Hygiene and Teens: 8 Tips to Get Your Teen into the Hygiene Habit

Most teens need a little prompting... here are a few mom-tested tips to get your teen into a self-care routine

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Hygiene and Teens: Tips to Get Your Stinky Teen to Take a Shower

Written By: Jessica Manning 

Have you ever found it surprising why so many teenagers, at an age known for being keenly self-conscious, disregard their hygiene?

Well… as a school counselor, I’ve come to learn that it’s not necessarily laziness (although it’s easy to assume that). It’s more ignorance on their part (and perhaps a poor sense of smell). Most teenagers simply don’t know how to adapt to the sudden changes going on in their bodies.

Their rapidly changing bodies throw them for a loop and for the first time in their lives they’re dealing with smelly armpits, greasy hair, and pimples. And, oddly enough, they somehow can’t smell themselves even though their nose is six inches from their armpits… (I mean… really?)

I’ve often had to pull kids aside and have gentle (sometimes awkward) conversations about their hygiene. Little do they know that these conversations are oftentimes prompted by teachers or other students who have a hard time dealing with their “unpleasant presence.” And, sometimes, these conversations are prompted by parents who are at their wits’ end trying to convince their kids to shower regularly, wear deodorant and care for themselves. 

Listen, parents, we all know teenagers can be brutal. None of us want our kids being teased, called out, or pegged as “The smelly kid,” which is just one reason why it’s so important for us to teach our kids about the importance of hygiene AND go the extra mile by walking them through how to care for themselves. 

Hygiene and Teens: 8 Tips to Get Your Teen into the Hygiene Habit

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I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty about puberty, as an abundance of information exists. (Check out the books listed at the bottom of this post!) Instead, here are a few tips to keep in mind while guiding your teen through this sensitive topic. 

Don’t Tease Them

“Wow… you stink! You need to take a shower now!”

“When was the last time you took a shower? I can smell you clear across the room!”

“Geez… is that a zit on your chin? Are you even washing your face?”

Teenagers are already sensitive enough about their bodies, don’t make them feel even more self-conscious by teasing them or calling them out in front of other people. Gently pull your pre-teen or teen aside and let them know it’s time to start wearing deodorant, washing their face, and cleaning themselves thoroughly in the shower. Be prepared for defensiveness. Most teens don’t take too kindly (no matter how soft your approach is) to being told they stink. 

Talk About What’s Happening to Their Bodies

If they’re open to it, talk to your child about what’s happening to their bodies. Most really don’t know! Let them know that perspiration or sweat, comes from sweat glands that they’ve always had in their body. But thanks to puberty, those glands not only become more active than before, but they also begin to secrete different chemicals into the sweat that has a stronger smelling odor.

Let them know, also, that when they hit puberty, their body naturally begins to produce an increase in hormones called androgens. The excess hormones trigger oil glands in their skin to become overactive and produce too much oil. When there’s an abundance of oil, the pores in their skin become blocked with skin cells which can cause acne. The excess oil also triggers an overgrowth of bacteria which contributes to acne. 

Mostly, let them know that what they’re going through is completely normal!

Encourage Them to Develop a Routine

When your child was little you bathed them, made sure their hair was washed and rinsed well, and supervised them brushing their teeth. Now that they’re a teenager, they’re on their own and if they don’t know how to care for their growing body, they’re sure to flounder. 

For a while, (maybe a long while) you might have to gently remind them on repeat. If gentle reminders don’t work, create a checklist to help them develop good routines. The checklist could include (but not limited to): 

  • Take a shower once or twice a day depending on level of activity.
  • Thoroughly wash and rinse hair in the shower.
  • Wash body with soap paying close attention to underarms and privates. 
  • Shave face (boys) and shave legs and underarms (girls). 
  • Wash face with soap or facial cleanser. Use acne cream/wipes to minimize breakouts. 
  • Brush/floss teeth.
  • Put deodorant on.
  • Clip toe and fingernails as needed.

You can also encourage your teen to use a hygiene tracker app. Yep, they exist!

Teach (or, If Possible Show) Them the Proper Methods

We can’t take for granted that our kids know how to appropriately use a bar of soap or wash their hair and rinse it well or what to do with the face cleanser you bought them to tackle those stubborn pimples. 

Show them (or if you can’t show them, at least walk them through) how to lather soap on a washcloth and thoroughly wash their face and body, how to lather their hair with shampoo (and work at getting to the root of their hair to combat greasy hair) and how to use products to clean their face. Girls, especially, might need guidance on how to care for themselves during their cycles – how often to change a tampon and why they should change it frequently. I had a friend whose mom left a package of pads on her bathroom counter and never once spoke of them…or her period, for that matter. If our kids can’t talk to us about it, they’ll seek out someone else – typically friends who are just as clueless.

If you feel uncomfortable teaching them, you can find numerous videos on YouTube or books on Amazon that go into detail about puberty and hygiene for teens. 

Let Them Choose Their Products

I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s currently trendy for pre-teens and teens (mostly girls) to be moderately obsessed with make-up, skincare, and anti-aging regimes. Although half of what they’re using likely isn’t needed or necessary, (plus, it’s expensive!), I AM on board with the idea that our girls (and boys) are paying attention to and caring for their skin and bodies. 

What’s driving this new trend is that pre-teens and teens are choosing cool products that they’re seeing on TikTok or Instagram. As long as the products are reputable name brands you can trust, let your teen choose products they’d like to try (unless they’re crazy expensive, of course). The more your teen is involved in the self-care process, the more likely they’ll be to keep up with it. 

Stay Diligent About Face Care and Acne

Rare is the teenager who hasn’t risen out of bed, looked in the mirror, and found a zit (or two or three) the size of Mount Everest on their chin. It’s all so normal, but to a self-conscious teenager, it can be a devastating blow to their self-esteem.

According to Web MD, more than 85% of teenagers deal with skin problems including whiteheads, blackheads, acne blemishes, pimples, and sometimes deep, painful cysts. And, as most teens know, acne isn’t merely skin deep. It can impact the way they feel about themselves, their social life, and even their emotional well-being.

While a good skincare routine can certainly minimize acne, some kids are prone to serious acne, and no matter how diligent they are, they still have breakouts. If that’s the case with your teen, be sure to take them to a dermatologist. Acne prevention has come a long way and there are plenty of things your teen can do to achieve clear, glowing skin. I’ve known too many kids who have spent their teen years in hiding because of unruly acne, despite there being so many options for help.

READ: Acne 101: Your Teen’s Guide to Clear Skin

When All Else Fails, Pull the “Others Are Noticing” Card

If you’re wondering if other kids are noticing your teen’s greasy hair, smelly armpits, or dirty hoodie they’ve worn five days in a row… trust me, they are. Of course, I wouldn’t use this tactic unless it was necessary, but I can tell you that it works like a charm with my boys. 

Sometimes, our teens won’t listen to us, but they’ll sure as heck go out of their way to avoid being in the spotlight for having horrible body odor or being the object of teasing and/or ridicule by the guys in the locker room. In fact, they may not realize it, but teenagers, as a whole, are very observant (and downright judgy) creatures and if they know their friends and classmates are getting a strong “whiff” every time they walk by, it might prompt them to take an extra long shower. A little peer pressure can be a good thing at times!

Be Patient…

I know this is all easier said than done. Many teens go through a transition phase where taking regular showers or washing their face is just too big of a hassle, so they skip it. 

In a lot of homes, a teenager will come home from a game simply too exhausted to shower so they plop into bed only to wake up with a face full of pimples. Or, a parent reminds (and reminds) their teen to take a shower but the teen is too engrossed in their video game so despite numerous prompts, they just blow it off or forget for a day or two – hence, prepare yourself for one stinky teen. 

Just know this is normal!

Being in charge of your own self-care takes time. Some teens will get the hang of it in a couple of months; others might literally take years. Just be patient. This is a big transition in your teen’s life! They really WILL get the hang of it. Until then, just be gentle and supportive… oh, and you might want to invest in clothes pins for your nose, roll down the windows in the car, and sit across the room when you’re watching TV together. 

Books About Pubert, Hygiene and Growing Up:

















About Jessica Manning

Jessica is a high school counselor with over 20 years of experience working with teenagers. She earned an M.A. in school counseling and a B.A. in English and secondary education. Jessica is married to a high school principal and has three teenage boys; her current life revolves around all things teen. When not working or following her sons’ sporting events, Jessica appreciates any opportunity she gets to veg at home with her family and her dog, Phyllis. 


If you enjoyed reading, “Hygiene and Teens: Tips to Get Your Stinky Teen to Take a Shower,” here are a few other posts you might enjoy!

12 Powerful Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body and Stop Being So Critical of Herself

The Great Hormonal Collide: 10 Things Teenagers and Their Perimenopausal Moms Have in Common

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