A new trend on Tiktok is emerging of people discussing their experience with body changes in adulthood that they refer to as “second puberty”. The phenomenon has gained enough traction for many viewers to take claims that this is a valid body transition as fact. But what exactly is second puberty, and what harm- if any- do these viral videos have on young audiences?
Puberty itself refers to the sexual development of an individual as they leave childhood and enter adolescence. This stage- many might say thankfully- only occurs once in a lifetime. The concept of “second puberty” is merely slang for the natural changes that the human body goes through as we age, which factors in lifestyle and environmental patterns.
On Tiktok, many users in their 20s talk about how their bodies are transforming in eerily similar ways to that of a developing teenager. Some mention how their acne has returned, others talk about rapid weight gain and increasing irregularity in their menstrual cycles.
In turn, these videos have resulted in reactionary Tiktoks, with users expressing their dismay at apparently having to go through the unpleasant process all over again. Additionally, female users in particular have expressed disappointment that a return to their teenage weight or body form is unattainable as a result of a so-called second adolescence.
TikTok user Annie C, who goes by the handle @soprannie, called out the harm that posts like this can have on young women’s attitudes towards their bodies, when changes such as slight weight gain as we get older are natural occurrences.
“Why are we stigmatising women ageing so much as their bodies change from the bodies of children into the bodies of women? We already have to deal with living in a society that prioritises tiny, clean-shaven, hairless women. Adding to this stigma is not helpful in any way,” says Annie C in her TikTok post.
Nonetheless, stories about body changes continue to be circulated, even though they are not the signs of a “second puberty” some may believe they are experiencing. Medical professionals say that symptoms are merely reflective of gradual adjustments in the body’s hormones that occur as we age.
Skin concerns are a prime example of age-related physical changes. The American School for Dermatology estimates that as much as 45 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 26 experience adult acne. While this can be attributed to hormonal changes, factors such as alcohol intake, smoking, stress and the contraceptive pill can exacerbate skin inflammation to a greater extent than the natural ageing process.
Anything that goes viral on the Internet has the potential to illicit strong emotion. However, the use of TikTok, a platform made up largely of young and impressionable viewers, to spread inaccurate albeit well-meaning information about the human body may ultimately do more harm than good.