What leads boys to use a deodorant


December 17, 1991|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe

Q: When should I start using a deodorant? My father uses Old Spice. Should I use that brand?

A: Whether you wish to use a deodorant is a matter of personal preference, not something that is required for any health reason. When boys enter puberty, they become very conscious of their physical appearance because of the many changes that are occurring. Around mid-puberty (several years after pubic hair first appears), most boys notice an increase in the amount and odor of their sweat.

For most young men, this happens around age 13. Because they are self-conscious about their appearance, they often wish to use a deodorant. However, being careful about regular bathing or showering is probably more important as a means of keeping the skin clean and odor-free.

If you decide to use a deodorant, you must choose between a plain deodorant or an antiperspirant. A deodorant is largely made up of a number of chemicals mixed together to produce a smell that is pleasant to the user. An antiperspirant contains an extra ingredient (usually a form of aluminum) that is designed to temporarily block the sweat gland openings in your skin and decrease the amount of sweating.

Which to choose is a matter of personal choice. The most important factors are cost and which smell best to you. You can certainly use the same brand as your father, but it's up to you to decide. Antiperspirants sometimes can irritate the skin and cause a rash or swelling in the armpit.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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