Taking Care of Your Body
In Ecclesiastes 9:8, Solomon advises that we should always keep our clothes and bodies clean and smelling well. Even without Solomon's advice, you should be interested in making yourself presentable to the womenfolk around you. It is hard to get a date if you smell bad and look dirty.
We mentioned before that as your body expends energy to cause you to grow, you produce more oil and sweat than you have in the past. Sweat itself has little smell, but bacteria thrive in the moist environment, feeding off the oil and dead skin cells on the surface of your body. The bacteria give off an obnoxious odor that we call body odor. You probably will not notice the smell at first, since it builds up gradually, but I promise you someone will soon mention it. As you sweat, the odor permeates your clothing and your body.
It is very simple to remove the odor. Just bathe regularly. As a child, you probably managed to get by with a bath two or three times a week. Now that you are maturing, you will find that you need to bathe daily to keep your odor level down to a range acceptable in today's society. Bathing does two things. It removes the excess sweat, oil, and dead skin cells, thereby removing the food source of the bacteria. Secondly, soap kills the bacteria that cause the odors - significantly cutting their population.
When you bathe, make sure that you scrub all of your skin. Showers are more effective than baths since the dirt rinses off and does not contact your skin again. Start your baths at the top of your head and work your way down. This keeps the loosened dirt and soap from "dirtying" areas that you have already scrubbed. As you grow, hair will form thickly around your genitals and under your arms. Simply using your wash cloth will not get the skin underneath the hair clean. Like your scalp, you need to scrub with your fingertips to remove the sweat, oil and dead skin beneath your hair. Make sure you get all the cracks and crevices, such as behind your ears, under your penis, behind your scrotum and between your toes. If you are not circumcised, be sure to unsheathe the end of your penis and wash away the accumulated oils that appear there. 'Unsheathing' means to grab the loose skin near the end of your penis and pull it along the shaft of your penis. Expose the entire glans at the end of your penis and then wash off the waxy-like oil, called smegma, that builds up underneath your foreskin. A problem for uncircumcised men is bladder infections that arise from allowing bacteria to grow at the end of their penis. Regularly removing the smegma decreases your chance of contracting a bladder infection. Another thing that you can do to keep that area clean and dry is to unsheathe your penis when urinating.
When you sweat, most of it comes from under your arms. The hairs that grow in your armpits keep the sweat from quickly evaporating. This moist environment is ideal for growing bacteria. Use an antiperspirant to chemically reduce the amount of sweat your body produces under your arms. Another method is to use a product that discourages bacterial growth. A deodorant will not be as effective since it is basically a perfume to cover up the odors and often wears out before the day is over.
Make sure that your skin has a chance to completely dry every day. This interrupts the life cycle of the bacteria. Don't wear shoes all day long. The dark, damp environment breeds many odor-causing germs. Give your feet a chance to air out. Put on clean underwear and socks daily so as not to reintroduce yesterday's bacteria to your freshly washed body. Cotton briefs and socks hold moisture for long periods of time. To give your skin a chance to dry, remove them at night. Wear light-weight pajamas or boxer shorts to bed instead of cotton briefs. If you prefer wearing briefs, at least wear a pair different from the ones you wore during the day. Body powders can help with excess moisture around your genitals and on your feet.
The moist environment in your shoes also provides a breeding ground for fungus. You may notice the skin on your feet becoming red and itchy. This condition is called athletes' foot. If you get it, see your doctor to make sure it is not something more serious. He will probably prescribe an antifungal medicine to put on your feet. If it is like the stuff I have had to use, the cure will smell worst than the disease. It will take a few weeks to totally rid your skin of the fungus. Keeping your feet clean and dry will help reduce the frequency of these outbreaks.
When fungus breaks out on the skin of your groin, it is called jock itch. It is the same thing as athlete's foot, just in a different area. The cotton brief underwear that most men and boys wear holds the sweat near the skin and provides another fungal breeding ground. Prevention of jock itch is similar to that of athletes' feet. Change your underwear at least daily to reduce build up of fungus and make sure you give your groin a chance to dry out daily.
One day, you will wake up and notice that there is a faint growth of hair on your face. At first it will be a bit sparse and the hair will be lightly colored - almost transparent. If you let it go, the hair will become longer and annoying. Then you will decide to shave.
The hair on your face will not develop suddenly, so don't plan on growing a beard by the time you are 15. The early growth is sparse and never looks like a decent beard. Don't worry about it, by the time you reach 20, enough hair follicles will develop that you can grow a full beard if you want. A few of you will never develop that much hair, but that is genetically determined. It doesn't reflect how manly you are.
I'll describe to you how to go about shaving, but there is nothing like having someone show you how. I strongly recommend that you ask your father or another older man to show you how to shave the first time.
You can use an electric shaver or a razor blade. If you have a chance, try out both to see which you prefer. You do need to know how to shave with a razor, because there may come a time when you won't have electricity available to you.
The first thing you need to do, whether you use a safety razor or an electric shaver, is to wash your face with hot, soapy water. The soap removes some oil from the hairs, making them stand up a bit more. The heat of the hot water makes your hair a bit softer so that they can be sliced easily. A good time to shave would be right after a hot shower.
If you are going to use an electric shaver, dry your face thoroughly and then begin shaving. Stretch your skin under the shaver by moving your chin away from the shaver. Taunt skin makes your hair stand up, giving you a closer shave. Move the shaver slowly over your face to give the shaver time to slice the hair. Moving it too quickly will cause it to pull on the hair, making your face sore.
For shaving with a safety razor, leave your face damp. Shake up the can of shaving cream and squirt about a golf-ball size lump of cream into one hand. Spread the cream over all parts of your face that you will be shaving. Rub the cream a bit to work it all around the hair. Shaving cream does three things for you. It is a soap, so it further removes the oils from the hairs, making them stand up. It also contains a good deal of moisture, which softens the hairs, making them easier to slice. Finally, the cream acts as a lubricant, allowing the razor to glide over your face. When you are done, you should have a thin coating of cream all over the lower part of your face. Hold the razor lightly and with gentle pressure pull the razor over your face. Do not allow the razor to make a side to side motion as this will slice your face. In addition, do not press too hard with the razor, or it will nick your skin. For the upper portion of your face, use downward motions to slice the hairs. For the area under your chin, use upward strokes (it will give you a closer shave). Rinse any excess cream off your face when you are done.
If you do manage to nick yourself, take a small piece of tissue and press it on the wound. It will absorb the blood and help it to solidify faster. Once the bleeding has stopped (usually in 15 minutes), a little cold water will loosen the tissue so that you can remove it.
After shaving, it is a good idea to apply some lotion to your face. Shaving makes many small nicks in your skin and the lotion helps the skin to heal faster. Many lotions also contain alcohol to kill any germs that may be present. You will also find that the alcohol stings a bit, even if you don't have any bleeding wounds.
Shaving when your face is broken out with acne is a challenge at best. Hold your razor lightly to avoid slicing yourself. However, no matter how careful you are, you will frequently cut yourself. I had such a difficult time shaving with acne that I decided to use an electric shaver. After my acne cleared up, I switched to a safety razor. Try out different methods to see which work the best for you.
Though circumcision is still practiced today, it is no longer required by God. Circumcision was a practice that the Jewish men did to show that they were God's chosen people. The practice should not be done for that reason today. Paul taught in Galatians 5:2-6 and Galatians 6:15 that circumcision is not a part of Christ's Law. Today, circumcision is practiced for two reasons. First, some people feel that a boy would be embarrassed in a locker room if he was not circumcised and every one else was circumcised. This reason is no longer true. About half of all boys born in the United States are no longer circumcised. The second reason is a belief that circumcision will cut down on bladder infections if the penis is made easier to clean. Proper grooming habits make this problem unlikely.
God doesn't care whether you are circumcised or not. Paul advises staying in whatever state that you are in (I Corinthians 7:18-20). In other words, don't go wishing you were the other way. Be content with whom you are.