All About Your Period and Other Body Blunders

Wondering what’s up with that hair growing … where!?! Ew, are those (gulp) stretch marks? And why is your period so darn unpredictable? Stop scratching your head and keep reading as we clear up some of the confusion.

“I got my first period (finally) and then … nothing. It’s been about three months, and I haven’t gotten it again. Is this normal?”

It’s not unusual at all for your period to “sputter” after making its first appearance. For some girls, it just takes time for their bodies to adjust and get into a rhythm. If you don’t menstruate again at the one-year mark, ask a parent to make you an appointment with a gynecologist. Your body gave you a little preview of what’s to come, but your menstrual cycle should fall into a regular pattern as puberty progresses. If you’re an older teen, around 16 or 17, see your doc now to make sure something isn’t delaying your development. But many girls are simply late-bloomers, and that’s not a bad thing.

“Some hairs have suddenly sprouted, um, around my nipples. I haven’t told anyone about this. Help, please!”

Surprise! During puberty, you will begin to grow hair in places you’ve never had it before, particularly under the arms and in the pubic area. And, yes, some girls sprout a few around their boobs, so don’t be freaked. This might go away as your hormones settle down, but it could be ongoing. Still, it’s no biggie, especially if the hair is fine in texture and light in color. But if it’s dark and coarse -- and really bothers you -- talk to your mom or other mature female relative about bleaching or using an over-the-counter depilatory. If “some hair” means a whole bunch, show your doctor so he can check for a hormonal imbalance.

“I’ve noticed some red lines around my hips. I think they might be stretch marks -- and they’re ugly! What should I do?”

Yep, those sound like stretch marks -- but don’t distress. Lots of girls (and guys) develop stretch marks during spurts when the skin just can’t keep up with the rest of the body’s growth. First, the bad news: There’s absolutely nothing you can do about them. But the good news is this: They will naturally fade over time from that standout purplish-red color to a much less noticeable translucent hue that’s closer to your skin tone. Stretch marks, just like irregular periods and unwanted hair growth, are a fact of life for many girls. Don’t dwell on slight imperfections -- instead, embrace all your beautiful attributes!

Be Suntan Savvy

If you’re trying to get your tan on like the guidettes from MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” you may want to think twice. Having that summer glow might look and feel healthy … but it’s not! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by sun exposure. Ouch!

“Do I really need to worry about that stuff now? I’m just a kid.”
Harsh but true: Just one severe childhood sunburn doubles the chance of developing skin cancer later in life. Kids with fair skin are at highest risk, but even dark-skinned children need sun protection. “Fewer than one-third of children between ages 8 and 11 wear sunscreen,” says the Skin Cancer Foundation’s president. “Parents need to teach children from an early age how to be sun-safe and reduce their risk of skin cancer.”

“Aren’t tanning beds better for your skin than direct sunlight?”
No way! It’s a total myth that tanning beds aren’t bad for your skin. They produce the same skin-damaging ultraviolet rays as the sun. Says the Skin Cancer Foundation: “Study after study has shown that sun bed tanning increases the risk of skin cancer.”

“I really hate my pale complexion! Isn’t there a safe way to tan?”
Why not embrace your natural skin tone? Look at yourself as creamy porcelain (like Scarlett Johansson!), not pale. But if you’re bent on getting a sun-kissed look, use self-tanning lotion or bronzer. They’re way safer than sitting outside, but it’ll give you the same results (and faster). Some tanning salons also offer spray-tan booths if you want to get total-body coverage. (These can be pricey but are a safe alternative to UV rays.)

“Do I need sunscreen even if I’m wearing a hat and sunglasses?”
Brimmed hats and UV-blocking glasses do provide some protection … and are summer-stylin’ accessories! Dark or bright-colored clothes are good too. Still, don’t skip the sunscreen. Go for a water-resistant product with an SPF 15 or higher. Put on a thick layer a half-hour before going outside; reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. And don’t forget easy-to-miss spots such as ears, neck and feet!

“Can’t I just sit under a tree or umbrella? I like the shade.”
Like wearing hats and glasses, sitting in the shade is great for getting extra protection from the sun’s harmful rays. But you can’t rely on that alone since the sun reflects off surfaces -- so slather on that sunscreen.

“I hate sunscreen because it gets in my eyes and burns. Help!”
Try a sunscreen that’s made specifically for babies (really!). These products are tear-free and not as harsh as other products, but they’re just as effective as regular lotions. Bonus: They’re perfect if your regular sunscreen causes breakouts or “backne.”

A GirlÂ’s First Shaving Lesson

You want to have smooth legs, silky underarms and a clean bikini line -- but you’re completely clueless? Not anymore. Read on:

Girls’ Shaving Tip No. 1: How to Ask Mom

What’s a girl to do about this hairy situation? There’s no “right” age to begin shaving. Some girls start younger because their hair is dark, while others wait a little longer. The best way to bring it up to your mom is to ask when she first started shaving. Then say, “Some of my friends shave. Do you think I’m ready?”

Girls’ Shaving Tip No. 2: Realize It’s a Choice

Getting rid of body hair is not required. A lot of girls choose not to shave because they think it’s a hassle. Some girls shave only in the summer, and others shave just their pits to prevent underarm odor. Don’t shave because your friends do. If you decide to shave, do it because it’s what you want. When your friends ask about it, just tell them you don’t want to be a slave to the shave!

Girls’ Shaving Tip No. 3: Know Your Stuff

First, buy a good razor. It doesn’t need to be super-expensive -- go for an affordable one that lets you replace the blade heads. We like those with triple blades and a pivoting head.

Many girls shave in the shower. But when you’re first starting out, shaving your legs by sitting on the edge of the tub might be easier. Here’s how:

1.  Dampen legs with a wet washcloth. Never shave legs when they’re dry.

2.  Slather on shaving gel, plain soap or bodywash.

3.  Begin directly above your ankle, and gently pull the razor upward in a straight line. Don't press the razor too hard -- it should glide along your skin’s surface. Rinse the razor after each stroke.

4.  Slow down when shaving around bony parts, such as knees, shins and ankles. Many girls that are first learning to shave stop just below the knee.

5.  Pat legs dry with a clean towel. Moisturize with unscented body lotion to keep razor burn at bay.

Girls’ Shaving Tip No. 4: Never Shave Your Arms

Shaving will only make the hair on your arms grow back darker and coarser. This goes for facial hair, too, girls. If this is a big concern, ask your parents about the option to bleach your arm hair.

How to Get Rid of Pimples -- Fast!

Don’t know the first thing about zit zapping? Whether you get the occasional pesky pimple or all-out acne breakouts, here are the best ways to banish blemishes and rid yourself of pimples for good.

Step 1: Wash your face.

You must use a gentle cleanser (not harsh soap!) on your face in the morning and at night. Keeping skin clean is imperative to zapping zits and preventing more outbreaks. Just lather the cleanser into your hands or a soft cloth -- nothing coarse, which could irritate -- and gently apply to your face (keep away from eyes!). Rinse well and dry with a clean towel. Toss the cloth and towel into the laundry, as reusing them can spread pimple-producing bacteria.

Step 2: Try a home remedy.

If you only have a few zits to zap, some people swear by tea tree oil (available in health food stores) or toothpaste. Just dab a little on the affected spot and leave on overnight. (Do not try these remedies if you have sensitive skin.)

Step 3: Hit the drugstore.

Are your pimples persistent? Head to the pharmacy for an over-the-counter treatment. Choose a product that contains hydrogen peroxide or salicylic acid -- both antibacterial agents -- then carefully follow the directions on the product packaging.

Step 4: Go easy on the makeup.

You might be tempted to cover up your zits with makeup, but cosmetics tend to worsen the problem. If you insist on wearing any makeup, go with oil-free water-based products -- and be sure to wash it off before you go to bed. Also, keep your hands and hair, which carry oils, away from your face. Updo, anyone?

Step 5: See a dermatologist.
If you’ve tried everything but you’re still losing the battle to chronic acne, talk to your parents about making an appointment for you to see a dermatologist. This is a doctor who specializes in skin care, and he or she will prescribe effective medication or another appropriate treatment regimen faster than you can say “Buh-bye, blemishes!”

Is Puberty Affecting Your Athletics?

Puberty brings physical changes that might temporarily affect your game. But don’t go from player to spectator! Just change your strategy.

“I have a killer volleyball serve, but I also have killer cramps. Ugh.”
Cramps can really cramp your style. But did you know that exercise can help alleviate cramps? Before hitting the court, talk to your mom or doctor about over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which are known to take the edge off the pain. A heating pad or hot water bottle can help too. If your cramps are unbearable, be honest with yourself and your coach -- you won’t be much of an asset if you’re in excruciating pain.

“Help! My boobs seem to be running their own race during track and field.”
It’s hard to focus on mastering your 100-meter sprint when your boobs are bouncing. A good sports bra is crucial, as breast tissue is sensitive -- especially during puberty. A sports bra not only keeps breasts contained, but it also provides coverage to shake self-consciousness. Enlist the help of your mom or big sis, and get measured at a professional fitting. A wrong-size bra can be more distracting than going braless.

“My swim meet is next week, and my period is due. Will I be able to compete?”
In some sports, using a tampon versus a pad is a personal decision. Many maxi-pads now come in slender versions, and some have “wings” that secure them to undies. But swimmers have no choice: Fact is, if you’re not willing to use a tampon, you won’t be swimming in the meet. It’s also difficult for dancers, skaters and cheerleaders to wear pads -- hello, leotards! If you’ve never used a tampon, simple instructions are included in the box to get you started. Or run the issue by your mom, aunt, school nurse or gynecologist.

“My gymnastics floor routine has been tripping me up ever since a growth spurt.”
When you grow several inches in a short time, it can throw you off. And because your limbs grow faster than your trunk, it’s not unusual to feel like you’re losing a little coordination. Weight gain is also a very normal part of growing up, so don’t freak if you’re a bit thicker in your upper arms, thighs, hips and back. If this is you, embrace your new curviness!