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 people around you.
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 a strong odor that we call body odor. You probably will not notice the smell at first, since it builds up gradually. Someone will eventually comment on the odor. 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 an acceptable range. Bathing does two things. First, it removes the excess sweat, oil, and dead skin cells, thereby removing the food source of the bacteria. Second, 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, around your genitals and between your toes.
When you clean your genital area, make sure you wash the entire vulva area. The vagina cleanses itself by producing fluids to push bacteria and dirt towards the entrance, but it is your job to clean the entrance. Make sure you rinse well as soap can be irritating to the vulva. You might also consider using a milder soap. Always wash from front to back so you do not accidently introduce germs into the vulva area.
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 stockings daily so as not to reintroduce yesterday's bacteria to your freshly washed body and make sure your pelvic area is completely dry before you cover it up. Body powders can help with excess moisture around your groin and on your feet.
It was once popular to rinse the vagina with water (sometimes mixed with other chemicals, such as vinegar). It is called douching. The belief was the rinsing would cut down on the number of infections a woman may experience. However, it is now known that douching may actually push bacteria higher up into the vagina. Also, we now know there are beneficial bacteria in the vagina which helps keep down the population of harmful bacteria. Douching too frequently will cut the population of the beneficial bacteria, giving the harmful bacteria a chance to grow out of control. So unless a doctor advises you to douche, don’t.
You should check your breasts regularly for lumps. Such lumps might be an early sign of breast cancer. Initially, breast cancer is painless, but it can kill you in its latter stages. It is important to catch it early, when it is more easily treated.
Breast exams should be done once a month, shortly after your period has ended. The reason for this is that just before and during your period, small lumps may temporarily appear in your breasts due to your changing hormones. The best time to examine your breasts is a few days after your period has stopped so you don’t confuse the temporary lumps with more permanent ones.
You need to look and feel for two things. First, feel your entire breast for any lumps or swellings that are different from the way your breast felt the previous month. The fatty tissue of the breast is sometimes lumpy. Since you are the most familiar with your body, you should feel for changes within your breasts. A lump that stays the same from month-to-month is no cause for concern. Second, you should squeeze your nipples and look for any discharge or liquid from them. Unless you are pregnant or breast-feeding, your breasts should not be producing any liquid.
Dealing with Blood Flows
The products available to help with menstrual blood come in one of two forms: pads or tampons. Which one you pick depends on what you find more comfortable.
Pads are thin pieces of absorbent material that are placed on the inside of your underwear so that the pad covers your vulva. There is a sticky side on the pad to hold the pad to your underwear so it doesn’t shift during the day. Pads should be changed every few hours, so keep several with you and change them each time you use the restroom. Pads come in several thicknesses. Which one you select depends on the amount of blood flow you generally experience.
Tampons are small tubes of cotton that are inserted into the vagina to absorb the blood flow. Like pads, tampons come in several sizes and absorbency rates. Depending on the size of the opening in your hymen, you may or may not be able to fit a tampon into your vagina. Also, it is very important to change the tampon regularly (every 4 to 6 hours) because it provides a good breeding area for bacteria that can cause toxic shock syndrome.