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Is second puberty a real thing?

Many people experience changes in their bodies as they age that seem like a “second puberty.” Women may notice their breasts increasing in size, their hips widening, and new fat distribution to their thighs and buttocks. Men may find they are building muscle more easily, growing more facial and body hair, and developing a deeper voice. These kinds of changes typically start in the 30s or 40s and are often associated with declining sex hormone levels. But is there really such a thing as a “second puberty” or is this just a normal part of aging?

What is puberty?

Puberty refers to the process of physical changes that occur when a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. Puberty starts when the pituitary gland begins secreting larger amounts of hormones that stimulate the production of testosterone in boys and estrogen in girls. This typically occurs between the ages of 10 and 14.

Some key changes that happen during puberty include:

– Growth spurt and bone development
– Development of sex organs and secondary sex characteristics like breast growth in girls and facial hair in boys
– Skin and body changes like acne
– Development of body odor and increased sweating
– Emotional and mental development

Puberty lasts around 4 years on average as the body adjusts to these new hormone levels and completes the transition to adulthood.

Is there a second puberty?

There is no true “second puberty” that mirrors all the dramatic changes of adolescence. The body does not go through the same exact process again later in life.

However, both men and women can experience some shifts in their sexuality, appearance, and reproduction capability as they age:

Changes in women

– Breast growth – Many women notice their breasts increasing a cup size or two around ages 35-55. This is often due to gaining weight. But breast tissue can also increase due to hormonal fluctuations.

– Weight gain and body fat changes – Most women naturally gain about 1-2 pounds per year in their 30s and 40s, mainly around the abdomen and buttocks. This leads to a more curvy silhouette as women transition through menopause.

– Skin and hair changes – Lower estrogen after menopause can cause dryness, wrinkles, and thinning hair.

– Decreased fertility – Women experience a decline in ovulation and egg quality in their 30s. By the late 40s, fertility has declined significantly leading up to menopause.

Changes in men

– Loss of muscle mass – Men begin losing muscle mass after age 30 at a rate of 3-5% per decade. This can slow metabolism.

– Weight gain – Lower testosterone levels cause men to gain fat more easily, especially around the abdomen.

– Hair and skin changes – Testosterone levels start decreasing around age 30, leading to thinning hair and wrinkles.

– Increased body hair – Because of hormonal changes, older men often grow more ear, nose, and back hair.

– Sexual changes – Erections may not be as firm and take longer to achieve. Orgasms may decrease in intensity.

So while women and men do undergo some bodily changes in midlife associated with shifting hormones, these happen gradually over many years. There is no sudden “second” growth spurt.

Causes of hormonal changes with age

Why do women and men undergo these hormone-related changes in midlife rather than staying in a permanently “adult” state? There are several contributing factors.

Perimenopause and menopause

Perimenopause refers to the transitional stage leading up to menopause when a woman’s reproductive hormones begin fluctuating and declining. This starts for most women around age 35-40. During this transitional time, estrogen levels start dropping while follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels rise. This triggers irregular ovulation and menstrual cycles.

Menopause officially occurs when a woman has gone 12 months without a period. This means she no longer ovulates and her hormone production plummets.

The declining estrogen causes many of the changes women experience like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, increased belly fat, and loss of skin elasticity.


While not an official medical term, some experts describe men’s midlife hormonal shift as “andropause.” Testosterone levels start to slowly drop around age 30, about 1% per year. This decline accelerates around age 50. Lower testosterone correlates to many age-related changes like decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, low energy, thinning hair, and reduced sexual function.

Other age-related factors

In addition to hormonal shifts, other age-related factors contribute to the bodily changes women and men undergo as they enter midlife and beyond:

– Cells regenerate more slowly – Aging cells cause slower muscle recovery, weaker bones, thinner skin, and new wrinkles.

– Loss of structural proteins like collagen and elastin – This leads to changes like sagging skin and cellulite.

– A slower metabolism – This makes it easier to gain weight, especially if eating habits don’t change.

– Genetics – Genes influence the timing and degree of hormonal changes.

– Lifestyle factors – Diet, exercise, sleep, and stress affect hormone levels and aging.

– Health conditions – Diseases and medications impact sexual function and physical changes.

Signs of “second puberty” changes

While not a true second puberty, both women and men undergo significant physical changes throughout adulthood. Here are some common signs of “second puberty” shifts:

In women

– Larger breasts
– Wider hips and thighs
– Cellulite and fat gain
– New acne
– More prominent veins
– Loss of facial volume
– Turkey neck
– Facial hair growth
– Thinning scalp hair
– Drier vagina
– Hot flashes
– Trouble losing weight
– Sleep disruptions
– Mood swings
– Changing menstrual periods

In men

– Loss of muscle definition
– Gynecomastia (breast tissue growth)
– Shrinking testicles
– Less firm erections
– More body fat and belly size
– Thinning hair or balding
– Ear and nose hair growth
– Loss of body hair
– Sagging skin
– Lower energy levels
– Decreased athletic performance
– Trouble getting or maintaining erections

When do these midlife changes typically start?

The timing varies between individuals based on genetics, lifestyle, and health status. But here are some general timelines:

For women:

– Early 30s – Fertility starts declining as egg quantity and quality decreases. Breast size may increase slightly.

– Mid to late 30s – Hormone levels fluctuate more. Breasts continue enlarging. Weight redistributes to hips and thighs.

– Early 40s – Perimenopause begins for most women. Cycle irregularity and menopausal symptoms emerge.

– Late 40s/early 50s – Menopause marks the final menstrual period. Breasts finish enlarging.

For men:

– Age 30 – Testosterone begins a gradual decline of about 1% per year. Muscle mass peaks.

– 40s – Testosterone loss accelerates. Erections may require more stimulation. Less muscle and more fat.

– 50s – Menopause-like symptoms possibly emerge like night sweats and mood swings.

– 60s+ – Testosterone continues decreasing 1-2% annually. Fat storage around abdomen increases.

Keep in mind menopause timing in women varies widely from 40-58. And men show high individual variation as well. Lifestyle, body weight, genetics, and health play a role too.

Can you stop or delay a “second puberty”?

While you can’t prevent aging or stop menopause, some choices may help minimize undesirable changes that occur in midlife.

For women

– Maintain a healthy diet and body weight
– Stay active with strength training and cardio exercise
– Manage stress levels
– Get enough high-quality sleep
– Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
– Consider hormone therapy temporarily

For men

– Engage in frequent exercise, especially lifting weights
– Eat a nutrient-dense, low-sugar diet
– Reduce alcohol intake
– Quit smoking
– Sleep 7-9 hours per night
– Learn stress reduction techniques
– Have yearly checkups to monitor health

Some doctors also prescribe bioidentical hormone replacement, such as testosterone therapy, for men with unusually low levels. But this is controversial and may increase health risks like heart disease if improperly managed.

Can you reverse a “second puberty”?

While you cannot totally reverse or undo the aging process, some options may help recover lost muscle mass, bone density, skin thickness, libido, and energy levels.

For women

– Start weight training to build muscle and bone density
– Try bioidentical/compounded hormone therapy to increase estrogen
– Receive dermal fillers for wrinkles or injectables to stimulate collagen
– Treat dryness with lubricants, moisturizers, and laser therapy
– Use platelet rich plasma (PRP) for hair regrowth
– Consider surgical procedures like a facelift or breast lift

For men

– Follow a rigorous strength program to increase testosterone
– Try testosterone replacement therapy if levels are very low
– Use medications like Cialis for erectile dysfunction
– Get treatment for sleep apnea if present
– Receive hair transplants to restore balding areas
– Use laser therapy to stimulate collagen and reduce wrinkles
– Consider surgical procedures like neck lifts

Keep in mind these treatments all have potential side effects and vary in safety, cost, and effectiveness. Thoroughly discuss options with your doctor.

Healthy aging tips

While you can’t stop the clock, you can influence how your body ages by adopting healthy lifestyle habits:

– Exercise most days with cardio, strength training, and stretching

– Maintain a healthy body mass index between 18.5-24.9

– Eat a balanced diet with lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

– Stay hydrated with water and limit sugary drinks, even fruit juice

– Take steps to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, or counseling

– Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night

– Wear sunscreen daily and avoid excessive sun exposure

– Don’t smoke or vape and avoid secondhand smoke

– Drink alcohol moderately or not at all

– Have yearly wellness visits with your doctor for screening tests

When to see a doctor

Consult your physician if you experience any of the following:

– Hot flashes, night sweats, or vaginal dryness interfering with sleep or quality of life
– Heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding
– Hair loss or thinning exceeding 100 hairs per day
– Changes in breast appearance like discharge, lumps, or nipple inversion
– Erectile dysfunction or reduced libido interfering with relationships
– Signs of low testosterone like fatigue, muscle loss, and depression
– Reduced bone density shown on DEXA scan
– Weight gain despite diet and exercise
– Signs of depression like changes in sleep, appetite, energy, or concentration
– Severe skin changes like increased sagging, texture changes, or pigment abnormalities

The bottom line

There is no true “second puberty” that exactly replicates the experience of adolescence. However, women and men undergo significant physical changes throughout adulthood, especially during the menopausal transition.

Shifting hormones contribute to these midlife changes but so do natural aging, genetics, and lifestyle factors. While you can’t stop the aging process, healthy lifestyle choices and medical therapies can help you manage this transition and minimize undesirable effects.