Puberty, Part 1
I’ve received several emails from girls asking me to talk about puberty, and I think it’s a great idea! This episode about What Puberty Is, Growth, Smell, Hair and Skin is part 1 of our Puberty series. Some kids and adults are hesitant to talk about puberty, so I hope these episodes help you feel more comfortable having conversations about it–that’s my goal. This isn’t meant to replace health and development education–I am not, nor do I claim to be, a medical professional–so I encourage you to further educate yourself through trusted sources like books, reputable websites, doctors, etc. I will use medically accurate terms and link fact sources in my show notes.
What is Puberty?
Puberty is when your body starts changing from being a kid, to being a teen, to eventually being grown up. Puberty typically starts between ages 8-14. Everyone starts puberty at different times, progresses at different rates, and changes in different ways.
Puberty begins when your body is ready. But you might not notice exactly when you start puberty because the first changes are ones you can’t see. Your pituitary gland, which looks like a tiny ball right under your brain, signals your body that it’s time to start changing by releasing hormones through your body.
Hormones are “chemical messengers” that share information with your body to help it do things. Your ovaries start creating a new hormone, estrogen, which creates multiple changes in your body during puberty.
Now let’s talk about these changes.
During a growth spurt, your body grows quickly over a few years. This growth happens with your height, arm length, legs, feet, and hands. Your clothes may suddenly be too short or your shoes may be too small. This happened to me–when I started sixth grade I was 5 feet tall. A few years later when I started high school, I was 5’10! Big change! Your body will move differently after a growth spurt, sometimes a little clumsy as it relearns how to carry itself. Growth spurts take some adjusting and might feel awkward–we all do–but you’ll get used to it.
You might notice you sometimes smell different, like after exercise. That’s because your sweat glands are more active and release different smelling chemicals. This smell is sometimes called “body odor.” You might smell it coming from your armpits, feet, or genitals/privates. It stinks, and it’s totally normal.
The best ways to deal with body odor
- Keep yourself clean by washing yourself with soap every day, especially after being active.
- Change out of stinky clothes and into clean clothes. Remember to wash the stinky clothes or your room might start to smell, too.
- Wear deodorant and/or antiperspirant–they work differently. Deodorant helps cover up the body odor smell and antiperspirant helps you sweat less. They come in cream sticks, gels, and sprays, and have different scents as well. Try a few to find what works best for you.
Head Hair — thicken, change texture. Every single strand of hair has a sebaceous (oil) gland. During puberty these glands produce extra oil, which is why sometimes your hair may look greasy. If that bothers you, you could give your roots an extra shampoo when you wash your hair, or you could use dry shampoo to stretch your hair in-between washes. We’ll also discuss Body Hair in the next episode.
Your skin may start behaving differently, particularly on your face. It’s those hormones again, this time making more oil in your pores which causes acne. When pores get clogged they form different kinds of pimples: red bumps, blackheads, whiteheads, etc. You may notice pimples flare up around the same time as your menstrual cycle/period (next episode’s topic). You can also get pimples on your chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms.
What to Do/Don’t
- Don’t pick at or pop them! I know it’s tempting, but that can transfer bacteria from your fingers onto your face, further irritate your skin, damage your skin from your nails digging in, or cause scarring from too much pressure when squeezing.
- Protect your pores. Don’t touch your face. Clean your phone or glasses frequently to prevent bacteria from getting in your pores. Use a tissue or wash your hands first if you must touch your face. Try to keep your hair off your skin so dirt and oil don’t transfer to your pores. Note that tight clothes, headbands, and hats can trap dirt and oil on your skin.
- Use makeup products that state they are “noncomedogenic,” which means they won’t clog your pores. Don’t sleep in makeup!
- Morning and night, wash your face and body acne with a gentle cleanser. Your skin is not like dishes, scrubbing actually irritates it and makes things worse. You can also apply lotion after cleansing. Store-bought products with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, or salicylic acid can be helpful, but be aware they may at first make your skin red, dry, or sensitive. You could also talk to a dermatologist, a skin doctor, to see if they can recommend treatments for you.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated benefits your whole body.
That’s a lot of changes, and we have a lot more to discuss. Puberty is going to happen to everyone at some point, so don’t make fun of people, okay? Have compassion for them as well as yourself. Puberty is a part of life, so accept it. It won’t last forever, and there are lots of people who can help you through it.
Next episode we’ll cover more puberty changes like shape (weight, breast development), body hair, and emotions; and then we’ll discuss menstrual cycles aka periods.
Again, I encourage you to further educate yourself through trusted sources like books, reputable websites, doctors, etc. You may also want to check out:
American Girl Books:
The Care and Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls
The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls
Part 1 Episode 43: What Puberty Is, Growth, Smell, Hair, and Skin
Part 2 Episode 44: Shape, Weight, Breast Development, and Body Hair
Part 3 Episode 45: Menstrual Cycles and Periods
Part 4 Episode 46: Emotions and Healthy Habits
If you have questions about what we covered in this episode, or a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com .
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