Your Body Right Now: A Survival Guide
Is this weird? Is that normal? And perhaps most important—is that me I smell? Here, answers to a few of your most pressing puberty-related questions (ones you’re maybe too afraid to ask!).
—Reporting by Meghann Foye and Melissa Walker
Why (and when) does this happen?
FACT: Going from a kid body to an adult body takes around seven to eight years, and puberty is kind of like a supercharged, gun-the-engine-and-go period somewhere in the middle. “Puberty begins when your pituitary gland, the bean-shaped gland that sits at the base of your brain, starts sending out chemical messages to the rest of your body that it’s time to grow and change,” says Logan Levkoff, a health educator and co-author of Got Teens? Still, you may be wondering why you already have to shave, for example, when no one else does. And because there’s no exact timeline for puberty, seeing the range of change can be reassuring (remember: you’ll all get through it eventually!).
Is it normal to . . .
. . . FEEL EXTRA CLUMSY? Normal! Different parts of your body are growing at different rates, which can make you feel awkward and klutzy. For example, your bones are growing faster than your muscles and ligaments right now, and your arms and legs may grow faster than the rest of you, too.
. . . FEEL SAD EVERY DAY? Not normal. Surging hormones may make you feel sad for moments throughout the day. But if you can’t think about anything else—and it lasts for a few weeks or longer—check in with an adult you trust. (Sometimes just talking helps!)
. . . SWEAT A LOT? Normal! New hormones cause your body’s 3 million sweat glands to become much more active. So don’t sweat (sorry, had to!) an occasional pit stain. (If you’re sweating through multiple tees a day, have a conversation with your doctor, who can prescribe a stronger antiperspirant that will help keep you dry.)
. . . GAIN WEIGHT? Normal—to a point. It’s natural to gain 10, 15, or even 20 pounds in a year during the growth-spurt phase of puberty. The amount differs based on your body type, but the bottom line is this: Don’t panic! If you’re exercising and eating a healthy diet, that weight should eventually go where it needs to go—a few extra inches of height, new muscles (for guys), and hips, thighs, and breasts (for girls).
Hey, what’s that smell?
Your guide to awkward odors . . .
1. PITS THAT DON’T QUIT
Bacteria breeding in moist, dark places like your underarms break down sweat into acid, causing B.O.
THE FIX: Shower daily, and use antiperspirant/deodorant instead of body sprays like Axe, which just temporarily cover odor. Wearing cotton shirts can help your skin breathe a little better too!
2. FEET THAT REEK
Socks and shoes create a warm, dark space where stinky bacteria and foot fungus can breed.
THE FIX: Never, ever wear socks two days in a row, and if you’ve got shoes that reek, ask Mom or Dad if they’re washable.
3. BREATH LIKE FIRE
This one isn’t puberty-related, but it could be that your dental hygiene needs attention.
THE FIX: Try to brush at least in the morning and at night, and floss daily to get icky, odor-causing food particles out of their hiding places.
Why am I breaking out?
“When you hit puberty, the glands in your skin produce more of an oily substance called sebum,” says Levkoff. “If it gets trapped in your pores with dirt and bacteria, breakouts can occur.” So how can you keep acne under control? Here, Levkoff separates the fact from the fiction.
Pizza + french fries = pimples
MYTH! There are plenty of reasons to limit greasy foods, but acne isn't one of them. Their grease doesn’t translate into more oil in your pores.
Popping pimples makes them go away.
MYTH! When you squeeze pimples, you can introduce dirt and bacteria to the area, which leads to more redness—and maybe even infections and scarring!
Washing your face too much causes acne.
FACT! Too much washing can dry skin out, which triggers your glands to produce even more oil. Stick to twice a day using an acne wash containing benzoyl peroxide—it should help clear your pores.
Will I get any taller?
You may not be your final height until age 18—or later. It’s mostly determined by genes, but your bones also need plenty of sleep, enough calcium, and weight-bearing exercise, like dancing or lifting, to reach their full potential!