When Is It Safe for Kids to Use Deodorant?

Most kids need to begin using deodorant when they go through puberty. Some kids, however, do have noticeable body odor and need to use a deodorant every day even before they start puberty.

Noticing the First Signs of Puberty

Since body odor is linked to puberty, it's important to determine if your kids have started puberty already. Girls typically start puberty between the ages 8 and 13, while boys usually start when they're between 9 and 14 years old.

Signs of puberty can include breast development in girls, vocal changes in boys, and pubic hair or underarm (axillary) hair in either sex. If you notice that any of these signs are starting too early (before age 8 in a girl and age 9 in a boy), talk to your pediatrician to rule out a medical problem or precocious (early) puberty, which usually occurs for no known reason. You can also ask your doctor to check for hyperhidrosis, the medical term for excessive sweating, which often begins in childhood.

Controlling Body Odor

If your child hasn't started puberty but has a strong body odor it may because he or she sweats more than other kids or has more of the bacteria that leads to stinkiness on their skin. There are ways you can help him or her control odor beyond just using deodorant, though. For instance, it's important to teach your child personal hygiene basics, including:

  • Bathing daily. If your kid doesn't like getting in the tub, it might help to take them shopping to pick out soaps and other products they would like to use. 
  • Showering after sports or other sweat-inducing activities
  • Washing all parts of the body, including the more smell-prone armpits, genitals, and feet, when bathing or showering
  • Wearing clean underwear, socks, and clothes every day
  • Buying loose-fitting cotton clothing, which isn't occlusive and may help your child sweat less
  • Watching your child's diet to see if something they eat, such as garlic, onions, or spicy food, may be causing or contributing to their body odor

You might also change the brand of soap your child uses to see if another soap may be more effective at managing odor.

Deodorants for Pre-Teens

If these tips don't stop your child's body odor, you may want to introduce your child to using deodorant. Since there aren't many deodorants designed for younger kids, you might consider using one that is marketed for pre-teens or teens—they aren't generally very different than deodorants geared for adults, but kids often prefer a product made specifically for them. Degree, Tom's of Maine, and Fresh Kidz all make deodorant for children. Many larger brands like Secret and Ban make brightly colored and scented deodorants for teens that can be used for kids of this age group as well.

If you want a natural deodorant option, Tom's of Maine, Junior Varsity Natural Deodorant for Kids, and Fresh Kids make them for kids. You can also buy your child a combination of deodorant and antiperspirant, which may be necessary if the child sweats a lot. While deodorant contains ingredients that mask odor caused by sweat, antiperspirant uses ingredients—usually aluminum-based complexes—that stop wetness by blocking sweat glands.

Some people are concerned about the aluminum content in antiperspirant, which has been linked to Alzheimer's disease and breast cancer, but studies have shown little risk associated with using products containing aluminum on your skin. Aluminum salts are the only ingredient proven—and approved by the Food and Drug Administration—to control wetness, so if you're concerned about the contents in antiperspirants, deodorant is your best bet for staying dry. If you're concerned about the phthalates (ingredients that help products stick to your skin) and parabens (preservatives) in deodorant which may interfere with hormones, consider a natural brand.

A Word From Verywell

It's certainly not unheard of for active prepubertal children, even those who practice good hygiene, to need to use deodorant. Since they're a little younger than average to need deodorant, talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns or if general hygiene tips alone don't help.

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Article Sources

  1. Lam TH, Verzotto D, Brahma P, et al. Understanding the microbial basis of body odor in pre-pubescent children and teenagers. Microbiome. 2018;6(1):213. doi:10.1186/s40168-018-0588-z

  2. Puberty and Precocious Puberty: Condition Information. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

  3. Gelbard CM, Epstein H, Hebert A. Primary pediatric hyperhidrosis: a review of current treatment options. Pediatr Dermatol. 2008;25(6):591-8. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1470.2008.00782.x

  4. Carel JC, Lahlou N, Roger M, Chaussain JL. Precocious puberty and statural growth. Hum Reprod Update. 2004;10(2):135-47. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmh012

  5. Urban J, Fergus DJ, Savage AM, et al. The effect of habitual and experimental antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome. PeerJ. 2016;4:e1605. doi:10.7717/peerj.1605

  6. Klotz K, Weistenhöfer W, Neff F, Hartwig A, Van thriel C, Drexler H. The Health Effects of Aluminum Exposure. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017;114(39):653-659. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2017.0653

Additional Reading

  • Nelson WE, Kliegman RM. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2016.