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You may want to keep your child a baby forever, but kids grow up fast. In the blink of an eye, they’re starting kindergarten, learning how to ride a bike, and before you know it, they’re going through puberty.
Kids start puberty at different ages, with some girls beginning as early as 8 years old and some boys as early as 9 years old, according to the Nemours Foundation. Puberty causes undeniable physical changes in your child. Children grow taller, girls develop breasts, and a young man’s voice may deepen. Puberty is also when children start growing body hair. And as underarm hair develops, you may notice a distinct odor coming from your child.
Just about every parent expects their child to start wearing deodorant by their teenager years. But some children develop body odor at a much younger age. It’s not uncommon for a girl or boy to need deodorant as early as 8, 9, or 10 years old. You may feel your child is too young for deodorant. But the truth is, there’s no specific age for a child to start wearing deodorant. Each parent has to make a decision based on what they feel is best for their child.
Deodorant vs. Antiperspirant
If you decide that now’s the time to address your child’s body odor, you can choose either an antiperspirant or a deodorant. Some people use these terms interchangeably, or feel that antiperspirants and deodorants are the same thing. But there are clear differences between the two.
An antiperspirant is a product that stops perspiration, and a deodorant is a product that eliminates odor caused by sweat. Some products function as both an antiperspirant and deodorant, but this isn’t always the case. Since sweat is usually the underlying cause of body odor, you may look for products that only control perspiration.
Although an antiperspirant can be effective, some people are concerned about potentially harmful side effects of these products.
Side Effects of Antiperspirants
If you check the label of antiperspirants in your bathroom or on a retail shelf, you’ll find brands containing the ingredients aluminum chloride or aluminum zirconium. These ingredients work like a plug by constricting and stopping up sweat glands. If applied daily, your child may stop sweating completely or only sweat a small amount.
Adult antiperspirants can be used by children and teens. This includes brands like Certain Dri, Old Spice, Secret, and several other products on the market. While aluminum-based deodorants are effective against sweat, it has been suggested that aluminum and other ingredients founds in antiperspirants (parabens and propylene glycol) have been linked to an increased risk of some medical problems. However, studies have not shown that applying these substances to the skin causes an increased risk of any disease.
If you are concerned about these ingredients, you can skip the antiperspirant and choose a gentle deodorant for your tween or teen.
Safe, Gentle Deodorants for Kids
If you need a product to mask your child’s body odor, and you prefer a product that doesn’t contain aluminum, parabens, or other toxic ingredients, there are many natural deodorants for kids. Here are some options:
Since natural deodorants don’t contain ingredients that stop perspiration, these products only control your child’s body odor, not sweating. The good news is that young children don’t usually sweat a lot.
Understand that children respond differently to natural products. If a natural deodorant doesn’t immediately produce the desired results, give it a few days and allow your child’s body to adjust to the deodorant. If this doesn’t work, your child may respond to a different type of natural deodorant.
Natural deodorants are safe, but your children may be allergic to one or more of the ingredients. In fact, your child could just as easily be sensitive to an ingredient in a deodorant as to one in an antiperspirant. Before your children apply either of these to their underarms, you might want to test the product on a small section of their body, maybe on the back of their hand. Look for any signs of an allergic reaction like redness, bumps, or itchiness. If a reaction doesn't occur, it’s safe for your children to apply a larger amount under their arms.
If you don't want to expose your child to the ingredients in purchased antiperspirants or deodorants, you can also make your own deodorant at home using a variety of ingredients like coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils. There are a variety of simple recipes online.
A basic concoction might include mixing 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of arrowroot powder, 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of an essential oil like tea tree or lavender. Combine all ingredients, and then melt and pour into a used deodorant tube or another container.
Since homemade and natural deodorants are mild, these products may not be as effective as other types of deodorants. To control body odor all day, your children may need to reapply deodorant after physical activity or on hot days. Your children can also take additional steps to control body odor. These include bathing at least once a day, showering after activities, and changing their clothes, socks, and underwear every day.
Body odor is common in children and teenagers, especially when they're going through puberty. There's no cause for alarm.
Speak with your doctor to get to the bottom of body odor issues if your child's odor doesn't improve or worsens despite using an antiperspirant, a deodorant, and improving hygiene habits. Sometimes, children suffer from conditions that cause excess perspiration. In rare cases, your doctor may suggest running tests to confirm whether body odor is due to growing up, or other problems like an infection, diabetes, or an overactive thyroid.