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HealthInfo Canterbury

Puberty

pubertyPuberty is the time when your body becomes sexually mature.

Your body releases sex hormones, and these cause changes in your body, and in your behaviour and how you feel. You'll notice obvious physical changes like growing breasts if you're a girl or your penis getting bigger if you're a boy. You might also notice your moods change a lot, and you might feel self-consciousness or aggressive.

How long does it last?

Once it starts, puberty can last anywhere from two to five years.

In girls, puberty usually starts around 10 or 11 years old, but it can start anywhere between 8 and 13. In boys, it tends to start a little later – around 11 or 12 years old – but it can start anywhere between 10 and 15.

It's really important to understand that everybody is different, and everybody will go through puberty at different times. There is a wide range of "normal". You might start early and finish before your friends, or they might start and finish before you.

Remember that your growth, whether it's fast or slow, is happening at the right rate for you. If you have questions, or are worried that puberty is happening too early or too late, you can always talk to your GP or practice nurse.

Acne

Acne can be a big deal for teenagers. Sex hormones make your skin's oil glands produce extra oil. This blocks the hair follicles, dead skin cells get mixed in with the oil, and you get spots. Bugs (also called bacteria) in your skin then grow, causing pain and swelling (inflammation) below the blockages.

If you have acne, wash your skin gently with a mild cleanser and use an oil-free moisturiser. Scrubbing or exfoliating can irritate your skin, making it look and feel sore. HealthInfo has a whole section on acne, with a lot more information.

Peer pressure

Peer pressure can also be a big issue to deal with. It's great to get positive encouragement from your friends, but not so great if they're encouraging you to do something that could be harmful!

As a teenager you are developing your sense of identity and independence, and also learning how to look after yourself and stay safe. If you feel like your friends might be going a bit too far, it will help if you've already figured out your own personal values (what's important to you) and your boundaries (things you won't do). It's OK to say "No", and you don't have to explain why.

You'll find a lot of helpful advice and tips for managing peer pressure on Youthline and Reachout.com.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Puberty information for parents & caregivers

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated March 2016.

Sources

See also:

About women's bodies

Acne

Bullying

Penis & testicles

Periods

Personal hygiene

Vulva & vaginal care

Page reference: 53211

Review key: HIPUY-53211