Ways every woman’s body changes in her 20s

young woman smiling

Adulting is hard. Perhaps that’s what
makes your 20s the most difficult period of your life. Comprehensive research
obtained by the app company Happify, later compiled by Harvard
Business Review, confirmed that stress levels drastically increase in
20-somethings. Oddly enough, stress continues to increase until you hit
retirement age — oh goody. What changes, however, is how we’re able to
cope. Based on the data, HBR revealed that “positive emotions…
nearly bottom out during your 20s and early 30s, but on the other side of the
[quarter-life] crisis, it’s a constant increase in positivity.” Yes, it
gets better. 
While in the the thick of your 20s,
though, you’ll also begin to experience some pretty wild bodily changes — but
we promise they’re not all bad. Here are some of the things that happen to
women during this decade of their lives. Oh, and keep in mind what the
wise Dori once said: “When life gets you down, you know what you
gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” 

Your metabolism peaks — and then declines

young woman stretching
Weight-loss expert Christopher
Ochner from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York told Women’s Health that
most women will achieve their highest basal metabolic rate — which is just a
fancy way of saying the amount of calories you burn through by literally just
existing — by the time they hit their early 20s. Pretty nice, right? 
The exact moment you’ll reach this level
very much depends on your genetics as well as your activity level. If you’re an
athlete or someone who exercises on the reg, you’ll obviously build more muscle
than someone with an inactive lifestyle. Much the same, active people generally
have a higher metabolism than others who live a more sedentary lifestyle. 
While a healthy, spry metabolism is
definitely one of the perks of turning the big 2-0, it’s not without a
downside. Sadly, maintaining your highest basal metabolic rate isn’t really
possible. What goes up must come down, and that starts to happen as you cruise
through your 20s.

You get some extra curves

young woman with curves
Once your metabolism starts its descent,
medical doctor Karen Boyle told Cosmopolitan that “you might notice an
increase in fat distribution in your hips, thighs, and bust region.” At
the same time you’re metabolism is changing, your hormones begin to change as
well and weight gain is nearly inevitable. 
Dr. Maria Sophocles added, “Weight
normally continues to increase annually in your 20s, mostly due to increase in
body fat compared to teen years.” If your weight is increasing
incrementally, it’s nothing to be concerned about. However, Sophocles
says “it’s important to keep in mind that a normal weight is to have
a BMI [body mass index] between 18.5 and 24.9.”
While putting on a few pounds may have
you thinking about dieting, it’s not a great idea. Restricting your
caloric intake will actually only make it harder to lose weight, according
to Cleveland Clinic nutrition expert Kristin Kirkpatrick. “The more
you diet, the more your metabolism may be negatively impacted,” she
explained. Developing healthy eating and exercise patterns is best.

Your cramps get much worse

young woman with cramps
By the time you turn 22, you’ve probably
been dealing with your period for around a decade. Although you’re totally used
to monthly visits from Aunt Flo, there’s a chance you weren’t acquainted with
her evil step-sister: cramps. At least not cramps of the I-think-I’m-dying
David Plourd, medical doctor and
assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Naval Medical Center in
San Francisco, California, told Shape that this is all due to hormones called
prostaglandins. These hormones enable the lining of the uterus to shed. Your
prostaglandins are in “peak production” during your 20s and thus why
your cramps become so excruciating.
Although these hormones are an important
part of your cycle, you can relieve some of the pain they cause. While you may
be used to treating cramps when they occur, taking a pain reliever with
Naproxen a few days before getting your period can help lessen the pain cramps
cause. Exercising regularly is also advised.

Your bones become stronger

young woman lifting weights
Bone health may be the last thing on your
mind in your 20s, but it shouldn’t be, according to Dr. Karen Boyle. By
the time you hit 30, she told Cosmopolitan, you can already start experiencing
bone loss. This makes exercise that much more important in your 20s. Your bones
also become increasingly stronger in your 20s — so why not use that to your
Dr. Maria Sophocles told the publication,
“Right now is a great time to eat a diet with adequate calcium and vitamin
D, and to get into a pattern of regular weight-bearing exercise, both of which
will stimulate growth of bone cells.”
The doctor went on to compare bone
strength to a savings account. Just as you need to make regular deposits
to have your account grow, your bones need deposits of exercise, calcium, and
so on to flourish. “Once you hit menopause, you’ll lose bone mass
faster,” she explained, “but if you’re making deposits now, there
will be a good amount of bone mass stored up.”

 Your face becomes slimmer

young woman looking at face in mirror
Despite experiencing an increase in body
fat in your 20s, your face won’t show it. In fact, the “baby fat” you
may have had around your cheeks in your teenage years will begin diminishing.
Marsha Gordon, professor and vice chairman of the department of
dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, explained why when
speaking to Shape. “As you age, subcutaneous fat decreases and you
begin losing volume in your face, particularly in your cheeks,” she
revealed. Collagen also diminishes and leaves your face looking slimmer than it
had been years earlier. 
While some may be excited to lose their
baby faces, others don’t love the thought of losing some of their fullness. Dr.
Promila Banerjee revealed on RealSelf, saying, “Medical science does
not have a magic pill YET to prevent facial fat loss whether it occurs as
part of aging or as part of overall weight loss.” Nevertheless, she says a
good skin care routine can help.

 The incredible shrinking … vulva?

young woman looking surprised and pointing down
Your face isn’t the only part of your
body that’s going to experience some shrinkage as you get further and further
into your 20s. If you’re hoping it’s your hips or thighs that are going to slim
down, we’re sorry to disappoint. It’s actually your — hold up, what? — vulva.
Yes, that’s right. 
Dr. Karen Boyle told Cosmopolitan that
although your vaginal muscles are still strong — we’ll take it — you’re going
to experience some interesting changes to your nether regions. “A
woman’s fat distribution changes in her 20s…,” the doc explained. With
that, you might just realize that “your labia major or ‘outer
lips’ and the opening of your vagina” are looking slimmer.
According to Women’s Health together
with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a
decrease in subcutaneous fat is what causes this shrinkage — just as with the
face. So, if you’re ever looking for a fun fact to share on someone’s 21st
birthday, you’re welcome.

Acne comes back

young woman with adult acne
“Acne, I’ve missed you! I’m so happy
you’ve returned,” said no one. Ever. Regardless, acne has been known to
make a resurgence after the teenage years are long over. 
While acne does tend to come to a head in
the teenage years, one study of acne’s prevalence across the lifespan found
that a whopping 45 percent of women between the ages of 21 and 30 reported
dealing with adult acne. Even if you had very minor breakouts as a teen, you
can still go on experience something much worse as an adult. 
Hormones are partly responsible, Joshua
Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New
York, revealed to Shape. Additionally, everything from dealing with stress to
eating starchy foods to smoking can cause breakouts for women in their 20s.
Makeup can also clog pores and worsen acne. For some, switching makeup or
facial cleansers can help. Others may need to schedule an appointment with
their dermatologist to explore other options. 

Hello, cellulite

close up image of cellulite
By your mid-20s, you may start to notice
the skin around the back of your thighs or knees looking less smooth and more
dimpled. Meet: cellulite. According to Scientific American’s interview
with osteopathic physician Lionel Bissoon, cellulite is an incredibly
common condition. So common, in fact, that it affects 90 percent of women. Most
women start to experience the change to their skin between their 25th and 35th
birthdays. Although many women don’t love the idea of getting cellulite or, at
best, are nonplussed by the idea, how cellulite forms is worth noting.
A series of events occurs in the body,
beginning with estrogen. When estrogen begins to decreases, you start to
experience decreased circulation. A decrease in circulation means less oxygen
and nutrition get where they need to go. Less oxygen begets a decrease in
collagen production and, as fat cells are enlarging, they start pushing their
way through the collagen and — voila! — cellulite. This just proves that
cellulite is totally normal — not something any woman need be ashamed of.

You have a “rocking” sex drive

young woman embracing young man
Thanks to a combination of a couple
different reasons, “[your] 20s sex drive is usually
rocking,” Jennifer Landa, obstetrician-gynecologist and chief medical
officer at BodyLogicMD in Orlando, Florida, told Health. She continued, saying, “The
biological drive to reproduce is in full force.” 
Texas-based ob-gyn John Thoppil
revealed another cause to the publication. “Desire is often strongest
in a new relationship,” he says. And, as the 20s are generally when people
enter into exciting, new relationships, it makes sense why the sex drive would
be high at this time.
If you’re in your 20s and not
experiencing a “rocking ” libido, this could be because of your birth
control. “It doesn’t have this effect on everyone,” Landa explained,
“but some women will experience lower testosterone levels on the pill,
which can lead to lower libido and even to vaginal dryness in some young
women.” In which case, the doctor recommends seeing your ob-gyn to explore
other methods of birth control and rule out potential health issues.


Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.