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Facts about puberty for boys

Puberty is often an exciting time, as you change from a boy to a man. It is the time when your body matures sexually and your reproductive organs start to function as an adult. This also means you are now capable of getting a girl pregnant. Most boys experience the onset of puberty at about 12, but there’s no set timetable and it can happen anywhere between 9 and 14, depending on the individual. The process takes about 6 years in all.

Puberty symptoms

You will notice a number of signs that you are going through puberty. They include:

  • Getting taller by about 5-6 cm a year (2-2.4 inches)
  • More hair around your genitals and armpits
  • Thicker facial hair and needing to shave
  • Voice “breaks” or gets deeper
  • Penis grows and testicles enlarge
  • Oilier skin and spots, pimples or blackheads
  • Sweating more than usual
  • An erect penis in the morning or when you don’t expect it
  • “Wet dreams” when you ejaculate, or “come” during your sleep
  • Increased interest in sex
  • Breast area may swell or become tender (this is normal – not man boobs or moobs)
  • Muscle mass increases and you may experience “growth spurts”
  • Mood swings or feeling more emotional or aggressive than usual

Am I normal?

Puberty changes can be quite challenging, but what is actually happening to you is completely normal. The pituitary gland at the base of your brain is responsible for what you see taking place. It triggers the release of sex hormones like testosterone, which stimulate the physical changes you are experiencing. Some changes may be more challenging than others, but there is help at hand.

Genital changes

The first thing you may notice during puberty is your testicles getting larger. This is followed by your penis growing longer and sometimes getting hard when you rub or touch it. This is called an erection. It can happen when you are sexually excited or in the morning - or it can happen for no reason and at awkward times. Again, this is normal and you will learn to cope with this happening.

Some boys are concerned about the length of their penis. There is no universal size. The average adult penis length is around 9 cm (3.7in) when it is not erect. When erect, the average size is between 15-18 cm (6-7 in) long. Sometimes your penis will get smaller, especially in the cold. It isn’t possible to enlarge your penis by exercises or medicines, but penis size will not affect your ability to have or enjoy sex.

Testicles don’t come in set sizes either – and in fact, one may hang lower than the other. This is normal.


During puberty, the hormone testosterone may cause your skin glands to produce too much oil or sebum. This can build up and cause spots or blackheads. At the same time the acidity of your skin changes, which encourages the growth of bacteria. You can reduce spots by:

  • Washing skin regularly with soap
  • Ask your GP or pharmacist about antibacterial cream or gel for mild acne
  • Ask your GP about antibiotic tablets if acne is severe
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