Sekihan a l’anglaise



As girls and boys develop, commonly starting at any age from 8-14*, they will experience a variety of physical changes. As you know, these changes are perfectly normal. However, it can be a little confusing to be finding different parts of you changing, emotionally and physically.

Our top tip:

Remind yourself of the challenges they may experience. Being able to support them from a place of knowledge can really help both of you to feel confident together and face the changes as a team. To do that, we’d like to help you feel more confident in having those conversations.

Voice ‘breaks’ and eventually deepens permanently

Testosterone changes the vocal chords and the size of the larynx in the male body. As they are growing and changing, a boy’s voice may ‘crack’ at points until they stop.

Facial hair and increased body hair

Luteinising hormone stimulates the growth of facial and body hair in boys.

More sweat:

An increase in hormones during puberty can stimulate the sweat glands within the skin. Sweat itself isn’t super smelly, but when it mixes with the bacteria that lives on skin (everyone has them!), we can get body odour.

Bad breath:

An increase in hormones may result in the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth, which can result in bad breath**. Plaque can build, and cavities can form. Hormonal changes can be a cause of this, as can sugary foods and drinks.

Scalp changes:

Oily scalp, dandruff. The body’s production of sebum can increase as a result of hormone activity. Pores on the scalp can emit this, causing ‘greasy hair’. An oily scalp is believed to play a role in dandruff. Some children are just predisposed to dandruff so the onset of puberty brings flaking***.

Acne and spots:

Increased sebum production can also cause spots and pimples to form on the face. Pores on the face can get clogged with too much sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria.

Growing taller:

Growth hormone production can increase across puberty, although rates will be different for everyone.

Emotional changes:

There can be many different emotions felt more keenly through puberty: from mood changes, sensitivity, uncertainty.


To learn even more about what you’ve read here, and for answers to FAQs asked by parents, guardians and children, click here to download our booklet all about #TheTeenTalk


Until quite recently, Japanese families would mark a girl’s first period by sharing a meal of sekihan, a sticky, reddish dish of rice and aduki beans. It’s a shame that Roland Barthes, who wrote extensively on the semiotics of Japanese food, never partook. The meal’s disarming combination of the homely and the unheimlich shows that fluency within the realm of the symbolic which he considered the defining characteristic of Japanese culture.

The UK has lacked any direct sekihan equivalent, but now the management of Boots The Chemist have stepped up. “Let the Japanese have their sekihan,” we can imagine them saying. “We have #TheTeenTalk!”

#TheTeenTalk ought to be a shoo-in. Boots is, after all, Britain’s largest pharmacy chain, employing three times as many pharmacists as its nearest rival and boasting a 150-year-plus history. There can be few UK citizens who have never visited one of its stores. We might expect the marketing department of this iconic retailer to grasp their opportunity with both hands, addressing teenagers and their parents in an approachable, authoritative style distilled from the company’s decades of public engagement.

The first clue that this won’t be so is provided by the list of ‘sponsors’ on #TheTeenTalk home page. Oral-B, Always, Tampax, Aussie, Head&Shoulders, Gillette… these are Procter&Gamble brands, one and all. P&G, notorious for the role its products played in the ‘toxic shock’ controversy of the 1980s, maintains a particular corporate focus on ‘feminine hygeine’. Will P&G co-opt #TheTeenTalk as a sales opportunity? Do bears shit in the woods?

#TheTeenTalk downloadable (not part of our main quote but readily accessible via the Boots website) namechecks on its rear cover a handful of support organizations, including one for victims of toxic shock syndrome. But the Boots/P&G text conspicuously sidesteps any discussion of such difficult topics. There are no mentions of variant sexualities, coercion and the right to say ‘no’, the availability of morning after pills, the struggle for abortion rights in Northern Ireland…

There is, however, a lengthy plug for the “Venus ComfortGlide Spa Breeze” razor with its “rounded, pivoting head and flexible moisture bars filled with rich body butters for a more comfortable shave.” [sic] And the Venus is only one of a dozen P&G products granted privileged advertorial space.

There’s nothing wrong with selling razors, but standing at a lectern and standing behind a counter are quite different things. The ‘puberty for boys’ copywriter plainly finds their dual role confusing and has responded with singularly listless prose. Note the awkward pronoun shifts in the first para of our example; the ambiguous repetition of ‘confidence’ in the second; the slippages of vocabulary throughout (Perelman could have got a laugh out of the lurch from ‘luteinising hormone’ to ‘super smelly’ but ordinary mortals should leave well enough alone); the dangling multiple apostrophes detached from any footnotes; the O-level misspelling of ‘vocal c[h]ords’…

Our rewrite fixes all of these. It also drops the insipid parent-and-child schtick to address the boy/man directly, and hints at some other ways the copywriter might — ahem! — grow a pair.



BOY TO MAN — When you were born, you began a growth spurt that tailed off a few years later. But now you’re growing again, even faster this time around. Over the next few years, you can expect:

* to get taller
* to add muscle
* to develop hair on your face and body

…plus other, peskier changes. Those include:

Voice ‘breaking’
Your voicebox is growing even faster than the rest of your body. The result? Your voice is getting deeper. It will sound harsh, and it may ‘crack’ unexpectedly. Don’t worry — with practice, you’ll get it under control!

“Hey, sweaty!”
Extra growth hormones mean more sweat and more sebum — your skin’s natural oils. Unfortunately, those can also mean more skin bacteria and more pong. You may need to wash more often than when you were little.

Bad breath
Those same hormones also mean more bacteria in your mouth, leading to bad breath and tooth decay. Clean your teeth thoroughly, avoid sugary foods and drinks… and make sure you see your dentist regularly!

Acne and spots
If you’re unlucky, your greasy skin will break out in spots and pimples on your face and back. If so, you’ll likely grow out of it… but you could try using a skin scrub to keep those pores unblocked.

Did your hair suddenly get greasy? It’s that sebum again! A good shampoo will help, especially if your flaking scalp is turning into dandruff.

…plus (gulp) emotional changes
We saved the worst for last. Those same growth hormones work on your brain, too. Lots of adolescents find themselves suddenly caught up in mood swings and introspective, gloomy behaviour. BTW, they often find it harder to get up in the morning, too!


If this brief guide has been helpful, you might want to download our leaflet. It’s packed with useful info that will help you understand the changes you and your friends are going through.