Grooming and personal hygiene have been around for ages. It's hard to imagine a time when people weren't concerned with taking care of their appearance and their bodies. Perhaps these practices started when Adam first took a bath and combed his hair before going on a date with Eve. Or maybe they began when Eve put on some herbal makeup to make herself more beautiful. No matter where they started, grooming and personal hygiene have become an important part of everyone's daily routine.


You might think that all modern societies would have the same grooming and personal hygiene practices. After all, doesn't everybody take baths? Most people do recognize the need for hygiene, which is the basis for cleanliness and health-and a good way to keep one's friends. Grooming practices include all the little things people do to make themselves look their best, such as combing their hair and putting on makeup. However, while most modern people agree that these things are important, people in different cultures take care of themselves in different ways.


There used to be an old joke in America that people should take a bath once a week, whether they need one or not. In fact, though, Americans generally take a bath-or more commonly, a shower-every day. But in contrast to some cultures, most Americans get their shower in the morning, so they can start the day fresh. And instead of going to a beauty parlor for a shampoo, many Americans prefer to wash and style their own hair. So if Americans have a "bad hair day," they have no one to blame but themselves. But most people in America do head for the beauty parlor or barber shop occasionally for a haircut, a perm or just some friendly conversation.


Americans are known for having very sensitive noses. In America, "B.O." (body odor) is socially unacceptable. For that reason, Americans consider the use of deodorant or anti-perspirant a must. Ladies often add a touch of perfume for an extra fresh scent. Men may splash on after-shave lotion or manly-smelling cologne. Another cultural no-no in America is bad breath. Americans don't like to smell what other people ate for lunch-especially onions or garlic. Their solution? Mouthwash, breath mints and even brushing their teeth after meals.


Some of the cultural variations in grooming practices result from physical differences between races. Whereas many Asian men have little facial hair, Westerners have a lot. As a result, most American men spend some time each day shaving or grooming their facial hair. Beards and mustaches are common sights in America, although their popularity changes from generation to generation. Most American men who wear facial hair try to keep it nicely trimmed. American women, on the other hand, generally prefer not to be hairy at all. Many of them regularly shave their legs and armpits.


Americans put great value on both grooming and personal hygiene. For some people, taking care of themselves has become almost a religion. As the old saying goes, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." Whether or not being clean and well-groomed brings one closer to God, it certainly brings one closer to others. Americans look down on people who don't take care of themselves, or who "let themselves go." To Americans, even if we don't have much to work with, we have to make the best of what we've got.