April 3rd, 2012

5th Grade Puberty Video: Deodorant v. Antiperspirant

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A few weeks ago my 11 year old son woke up not feeling well. He stayed home from school that day and ended up missing part one of ‘The 5th Grade Video’. You know which video I’m talking about-most of us have seen it (or some variation of it) during our own childhood.  The movie is a rite of passage for 5th graders and the kickoff into the world of puberty.

My son was pretty disappointed that he missed ‘The Video’. The disappointment quickly turned to horror when he realized the DVD would be sent home and we would watch it TOGETHER. For those of you who don’t have children, this is the WORST possible scenario for a 5th grade boy: mom, son, popcorn and the puberty video. No giggling allowed.

We sat down with my laptop and plugged in our headphones.  I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to this stuff, so the video was no big deal to me.  Not so for him. We were instructed only to watch the ‘boy’ segment. After 18 minutes of watching him squirm we turned it off and I asked if there was any new info. He proudly exclaimed “nope”.

Deodorant and antiperspirant for 5th graders

Then came the amazing part: we launched into a very interesting discussion about deodorant. The video stressed over and over that the boys should start wearing deodorant. There was also mention of antiperspirant.

My son walked away from that 18 minute video with one piece of new information. He needs to buy deodorant and he needs to wear it NOW.

I walked away from the video with very mixed feelings. Not every 5th grader needs deodorant. No 5th grader should be wearing antiperspirant. As we all know, kids develop at different rates. There might be some kids out there who have begun puberty and are offensively smelly. Yep-deodorant might help them out in the social scene.  But it really comes down to personal choice, not a video mandating that they wear it.

We need to provide education about deodorant and antiperspirant

Conventional deodorants and antiperspirants contain controversial aluminum and their ingredient list is long and filled with other suspicious chemicals that I don’t want on my body and I certainly don’t want on my 11 year old’s body. The video didn’t mention any of that.

We are a culture obsessed with smelling pretty.  Take a stroll down the deodorant isle at any supermarket and the options are endless. A recent poll of over 500 parents revealed that approximately 50% of children ages 4 to 11 are using deodorant by age 11.

Say no to antiperspirants

Aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants and they block the sweat glands to keep sweat from getting to the skin’s surface. Some scientists have claimed that using the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer and/or Alzheimer’s. If you are determined to use a product use deodorant (not antiperspirant).

Find a safe, non-toxic deodorant

Avoid toxic chemicals. Avoid all deodorants with aluminum, parabens, chlorohydrate, propylene glycol, triclosan, TEA, DEA, FD&C colors, and Talc. Check the safety of all personal care products on EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.

Overall ‘The Video’ was filled with the perfect amount of information for a 5th grade mind. Thankfully, for the moment my son has forgotten about deodorant. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this discussion soon.

How would you handle the 5th grade deodorant debate?

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12 Responses to “5th Grade Puberty Video: Deodorant v. Antiperspirant”

  1. There are many natural alternatives. See some of our favorites here: http://nourishedkitchen.com/reader-questions-natural-bodycare/. Also, we like to check out ingredients at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. My child is only 7, but I have noticed arm pit odor from time to time, especially when she’s had sugary foods like after a birthday party or sugarfest at school. Dairy can be problematic for her as well.

  2. I’ve been having issue finding a shampoo/conditioner for my daughter that isn’t loaded with all kinds of yucky stuff. I’m sure this will be the same issue. I would love some ideas on what good products are out there.

  3. Hi Laura, wow armpit odor at 7! Everyone is so different. Thanks for the links. I also use skin deep for all personal care products. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. Hi Paula, you have inspired another post. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to put together a post with brands I like for pre-teens and teens.

  5. ugh…so not looking forward to that video. I get it, but yeah, our values, choices are a bit different than whatever the dated narrator suggests. As for deoderant…we started needing it a few years ago. We use Jason Tea Tree

  6. Hi Deirdre, I think the video was pretty dated. I actually enjoyed the video! I’ve heard good things about Jason Tea Tree. I haven’t checked out the ingredients….

  7. Wow, that’s shocking. Isn’t it sad that our society has come up with so many ways to undermine our positive feelings about ourselves? Why are we telling 11-year-olds that the ideal person is someone who doesn’t smell, ever? That they should be hiding a perfectly normal, natural process of the body, as though it’s not happening? I’m really dismayed at the underlying message here.

  8. You’re right Andrea-the message was all wrong. I do understand sharing information with 11 year old’s-this could have been the first time some of them are hearing it. It should be presented in a non-judgmental and informative way.

  9. Hi Lori,
    This is Kim the owner of Good For You Girls natural skin care. I certainly recommend our all natural deodorant. No parabens, petrochemicals, sulfates, aluminum, synthetic fragrance or dyes. Our deodorant is an easy to use roll on and we use beautiful botanicals like aloe, arnica and chamomile that are soothing to the skin. And yes it really works! I use it every day and we have many adults that do too. Remember odor is caused by bacteria so age is insignificant. Your skin, and your armpits in particular, are meant to sweat. It is a necessary function of how your body releases toxins but odor is optional. :) With girls it is critical to keep them away from chemicals under their armpits as it is so close to breast tissue. If anyone has any questions they are welcome to contact me. (kim@goodforyougirls.com) Keep up the great blogs Lori. And by the way when my daughters class saw the video this year I gave all the girls in her class deodorant and lip balm.

  10. Thanks so much for chiming in Kim. I ha!ve received emails from a lot of concerned parents wondering what products to use. I wish your daughter was in my son’s class!

  11. This was really interesting to me. Being a homeschool family, we have never seen THE 5th grade video (though I recall something of the sort when I was youngER ;) and being the mom of a 16 year old teen boy, I am all too familiar with arm pit odor! So far, I have only had to say “Why don’t you go wash up a bit” and have not needed to suggest deodorant. I suppose it is next up though. I am so pleased to see what you have to say about antiperspirants vs. deodorants as well. It is too easy to see them as one and the same, and they are very different. Once can be safe, one is NOT.

  12. […] towering over my 5’3″ self. I’m watching him closely now. Watching and waiting for changes. It’s going too fast and I don’t want to miss a […]

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

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