Puberty in boys, Part 1: All those physical changes

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When girls are growing into women, they start developing breasts. But how do boys know they are growing into men? Read to find out.

Puberty in boys, Part 1: All those physical changesWhat is puberty in boys?

Between the ages of 12 and 14, most boys enter into puberty and begin their transition from being a boy into becoming a man. As they start growing up, boys will notice changes like hair sprouting everywhere, bodies growing bigger and the voice changing.

While girls get a head-start on puberty, boys start a little later. So that’s why girls are often taller than boys during that age group. Most boys catch up and even grow taller than girls over time. But, it’s important to note that one’s genetics plays an important role in height.

The hormone that dominates male development is an androgen called testosterone.  Most boys complete puberty by ages 16-18.


Physical changes in boys during puberty:

Increase in testicular size: In boys, increase in testicle size is the first sign of puberty. Testes in pre-pubertal boys don’t change from about 1 year of age till they hit puberty. Testicular size continues to increase throughout puberty, reaching its maximum size about 6 years after the onset of puberty.

The length and breadth of the shaft of the penis will also increase and enlarge to adult proportions. In addition, a male’s scrotum will become larger and begin to hang in order to accommodate the production of sperm.

Retraction of foreskin: During puberty, if not before, the tip and opening of a boy's foreskin becomes wider. It will gradually allow for retraction of the foreskin, which will eventually be possible without pain or difficulty.

Once a boy is able to retract his foreskin, penile hygiene should become an important part of his body care routine. Regular washing under the foreskin is known to reduce the risk of numerous penile disorders.

Growth of pubic hair: Pubic hair often begins to grow on a boy shortly after his genitalia starts growing. It will take about 3-4 years before pubic hair completely fills the region.

Body and facial hair: Boys will notice hair growing on other parts of the body, in months or years following the growth of pubic hair. The usual sequence is underarms, perianal hair (located around the anus), upper lip hair, sideburns, periareolar hair (around the coloured skin surrounding the nipple), and the beard. This order may vary in some cases.

Hair on the arms, chest, abdominal and back also becomes denser. Most boys have facial hair by late adolescence, but in some it might appear much later. Also note that not all men have chest hair.

Voice change: Under the influence of androgens, the voice box (larynx), grows in both boys and girls. However, the growth is a lot more prominent in boys – which causes the male voice to deepen (sometimes abruptly but rarely overnight).

Male musculature: By the end of puberty, adult men have heavier bones and more skeletal muscle in comparison to girls. Men tend to have a broader body frame than women.

Body odour and acne: Rising levels of androgens can change the composition of perspiration, which results in body odour.

Like in girls, another effect of hormonal changes is an increase in secretion of oil (sebum) from the skin, resulting in acne. One can try some over-the-counter medication to reduce acne, however, if it is too severe – a visit to the dermatologist is warranted.

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