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Teens and Puberty

Puberty involves a lot of different changes, including plenty of mental and emotional changes in addition to the physical changes that accompany the growth and development of your body. Both males and females experience changes in the sexual organs during puberty as the body adjusts to become reproductively mature.

Puberty in Girls

For girls, normal puberty starts between the ages of eight and 14. The start of menstruation and the cycle of ovulation in girls ( is one of the primary signs of a girl entering puberty. This cycle typically lasts about 28 days, although cycles tend to be irregular for the first few months or years after the initial menstrual period. Many teen girls experience a variety of symptoms just before and during menstruation. Extreme mood swings and severe menstrual cramps are two common symptoms that accompany the onset of a girl’s menstrual period. Some teens take medication to help them cope with menstrual pains.

Girls experience breast development during puberty. They also typically start to grow hair in the pubic area and under the arms. Leg hair also becomes thicker and darker in girls as they start puberty. A girl’s shape may also become curvier overall during puberty as the hips widen in addition to the changes associated with breast development.

Puberty in Boys

For boys, normal puberty begins between the ages of nine and 14. During puberty, the penis and testicles will grow in size, hair growth will occur in the underarm and pubic areas, and facial hair will develop. The voice will become deeper, and total body fat will decrease as muscle increases. During puberty, a boy will often experience his first ejaculation, which may occur at night during sleep.

Dealing With Puberty

Both males and females experience an increase in sweating and body odor during puberty because the apocrine sweat glands become more active. These glands are concentrated in the underarm and groin areas, and they produce a type of sweat that is broken down by odor-causing bacteria. Teens need to maintain good hygiene during puberty to prevent the development of a strong body odor. Some teens also use a deodorant or antiperspirant to help keep their underarms smelling good. Girls often start to shave their underarms and legs, and boys sometimes trim their underarm hair or begin to shave their faces.

Another common problem during puberty is the development of acne, which affects both boys and girls. Acne develops because the hormone fluctuations of puberty cause an increase in oil production in the skin. There are plenty of different treatments available for teenage acne, including:

  • Over-the-counter topical acne medication with benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol or salicylic acid
  • Prescription creams containing retinol derivatives
  • Oral prescription medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Birth control pills
  • Laser treatments

In addition to the physical changes that a teen might be dealing with during puberty, emotional changes can leave a teen overly concerned about how he or she appears to others. Teens often start experimenting with their looks around the time of puberty as they test out looks that might be appealing to the opposite sex while attempting to fit in with their peer groups at the same time.

Problems During Puberty

In some cases, puberty starts earlier or later than normal. An abnormal onset of puberty can be caused by genetic or environmental factors, so it is important to have an evaluation by a doctor to determine the cause. For females, extreme diets or excessive exercise can delay the onset of menstruation. Other causes include brain tumors and hormonal imbalances. Treatment may involve taking artificial hormones or other medication. In some cases, no treatment is required so it’s important to consult your doctor.

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