your skin too hard
  • Getting too much sun

What Doesn’t Cause Acne?

Dirt, fried foods or chocolate, and sexual activity do not cause acne. These are myths!

Hair Care

The same kind of oil that causes breakouts on your face also comes out of the pores on your scalp. In the right amount, this oil keeps your hair shiny and healthy looking. When there is too much oil, your hair can look greasy. If your hair is oily, wash it every day. You also may want to try shampoos that are made for oily hair. It also can help to stop using hair products that have oil in them.

On the other hand, if your hair is dry, you may want to shampoo less often and use a moisturizing shampoo. If you see white flakes in your hair or on your shoulders, you most likely have dandruff. There are special shampoos to treat dandruff that are sold near other hair products.

Do You Need to Douche?

No. The vagina actually cleans itself on the inside with natural fluids. The best way to clean the outside of your vagina is to wash with warm water and gentle, scent-free soap during a bath or shower. Products you might see on T.V. or at the drug store, such as feminine hygiene soaps, powders and sprays, are not needed. And they may even be harmful to you.

Douching is rinsing or cleaning out the vagina by squirting water or other fluids (solutions made with vinegar or baking soda that you can buy at the drug store) into the vagina. Women douche to rinse away blood after their periods and to generally feel cleaner. Many women douche, but doctors do not recommend it. Douching changes the balance of natural chemicals in your vagina and can make it easier for you to get dangerous infections.

If you have any of the following problems, tell your doctor right away:

  • Itching in and near your vagina
  • Burning or pain in your vagina
  • Pain when you go to the bathroom
  • Discharge, or fluid, from your vagina that is not normal, such as thick and white (like cottage cheese) or yellowish-green discharge that is foul smelling. Normal discharge changes throughout your menstrual cycle, but may normally look clear, cloudy white and/or yellowish.

If you are not sure if the discharge or fluid is normal, have your doctor check you out.


You might think you look better with a tan, but the truth is, there is no such thing as a safe tan. When your skin becomes tan, it is really a sign that your skin cells have been hurt. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are what damage your skin and these rays play a big role in the growth of skin cancer, the most common kind of cancer in the United States. Today, more young people than ever are getting skin cancer.

To protect yourself:

  • When possible, avoid outdoor activities during midday, when the sun’s rays are strongest. This usually means the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection to protect your eyes.
  • Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen and lip screen with at least SPF 15. Follow the directions on the bottle to reapply and check the expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date will last no more than three years. Sunscreen will not last as long if it is stored in very hot or very cold temperatures.

Tanning Indoors

Trying to get that tan is dangerous both outside and inside. Indoor tanning salons use light bulbs in the “beds” that give off dangerous UV rays, the same rays found outside.

There are other indoor methods that do not use UV rays, including “spray tans” you can get at a salon and tanning lotions or gels that you can buy at a drugstore or department store. While there is no known risk for skin cancer with these products, you do have to be careful. Spray tans, lotions or gels use a color additive (what makes your skin look tan) called DHA that is approved – considered safe – for use on the outside of your body by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If you use a sun-less tanning product on your own or go to a salon for a spray tan, make sure that your eyes and mouth are covered.

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