Puberty ‘myth-stakes’

We all go through it once in our lifetimes, so we should be puberty experts, right? Well, sadly, Choma, there are more myths, mistakes and misconceptions doing the rounds about puberty than facts. So let’s separate fact from fiction:

Myth: Pimples are caused by dirt

The idea that pimples are a sign of uncleanliness never sat well with me. But this belief has been around for decades, so let’s tackle it. The truth is, skipping a thorough face wash a couple of times didn’t give you pimples. One contributing factor is that your hormones are wacky after puberty hits, and it takes ages for these to calm down into a regular rhythm. For example, the progesterone (a hormone important for the regulation of ovulation and menstruation) your body produces in the middle of your menstrual cycle has been shown to increase sebum production. What is sebum? It’s the stuff that keeps your skin moist and supply. So mid-cycle your skin actually kind of swells from all the sebum, forcing pores closed and potentially leading to blocked pores that present as white heads, black heads or pimples. Testosterone also increases sebum production. This oil on your face also acts as food for the nasties (bacteria) that infect clogged pores. Bottom line: You didn’t cause this, but keeping your skin clean (with a gentle face wash twice a day, not more) will help control breakouts. Dirt and oil can aggravate pimples, so you want to keep you hands clean and off your face when you have a breakout. You have no idea how often we all unconsciously touch our faces. And definitely don’t squeeze – especially not with unwashed hands – because then you are actively introducing germs and pore-clogging dirt into an already irritated and sensitive spot, which could lead to infection, aka MUCH worse spots.

Myth: Masturbation is evil and will make you go blind or mad

I think we’ve all heard this one before – either directly told to us or overheard when directed towards our brothers. LOL! It’s funny and about a topic that is a little embarrassing, so it’s easy to just laugh it off. But this kind of talk is shaming talk, and no one has time in their lives for that. Masturbation often increases as we hit puberty, because it is a natural by-product of the sexual awakening that often happens around this time. But it’s not ’caused’ by puberty, and it won’t make you sick or any of those other things people say. In fact, getting to know your own body and its reactions to sexual pleasure, is a healthy and normal thing. Plus, sorry to shatter some preconceived ideas here, but both girls and boys do it.

Myth: Teenagers don’t need sleep

I heard this one a lot growing up, choma. “Get up and join the family”, “you were partying all night”, “you were on your phone all night”, “you just sleep all the time because you are so lazy”… Well, I’ve got news for the people who say this: Teenagers need more sleep – it is a scientific fact. And our sleep cycles change during and after we hit puberty, so that your body naturally wants to go to bed later and get up later. And then it swings the other way in your late 20s and 30s, so by the time you’re a parent you can’t understand why your teen wants to sleep past 11am.

What are some of the myths about puberty that you have heard?