difficult child's Personal (UN)hygiene is grossing me out!

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
OMG - difficult child is really grossing me out now. I've always had to nag her to take her showers, brush her teeth, hair, etc. And I swear, if I didn't tell her to she wouldn't do it - at all!

Her teeth look fuzzy. She smells. Her hair is greasy. Her skin is all white and dry and scaly. She's developed horrible exczema. She smells. Oh wait, did I say that already?? Yes, she smells. She's developed this strange odor. It's not like a dirty smell or like an unwashed towel smell - it's different. Sickenly sweet. I don't know how her boyfriend would want to kiss her and I can't understand how no one else smells it or says something to her. She works with the public.

What can I do? Last night I sat her down and told her that she MUST shower every other day, that her skin and hair need to be cleaned and moisturized fairly regularly. She needs to brush her teeth. She will breathe through her nose all the way to school (30 minute drive) instead of brush her teeth so she can open her mouth. I will ask her a question and she will hum a response back to me so she doesn't have to open her mouth just so I won't yell at her for not brushing her teeth!! I am so completely grossed out by my own daughter's personal hygiene. I'm sorry, but it's really disgusting to me that she doesn't seem to mind smelling and having fuzzy teeth. She wears deoderant and perfume, but the stink still eeeks out.

What is up with this??? H, easy child and I all shower daily but when difficult child was younger I literally had to pick her up and make her stand in the shower to hose her down...once she's in there, she seems to enjoy it. Last week she didn't shower, so I told her she wasn't allowed out until she showered. YOu know what she did? She took a shower, but covered her smelly greasy hair so she didn't have to wash it. And she never put on lotion afterwards - he skin is so dry and ashen and scaly. I am annoyed that she complains about having exczema and yet she does nothing to help herself. I guess that falls in line with everything else - she's supposed to take her Omegas and evening primrose oil but she doesn't. Argh.

Anyone else have this problem to this degree and what do you do about it? We're talking about a 17 y/o young adult.


Going Green
Short of holding her down and washing her yourself, I don't know that there really is much you can do. Not that I don't sympathize, mind you. My difficult child isn't at that level but there are still some hygeine issues with him. He showers, if not every day then every couple of days, but he puts his old stinky clothes back on. I think with him it's more a matter of laziness though. I quit doing his laundry about 2 years ago. (Mine is also 17) For one thing, he is/was old enough to do it himself and knows how. For another, he would change clothes 4,5, sometimes 6 times a day for no reason. I simply refused to do all of that laundry. He hasn't had all of his clothes clean since. He'll do a few things here and there but that's it. They are in the bathroom and his room and both rooms just absolutey reek. I'll make him take his clothes back into his room but I've quit doing it because the last time I wandered into his "jungle" I about passed out from the stench. I've tried to talk him into doing laundry, yell, threaten....nothing. I finally just told him flat out last night that he stinks. Absolutely stinks. I said that I can't believe that no one at school has said anything to him about it because it's that bad. He'll drown himself in cologne but once the initial cloud wears off some, the odor just oozes out of his clothes. By his lack of response and the look on his face, I'm guessing that people HAVE said something to him. Afterwards, he did throw a load of clothes in the wash........we'll see if he does anymore today.

I guess that's just one of those difficult child-dom things that we all run into. Have a problem? Well quit trying to shift the blame on others and take care of it. It's one of those "very simple solution" issues that they, for whatever reason, can't/won't see. People say you stink? Well then, wash your darn clothes! It's not like you have to haul them all to the river and beat them on a rock! We have machines that do it for you, very simple.
Ack. Who knows why kids do what they do.

Know what? One day, someone (a peer) will say something. And she will be embarrassed. then she will do something about it.

Or maybe she won't. Kinda one of those things you have no control over. However, you DO have control over what affects you: ie, you are not allowed at the dinner table dirty, I won't let you in MY car if you are stinky, or something along those lines. Make it a reasonable 1 or 2 rules. Beyond that, if she wants to stink, her problem.

I sympathize with ya. My DEX was like that. Stinky doo-dads, blech.

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
I can't even say for certain that anyone has ever said anything to her ever. Her best friend is at our home constantly and as far as I know, she's never said a word. Could it be that since they all smoke cigarettes they simply don't notice the other stench? I am at a loss for an explanation or a solution. In the meantime, I guess I will just keep throwing her clothes in the laundry. At least her clothes are clean. But her skin is horrible and not getting any better. I'm calling her psychiatrist today. I think her AD needs to be upped, but only a tad since if we go too high she becomes manic. Ugh. We have still never found a combo of medications that work well together and it's been 7 years.

Her old boyfriend always smelled musty and he was a difficult child too, so maybe it IS just a difficult child thing.


Going Green
Could it be that since they all smoke cigarettes they simply don't notice the other stench?

That could be although I smoke also and have NOOOOOOOOO problems sniffing difficult child out in a crowd. They say that the longer you smoke, the more your sense of smell is damaged or lost. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened with me! :hammer: :rofl:

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
I sympathize with ya. My DEX was like that. Stinky doo-dads, blech.

My exh was disgusting like this. He worked outdoors all week and sometimes would not shower but maybe twice a week! His side of our bed was always dark and stained. Thankfully, he began sleeping on the couch shortly after difficult child was born. Ugh. I shudder to think that I touched that man.


Active Member
This is an issue here for me too. Spent years grossed out by my difficult child. Now he does shower every single morning during the school week, it is mandatory for me that he go to school each day clean. He didn't like it. I told him that although I loathe his hair (long, very long, shaggy and unkept, looks horrible and it isn't that long hair on a male bugs me, just his hair looks like a rats nest!) I will shut up about it if he washes it for school each day, otherwise the war is on until he cuts his hair. Come weekends however, he doesn't shower, hair gets greasy and nastier. He will put on clean clothes weekdays. Weekends he wears same clothes, sleeps in them. It is gross. He does take a shower on weekends if he smells himself and realizes he stinks. I guess I'm grateful he showers for school. But his hair? Even clean it looks disgusting, he doesnt brush it. I have to get ticked with him for him to quickly pass a brush through it, and even then well it's drying on the ends and it is so thick that it just is gross really.
difficult child wants zoom whitening at the dentist for his stains. Yup, his teeth look nasty. Well let me think about it. Um, nope. They never get brushed, he smokes so that stains them too. Why would I pay nearly a thousand dollars for cosmetic dental procedure for a kid who is smoking and never brushes his teeth?
I dont have any answers on how to help our kids "get it". I do put my foot down if he is coming out somewhere with us. He must be freshly showered, must have clean unwrinkled clothes on and he must have clean hair that has been brushed. If I can smell him, he showers and does nothing else in this house until he does shower. That's about all the power I have over his hygiene.
He came home upset yesterday, something about kids buying gross toy teeth at a buck store and wearing them and calling themselves him. Well buddy, yup I see why you want cosmetic work for your teeth and I'd gladly pay for it, nasty teeth are ... well NASTY! But not before he proves himself by taking care of his teeth, brushing well at least 2 times a day. Maybe yesterdays moment with these kids will clue him in. It does bother him. But enough to change it? Who knows!

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
Yes, mattsmom, the teeth thing is a really big issue for me! I buy whitening toothpaste and BEG difficult child to use that at least! I have to drive with the window open when she's in my car because her breath is so disgusting and rancid.

She had a dental cleaning yesterday and miraculously she had no cavities! I think the layer of crud is actually protecting her enamel. LOL - Ew.


Former desparate mom
Hygiene is a common issue for many of our difficult children. My difficult child goes up and down depending on his mood. Brushing his teeth is a battle most days. We refused braces because he was not reliable with dental care.
My difficult child is just not self aware. We work on it constantly. He is getting better but he won't ever be mistaken for someone on the cover of GQ magazine.

Have a friend or mentor talk to her about it. Sometimes coming from someone else helps.

We have tried to reinforce to difficult child that he has 5 issues to master in order to live independently.

1) hygiene
2)house keeping/groceries/eating
3) finances
4) medication
5)work(even if it's part time)

If he can't be counted on for these five basic functions that he will not be able to stay on his own. The apartment is the carrot that I dangle and living with me is the stick. LOL


New Member
I am so glad that I found this forum. I didn't realize that bad hygiene was normal for a difficult child. My son (11) does not brush his teeth. We tell him to take a shower every night, and he turns the water on, but I have caught him several times just putting his head under the water to get his hair wet. I can just about guarantee that he doesn't wash his body. We haven't hit puberty yet, so there is no body odor, but I am just waiting. He wears the same dirty clothes all the time. It is pretty gross, but I now see that this common. Thank you guys. :smile:

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
We tell him to take a shower every night, and he turns the water on, but I have caught him several times just putting his head under the water to get his hair wet. I can just about guarantee that he doesn't wash his body.

LOL - I have caught difficult child doing this many many times...too many to count!

Fran, thanks for listing out the qualifications for difficult child living independently. I've printed it out and will stow it away for when the time comes...it's right around the bend.

Sara PA

New Member
We went through that. There was even a period where my son wanted to see how long he could go without taking a shower. I think he went two weeks. But he didn't leave the house so except for the smell in his immediate area, it didn't matter so much. He too smelled different than what I expected someone who hadn't showered in weeks to smell like but I can't recall exactly what the odor was like. His clothes and blankets smelled but not like him. Sweet? Wish I could remember. Oddly, he was on Celexa too at the time.

Rather than moisturizing her skin, you might want to consider an exfoliant. IME, when skin gets dry, ashen and scaly it is often because the old dead cells aren't being removed.

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
Oddly, he was on Celexa too at the time.

Rather than moisturizing her skin, you might want to consider an exfoliant. IME, when skin gets dry, ashen and scaly it is often because the old dead cells aren't being removed.

Hmmmm, interesting about the celexa. I will buy a nice new loofa sponge today in the hopes that she uses it. Hmph - I doubt it!

How are you Sara? I miss seeing you around. :flower:


New Member
I still have to say, every night, "NL, go take a shower". Usually it's "NL, you can get on the computer AFTER you take your shower".
He'll also put the dirty shirt back on if I don't check.
And he's bad about brushing his teeth - not horrible, but he just had his braces removed and he's got two cavities. His brother was SO consistant about brushing and keeping up with the rubberbands - NL's been very "laxidaysical".

We still joke about the festival we were at last year where it was extremely hot, and NL - ON HIS OWN - took a shower as soon as we got back to the hotel room!! You KNOW it was hot if he did that!!


difficult child used to just get her hair wet, too, and not wash it. By the 2nd day, her hair looks greasy and smells bad. I started smelling her hair after every shower. She finally got sick of having to go back in the shower. But, she was much younger.

I really don't know what to do other than, like someone else mentioned, telling her that she's not getting into your car, etc, unless she's cleaned and teeth brushed. She's a young adult. No reason you should have to suffer just because she doesn't want to deal with it. With kids being the way they are, someone somewhere sometime has had to have said something. It must not matter to her.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
We have such a hard time with difficult child and his hygiene. We too have had to say no to braces because he can't brush his teeth on a regular basis. Getting him to shower is not easy-sometimes we can get him in the tub because he loves to play in the tub still. The teeth thing grosses me out but it's not a battle I can fight every day.


Well-Known Member
Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I was so ashamed of this topic - I did not realize just how common it is. My difficult child just refuses to care for her body - in any way. Washing it, feeding it properly, moisturizing, etc. She stinks. Now and then I insist upon washing some clothing of hers. I do not even think she changes her underwear everyday.
I just asked her today if she had any clean because I had not washed any in a long time. She get angry and said she had done her own laundry! I just laughed and walked out. No way she did her own laundry!


New Member
Thought I'd add my 2 cents ... my difficult child is very into routine so we called it "getting spiffy" and taught him the steps (teeth, face washed, deodorant, hair combed) and he does pretty well. He knows what "get spiffy" means and it was a fun way to teach it. We joked around alot when learning it.

About showering ... try a little peer pressure if you can. easy child older sister spent time explaining that girls like the boys in school who shower everyday the best. This worked but did take more than a little convincing to overcome his resistance.

I let him choose his body wash and shampoo too ... short haircuts are practical too.

But to tell the truth both my easy child DDs went thru a phase of not showering around age 9 ... I think that is one of those relatively normal behaviors that we can't tell apart from the other junk!!

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
difficult child was fairly okay about her personal hygiene up until about age 13-ish. Up till that point, she'd occasionally give me a hard time, but she'd do it at least. As long as I stood by her side or bopped in and out of the bathroom, she'd pretty much stay on track. And then she simply started refusing. And she'd yell at me to stop treating her like a baby...I figured it was a good thing to give her that control over her body, but I still gave her reminders along the way. I never ever had this problem with easy child. She has always wanted to be clean and fresh, she smells nice and her hair is always clean, teeth always brushed. Both my girls had braces and I swear, I thought for sure when they took off difficult child's braces there were going to be holes in her teeth. To my complete surprise, she never had a cavity the entire 2 years and her braces came off without any holes. She does have stained teeth however, and I blame smoking and coffee on that along with the not brushing regularly.

I shrug my shoulders as I write this. There is no 'trick', in my opinion. I think it is what it is. Maybe one day her best friend of boyfriend will say, "Peeeeuw, you STINK!" and then she'll understand what we've been saying all along!


New Member
My stepson always stinks! He's almost 20 and just doesn't get it. I threatened to mark his underwear Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc!!! This was when I was doing his laundry and there was NEVER any underwear! (And occasionally when there was underwear, it was so disgusting that I threated to run it up the neighbor's flagpole for the entire neighborhood to see!!!) Now I just refuse to let him in my house, car, etc until he showers. I used to check his toothbrush also-always dry. He likes to use a body spray to cover his stink, but that just makes it worse. He also uses tooooooooo much spray and it gives me an asthma attack of sorts. He is just gross overall, and doesn't care. Makes me crazy!!