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What age should children start wearing deodorant?

Did you know deodorant is different from antiperspirant? And did you know there are at least eight types of deodorant applicators and hundreds more different formulas? If you have a preteen, this might be the time you’re wondering when your child should start wearing deodorant. Read on to discover when the right age is, what type of deodorant is best, and how to talk to your child about body odor. 

When do kids have the personal hygiene talk in school?

Around middle school or earlier, girls and boys go through puberty. Preadolescents go through puberty as early as 8 years old and as late as 14 years old. Along with hormonal changes, new hair growth, and physical body changes, the pubescent body starts using the apocrine gland.

This gland releases a stress-induced substance that can cause body odor. Personal hygiene is part of the reason why schools have a dedicated class to talk about these issues around this age. The exact age varies from school to school, but the personal hygiene talk happens sometime between sixth grade and eighth grade.

In this class, the teacher will go over the body changes each child in the class might be going through. The teacher will often introduce products like deodorants, antiperspirants, menstrual pads, and shaving tools. 

Along with basic hygiene habits like washing hands after using the bathroom and taking regular showers, this talk at school helps preteens develop a healthy cleaning and grooming routine.

 When should I have the personal hygiene talk with my child? 

Since schools will speak to your child around the time that they’re 11 years old, you might want to sit them down before that. This is also important because some children go through puberty at a much earlier age, and this means they can start developing body odor as early as 8 years old.

mother and daughter talking
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Early on, you can teach them simple habits like wiping down their crevices between their toes, under the arms, and under their neck as needed throughout the day. As they get older, you can explain what deodorants and antiperspirants are so these aren’t completely foreign when it’s time for your child to use them. 

Let them know what type of products are available and gently offer them their options. Let them choose from a predetermined list if you are wary of chemicals in deodorants. If you want to create your own deodorant at home from naturally derived ingredients, you can make different recipes from common household items. More on this below.

So when should my child start wearing deodorant?

Frankly, there is no exact date for when your child should start wearing deodorant. They won’t start smelling on the day of their eleventh birthday. The most you can do is keep an eye out for signs of puberty and always communicate with them about personal hygiene and development.

Other factors also come into play, such as whether or not they sweat because of sports, if you live in a warm climate, if they eat lots of odor-inducing foods like peppers and garlic, or if they have good overall hygiene.

In some rare cases, strong body odor is caused by excessive sweating for no apparent reason. If this sounds like your child, it’s best to contact a professional so you can find out what the root of the odor is. 

father and son talking

For all other circumstances, avoiding spicy foods and garlic, showering regularly, wearing breathable fabrics, drinking water, and washing clothes regularly can all help reduce armpit odor. 

What types of deodorant are safest for kids?

There are a handful of common deodorants available in stores:

  • Aerosol
  • Roll-on
  • Solid in a jar
  • Powder
  • Gel/cream
  • Natural salts/crystals
  • Wipes
  • Packed solid roll-on

There is lots of speculation about whether or not aluminum-based deodorants and antiperspirants cause breast cancer, but many of these claims are unfounded. Antiperspirants and deodorants are safe for the average person, and more research is necessary for such big claims.

With that said, organic and scent-free options are the safest for kids. This is their first time using personal care products, and their sensitive skin will do best with gentle formulas without heavy chemicals.

Last, try to choose deodorants that last all day. They will likely leave their product at home until they really need to bring it to school. 

Are there other natural alternatives to deodorant?

The simple truth is we all stink. It’s not the sweat itself that makes up body odor, but the bacteria that eats the sweat. Unless you don’t sweat at all, you will have some type of body odor at least at one point during the day.

Perhaps this is the most important message to convey to your child: Body odor isn’t embarrassing, but we should do what we can to prevent it and decrease it to be respectful to others. 

There are natural alternatives to store-bought deodorants you can make at home:

  • Baking soda or cornstarch
  • Essential oils like lavender or tea tree
  • Lemon juice
  • Witch hazel

Baking soda and cornstarch neutralize odors and absorb sweat. These are less powerful than antiperspirants and may be best for sensitive skin. Essential oils offer antibacterial and antifungal properties to prevent bacteria from thriving in your underarms. Lemon juice and witch hazel are acidic liquids that eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

You can store these do-it-yourself deodorants in a tincture or spray bottle if your child wants to bring them to school. There are also natural deodorants you can purchase in a jar. They come with small spatulas to scoop them onto your fingers and rub onto your underarm skin.

Once your child is knowledgeable about deodorants, they’re ready to start trying different ones. If they’re reluctant to try it for the first time at school, have them test-drive it on a Saturday. This way, they can wear it all day and discover if it’s a good fit. Whether your child is a preteen or slightly younger, they can practice good hygiene with their first deodorant today.

Meanwhile, if you have noticed changes in your son’s voice, read on further to learn more about it, including everything you might want to do as a parent to help your child deal with it.

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