All About Teens

How to combat body odor in preteens in 3 easy steps

My friend and I were having coffee one morning and as always, the conversation turned to our children. “I’m afraid I have the smelly kid,” she confessed to me.

I chuckled a little and said, “He’s twelve. They are all smelly at twelve.”

“No,” she replied. “I think he is THE smelly kid. Like the one that everyone makes fun of and doesn’t want to sit next to in class.”

Cue the ominous music and alarm bells. I’m in my forties and can still remember the smelly kid from junior high. No one wants that to be their kid, still remembered thirty years later for their stinky armpits. This was a situation that called for mom power, so we put our heads together and devised a plan to tackle the funk.

Rest assured, body odor is something that most parents will deal with during the preteen and teen years. It’s a normal part of puberty, but there are definitely ways to lesson the smell and make sure your kid isn’t THE smelly kid.

How to tell if you have the smelly kid

I hate to be Captain Obvious, but can you smell them? Does their room smell like a sandwich shop that specializes in extra onions? Do you have to hold your nose when they lift their arms to hug you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have a smelly kid.

Even if you can’t actually smell them yet, keep reading. Practically all kids go through a stinky phase during puberty and it’s best to be prepared.

Why does your kid smell bad?

There is actually a scientific reason for why preteens are stinky. During puberty, glands in your child’s body are stimulated, including the sweat glands under their armpits. This means that the sweat glands kick into overdrive and produce an oily liquid, otherwise known as sweat.

There is a scientific reason our kids are smelly
There is a scientific reason our kids are smelly

When kids start to sweat, the oily liquid mixes with bacteria that breaks down the oil. When the breakdown occurs, it gives off an odor.

The good news is that body odor tends to stabilize by the end of puberty. The bad news is that your kid most likely can’t smell themselves so you need to be on top of them.

Here is one more fun science fact for you. Research has proven that kids literally get used to their own smell and can’t recognize body odor on themselves.

And teenagers are generally just bad at smelling. They can’t pick up things like garlic or smoke. Amazingly, just like the sound of their parent’s voices, teens can tune out smells too.

Only boys can be the smelly kid, right?

Nope, sorry to tell you this, but your sweet little girl will stink too. Remember, this is a part of puberty and growing up. It is totally normal for all preteens, including girls, to have body odor.

3 easy tricks for the smelly kid to try

Thankfully, there are some simple fixes. Most importantly, encourage your child to shower regularly. Like every day. Sometimes more than once a day. If you can smell them, they need to go shower again.

Does your kid smell like onions?
Does your kid smell like onions?

In our house, I had to start mandating that showers came before phones and video games. Otherwise my kids would happily bask in their own stench all day. Do whatever you need to do, but the number one way to combat body odor is by bathing regularly.

Next, find them a good deodorant and antiperspirant. I’ll be honest, I never knew that these were two different things until I started looking into it.

In case you are in the same boat as me, deodorant basically covers up the body odor smell. Antiperspirant, on the other hand, keeps your child’s armpits from sweating so much.

Remember, the sweat mixes with the bacteria and produces an odor. So you need to combat both the sweating AND the odor.

Get a deodorant with antiperspirant for your child. Then, make them use it for a week and see if it helps.

If it doesn’t, be open to trying a different brand. Many times, we automatically buy our kids the same brand we have always used, but their bodies may react differently than ours.

Another product you can try is cologne, perfume or body spray. Make it fun by taking your child with you to pick it out. That way, you can make sure that you both like the scent.

And then, please, for the sake of all of our noses, teach them not to bathe in it. A couple of sprays will do the trick. Most preteens will be excited to use cologne or perfume because they see it as a big step toward adulthood.

One thing that you might not have thought about trying

Many teens will throw their dirty clothes on the floor at the end of the day and then put them back on the next morning. Obviously, odors can linger on clothes so it is important that they are not re-wearing smelly ones.

I know it seems like common sense to us, but when dealing with teens and preteens, you never really know what they are thinking. So teach them to change their clothes every day, especially their underwear and t-shirts. You could also lean toward cotton instead of synthetic materials when you are buying their clothes.

The end result

The next month, my friend and I were having another coffee date and she was happy to report that the problem seemed under control. By making a few changes, she had made a huge dent in the body odor problem in her house.

Hopefully, it will be that easy for you too and you will be able to happily report that you no longer have the smelly kid.

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4 Easy ways to fight body odor in preteens
Is your tween the smelly kid?

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