|You, Your Life, Your Dreams: A Book for Adolescents (FCI, 2000, 213 p.)|
|CHAPTER 5: BASIC BODY CARE|
Everybody wants to look nice, but feeling attractive can seem especially important during adolescence because of all the big changes you experience. Not only does the body change shape during puberty, but it starts producing new smells, new fluids and new worries for many young people. Practising good hygiene can be a very good way to feel more comfortable with your body and all these changes.
Sandra, 13, Uganda
"Always bathe, wash and iron to appear smart!"
Good hygiene is especially important during adolescence because your skin begins producing more fluids than it did when you were a child, and some of these fluids can cause unpleasant smells if you do not bathe.
The main fluid you may notice is sweat. Sweat, which is mostly water, is produced by glands in the skin. The sweat glands become much more active when you reach puberty, so many adolescents notice that they sweat a lot. They also notice that their sweat takes on a different smell and taste than the simple watery sweat of a child who has been running in the sun.
Your armpits have many sweat glands, but you also have many sweat glands in your hands, feet and even your genitals, so you may notice that you are perspiring more in these places too. The smell of your perspiration will change during puberty, but these changes in body odour are natural and healthy. They are signs of growing up.
Although some people worry about the smell of their sweat, and especially their underarm perspiration, bathing once or twice a day, and wearing clean clothing should be enough to keep you fresh and clean. If you perspire a lot and it bothers you, wear cotton underwear and loose cotton clothes. Cotton is more absorbent than synthetic materials, and it allows air to flow through the cloth, which helps keep you cooler. Some people buy roll-on or spray deodorants to prevent underarm odour, but these products can be costly. Bathing and wearing clean clothes usually works fine.
Like sweat, other bodily fluids - menstrual blood, vaginal fluids, semen and smegma (the white lubricating substance under the foreskin of the penis) - are basically clean. But once these fluids leave the body, bacteria can grow in them, causing bad smells or sometimes infection. Therefore, it is important to clean the genital area - around the vagina and the penis - daily. Boys who are not circumcised need to pull back the foreskin and gently clean away the smegma (see Chapter 3).
Girls need to clean in between the inner and outer lips of the vulva, but they do not need to clean inside the vagina with soaps because the vagina cleans and protects itself with its own vaginal discharge. Good hygiene is especially important during your menstrual periods (see Chapter 4).
For washing the genitals, ordinary bathing soap is fine. You should not use strong antiseptic soaps or deodorants in the genital area because they can cause irritation. In addition, strong soaps can kill good bacteria that usually live in places like the vagina and that help protect against certain infections. After washing, always dry yourself and put on clean panties.
If you have dry skin, putting some vaseline, mineral oil, cocoa butter or other lotion on your hands, arms and legs will help. Lotions put on just after bathing help to keep moisture in your skin.
Wash your hands frequently. Always wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Keep your nails clean by keeping them short.