Puberty can be an awkward, confusing and embarrassing time. Your body is changing rapidly, and it’s hard to know what to expect. If you’ve recently noticed new hair growth “down there,” growth spurts or other bodily changes, you likely have questions. Read on to learn more about the signs that signal you’ve entered puberty.
What Is Puberty?
Puberty refers to the magical, if awkward, biological transition between childhood and adulthood. During this phase, your body transforms as you develop the physical capabilities of an adult.
While you still can’t drive, vote or legally get married, after puberty your body is essentially that of a man’s when it comes to functioning and development. So how do you know for sure when the changes mean you’ve embarked on this journey from boyhood into manhood? Let’s explore some telltale signs.
You’re Growing Hair Everywhere
One of the first changes boys notice when puberty begins is new hair growth. Initially soft, light hairs sprout around the genital area. Over time, these hairs become darker and coarser in texture.
You’ll also likely see new hair growth on your legs, arms, underarms, chest and back. While it may take some time before you can grow a proper beard, puberty is a good time to practice your shaving skills!
Growth Spurts Lead to Big Changes
Have you noticed significant growth in terms of your height and shoe size recently? Your mom probably jokingly tells you that her little boy is finally “growing up.” Thanks to an increase in the male sex hormone testosterone during puberty, growth spurts are common at this stage.
Besides upward growth, testosterone facilitates muscle growth as well—particularly around the chest, shoulders and arms. It’s not unusual to gain a foot in height or a few shoe sizes in just one summer!
However, growth spurts might not always happen proportionately. You may temporarily appear stocky or lanky until your growth phases even out. But rest assured, everything will balance in due time.
“Boner Bummer”: Dealing With Spontaneous Erections
Now to the sensitive subject of your changing genitals. Testosterone doesn’t just influence growth—it also causes changes “down there.” Your penis grows larger during puberty. Additionally, your testicles descend further and redden.
While positive, these changes can also be frustrating. Spontaneous erections happen constantly for no discernible reason during puberty—a bus goes over a speed bump, a cute girl waves hi. Even when you don’t want it to, your body seems to have a mind of its own.
Try not to worry. As embarrassing as it is, this extreme sensitivity and hair-trigger arousal won’t last forever. Mastering relaxation techniques helps in the moment when an unwanted hard-on strikes.
Wet Dreams and Other Nights Surprises
Thanks to hormone-fueled sensitivity mixed with growth phases that occur during sleep, many boys experience “wet dreams” during puberty. These involve involuntary ejaculation while resting.
Often the sensation is enough to wake you. But like inconvenient spontaneous erections, wet dreams tend to decrease in frequency over time as you mature. Showering before bed, wearing loose sleep pants and trying relaxation techniques helps many young teens prevent or reduce wet dreams.
When Your Voice “Pops” Out of Nowhere
As vocal cords shift to accommodate a maturing voice box, the pitch of your voice changes dramatically during puberty. Typically, it drops quite suddenly on its way to becoming much deeper.
When your voice “breaks” while speaking and pops in and out of its new register, it catches many boys off guard. But it’s very normal, if disconcerting. Experiment with soothing tea or throat lozenges to ease the transition. Over time, your adult pitch will stabilize.
Battling B.O. and Breakouts
Hormones stimulate increased sweat and oil production during puberty. When combined with everyday dirt and grime, this leads to two frustrating side effects: body odor (B.O.) and acne.
As your apocrine glands ramp up sweat secretion, bacteria on your skin eats the sweat and releases an unpleasant, stale smell. Showering daily and wearing antiperspirant keeps excessive sweat and B.O. at bay.
Meanwhile, more skin oil mixed with bacteria and dead skin cells lead to severe breakouts. Washing regularly, eating a balanced diet and using acne treatments can mitigate pimples. But the battle against “teenage mutant zits” wages on for most boys throughout puberty.
Puberty Is Not an Exact Science
It’s essential to remember every boy goes through puberty differently. You might start earlier or later than your friends. Or maybe you’ll grow super tall while others sprout facial hair first. There’s no “right” way puberty unfolds or a perfect sequence for changes to occur.
Despite feeling awkward in your ever-changing skin, try to stay calm and patient. These embarrassing changes won’t last forever. Lean on your parents, doctors or youth counselors whenever you need advice or reassurance. And know that every boy goes through the same gawkiness during puberty—you’ve got this!