Parenting stinks! Whether it is soiled diapers or sweaty gym socks, the stenches that come with childrearing are sure to offend even the most seasoned nostrils. If you are the parent of a teenager, a secondary school educator, or a sports coach, then you know that adolescent body odors are especially unpleasant. Hormonal changes, increased activity, perspiration, and bad habits are to blame. As if our children’s messy bedrooms were not already hazardous enough, now the mere act of standing next to them can activate your gag reflex.
But fear not, brave parents! There are ways to combat teenage funk and restore fresh air to your breathing passages once again. So, hold your noses, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to explore the world of teen hygiene.
Islamic Guidance on Hygiene
The significance of good hygiene for Muslims, regardless of age, is emphasized in the following verse of the Quran:
“Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves.”
(Suran Al-Baqarah, 2:222)
Likewise, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said in a renowned hadith:
"Cleanliness is half of faith."
Maintaining good hygiene is not only essential for personal well-being but also plays a crucial role in one's overall health and social interactions. This holds true for people of all backgrounds and beliefs, but as Muslims, we place a strong emphasis on cleanliness as an integral part of our faith. Muslim parents have a unique opportunity to instill the values of cleanliness and hygiene in their children and align these with Islamic teachings and traditions.
Teaching our children about the importance of good hygiene starts early, but during the teenage years, when rapid physiological changes occur, the significance of good cleanliness habits becomes even more pronounced. Adolescents experience hormonal shifts that can lead to increased secretion and sweat production, resulting in heightened body odor. Establishing proper hygiene practices early on helps teenagers maintain their physical health, confidence, and self-esteem during this transitional period.
For Muslim families, the concept of ritual purity, known as taharah, is deeply ingrained in Islamic teachings. Taharah is a fundamental aspect of Islamic practice that Muslims should observe after specific acts or instances of impurity that may occur in daily life for both genders. Examples of such instances include urination, defecation, and passing wind or gas, while others occur during specific times, such as a girl or woman’s menstrual cycles and postnatal bleeding. In Islam, great importance is placed on human purity and cleanliness to the extent that purity is considered a requirement for the validity of many acts of worship. Additionally, Allah holds a special regard for those who maintain a constant state of purity. By teaching their children the importance of hygiene, Muslim parents can connect it to their religious values, fostering a holistic understanding of cleanliness that extends beyond physical appearance.
Hygiene Tips for Teens
Both the Quran and the Sunnah offer advice on excellent hygiene practices that our youth can implement to ensure they remain in a state of taharah. Here are some tips so your teenagers can stay clean and fresh during these transitional years from childhood to adulthood:
1. Minding the Sunan-Al-Fitrah
Allah created humankind upon the fitrah, or natural disposition. This nature is mentioned in the following hadith reported by Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her:
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Ten acts are part of natural instinct: trimming the mustache, letting the beard grow, using the toothstick, sniffing water into the nose, clipping the nails, washing the knuckles, removing hair from the underarms, shaving the pubic hair, and cleaning the private parts with water.”
Mus’ab (the narrator) said, “I forgot the tenth, except that it might be rinsing the mouth.”
In another hadith, Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that:
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Five acts are a part of natural instinct: circumcision, shaving pubic hair, plucking hair from the armpits, shortening the mustache, and clipping the nails.”
(Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
The actions mentioned by the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as being part of our natural or human instinct are sometimes referred to Sunan-al-Fitrah and are vital for maintaining good hygiene. As such, teenagers who have reached the age of puberty, are responsible for acts of worship, and whose body hair may have sprouted on their face, underarms, and private parts, should mind these and other Sunnah acts of cleanliness. Those cited in the hadith are:
- Trimming the mustache – Make sure to teach your child how to properly use, clean, and sanitize scissors or trimmers.
- Letting the beard grow – They should also maintain facial hair clean with regular washing and grooming.
- Brushing the teeth – Parents are encouraged to buy miswak or siwak in bulk, change out toothbrushes every 3-6 months, take their children to regular dental appointments, and gently remind their teens to brush and floss at least twice daily. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was adamant about people keeping their teeth clean. Al-Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that when some companions entered upon the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, without having brushed their teeth. The Prophet said:
“You enter upon me with unclean teeth? Go use the toothstick. Were it not hardship for my nation, I would have obligated them to use the toothstick at every prayer, just as I obligated them to perform ablution.”
- Cleaning the nose and ears regularly – If they know how to make proper wudu, they will have learned to wash out their nostrils and ears before prayers. Parents should make sure they know how to perform ablution and remind them to clean their ears.
- Clipping the nails – Ideally, the nails should be trimmed down regularly so they are not excessively long and prone to dirt buildup.
- Washing the knuckles – Regular handwashing is essential for good health.
- Shaving the underarms – This practice should be implemented for both boys and girls.
- Shaving pubic hairs – Parents must teach their adolescents how to properly handle a razor or trimmer to avoid cuts and scrapes.
- Cleaning the private parts with water – Provide a vase, basin, spray hose, or bidet in the bathroom at home, and a portable water bottle for public restrooms.
- Rinsing the mouth – Washing the mouth after eating helps to dislodge food particles and flush out bacteria.
2. Caring for Hair
The companion, Jabir ibn Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, came to us and he saw an unkempt man with disheveled hair. The Prophet said:
“Could this man find nothing to groom his hair?”
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to care for his hair regularly and wanted his followers to do the same. He was reported to have said:
“He who has hair should honor it.”
It is easy for teenagers to throw a hoodie over their head, pull their hair into a messy bun, or hide it under a hijab and go on about their day. However, they should wash and comb their hair regularly to keep it clean and neat.
3. Bathing regularly and ghusl
Part of maintaining good hygiene is bathing regularly, but sometimes teenagers are lazy or inconsistent when it comes to taking a bath or shower. Because their bodies are producing more secretions and sweat, it is not a good idea for them to go for long stretches of time without bathing. Even during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, while living in the desert with little water, Muslims were encouraged to bathe regularly.
Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“It is a duty for Allah upon every Muslim to perform a ritual bath at least once every seven days, washing his head and his body.”
(Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
Hence, there is no excuse for your child to do their due diligence in keeping their bodies clean.
Additionally, when children reach the stage of puberty, they begin to experience wet dreams and girls begin menstruating. Both will render them in a state of janaba, or ritual impurity (the opposite of taharah). They must perform a complete ghusl, or thorough ritual bath, to return to their regular prayers and fasting. Be sure to explain these important practices to your child(ren) without feeling awkward or embarrassed.
Maimuna, the wife of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, described the steps of ghusl in the following hadith:
“Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, performed ablution like that for the prayer but did not wash his feet. He washed off the discharge from his private parts and then poured water over his body. He withdrew his feet from that place (the place where he took the bath) and then washed them. And that was his way of taking the bath of janaba.”
His other wife, Aisha, may Allah be pleased with them both, described it in a similar manner. She said:
“Whenever the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, took a bath after janaba he started by washing his hands and then performed ablution like that for the prayer. After that, he would put his fingers in water and move the roots of his hair with them, and then pour three handfuls of water over his head and then pour water all over his body.”
4. Using Deodorant and Perfume
After establishing a consistent schedule of bathing and grooming, one way to stay smelling great is by using deodorant on a regular basis, as well as pleasant-smelling colognes or perfumes. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, mentioned in an authentic hadith that one of the most beloved things to him in this world was perfume (Sunan Al-Nasai). He would encourage his followers to use perfume along with bathing for optimal cleanliness, especially when attending congregational prayers.
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, Allah has made this day of Friday a celebration for the Muslims. Whoever comes to Friday prayer, let him bathe himself, apply perfume if he has it, and use the toothstick.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
It should be noted, however, that girls and women are discouraged from wearing strong fragrances in the masjid because the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“If one of you attends the mosque, let her not put on perfume.”
- Choose deodorant over antiperspirants that inhibit the body’s ability to naturally release toxins through sweat.
- Many deodorant brands contain harmful ingredients. Find an organic, vegan, and gentle child-friendly brand.
- Consider making your own deodorant at home. It is very easy, inexpensive, and oftentimes better than store-bought brands. Check out this recipe: https://www.gundersenhealth.org/health-wellness/be-well/how-to-make-natural-deodorant
- Have your child try perfume oils over alcohol-based colognes. They last longer, are made from natural ingredients, and do not over-dry or irritate the skin.
- If using alcohol-based colognes or perfumes, spray over clothing rather than skin to avoid irritation.
5. Keeping Clothing Clean
Aside from keeping their bodies clean, teens should be encouraged to make sure the clothes they wear are also clean and fragrant. If you have not done so already, teach your child or children to help with laundry. They should learn how to wash by hand, hang items to dry, sort whites and colors, the proper way to load and set the washer and dryer, and how to fold clothes.
Set rules about what needs to be washed and when. Ideally, outer layers of clothes that are stained, smelly, or have been worn more than once or twice should be laundered. Underwear must be washed after daily use or if soiled, no excuses. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, once saw a man with a dirty garment and he said:
“Could this man find nothing to wash his garment?” (Sunan Abi Dawud)
Note: Girls should be taught to always carry sanitary pads with them in their purses or backpack to avoid embarrassing accidents.
Being Consistently Clean
To establish all the healthy habits mentioned, teens should be encouraged to be consistent. They may need gentle reminders to stay on top of the best hygiene practices. Thankfully, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, established a time frame for the Sunan acts of cleanliness. Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, who was the young servant of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, reported that:
“He set a time for us to trim our mustaches, cut our nails, pluck our armpit hair and shave our pubic hair; we were not to leave that for more than forty days.”
In addition to religious and physiological reasons, good hygiene also promotes overall well-being and prevents the spread of diseases. Teaching teenagers the importance of regular handwashing, oral hygiene, and bathing not only helps them avoid illnesses but also cultivates healthy habits that they can carry into adulthood.
Ultimately, maintaining good hygiene serves as a foundation for teenagers' physical health, emotional well-being, and social interactions. Muslim parents have a unique opportunity to incorporate Islamic values into these hygiene practices, nurturing a sense of identity, dignity, and responsibility. By doing so, they empower their children with the confidence, grace, and cleanliness they need to be the best example for their peers.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.