Make plucking hair a thing of the past.
Women face enough challenges as it is, and unwanted facial hair shouldn’t be one of them. A condition known as hirsutism can cause stiff and dark hair to appear on the body, including the face, damaging self-esteem. Here’s what you need to know about hirsutism and how to treat it.
What Is Hirsutism?
Hirsutism is the growth of excessive stiff, dark hair on the face, chest, inner thighs, and back that affects about 5-10% of all women. It’s generally caused by high androgen levels. Androgens are sex hormones, like testosterone, that are generated by the ovaries or adrenal glands. Despite their associations with male biology, androgens are also present in women, just in lower numbers.
Women with hirsutism should discuss the condition with their OBGYN and dermatologist. They may recommend testing for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or refer you to an endocrinologist. Also check to see if you’ve been exposed to the following medications, either by taking them yourself or by contact with your partner:
- Minoxidil (Rogaine)
- Danazol, often used to treat endometriosis and fibrocystic breast disease
- Testosterone supplements, especially gels and creams that may rub off on your body during contact
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which may be present in some over-the-counter supplements
In extreme cases, women may experience virilization, which is the assumption of certain male traits such as pattern baldness, a deepening voice, acne, and reduced breast size. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately.
Hirsutism can be addressed through a number of medical approaches and lifestyle changes.
Reducing Supplement Use: Supplements should be used carefully and their ingredients examined closely. DHEA, for example, is promoted for weight loss, anti-aging, and other approaches, and may have some benefits, but those benefits may not outweigh the side effects. Note, as well, that unreported ingredients, including pharmaceutical agents, may be present in supplements.
Mechanical Depilation: Shaving, waxing, and plucking may be an option for small areas of hair. Contrary to popular belief, these methods don’t encourage hair growth, but they are uncomfortable and time-consuming.
Weight Loss: For PCOS patients, weight loss can assist in reducing symptoms, including hirsutism. However, losing weight can be a challenge because PCOS causes hormonal imbalances.
Medication: Vaniqa, a version of eflornithine, can be used to remove unwanted facial hair.
What Is Vaniqa?
Eflornithine, sold as a topical application under the name Vaniqa, blocks the action of the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase. This reduces the growth and thickness of hair, particularly on the face. As of this writing, it’s the only treatment proven to slow the growth of facial hair.
Vaniqa is generally applied to the area of concern twice daily, with at least eight hours elapsing between each application. However, the effects of Vaniqa are not permanent. The hair will return within eight weeks of discontinuing treatment.
Vaniqa is available online, for maximum safety and privacy. Simply fill out a brief questionnaire and a doctor will contact you via phone to provide a consultation and prescription. You can even have it delivered straight to your door. Don’t let hirsutism keep you away from family and friends, especially when simple treatment options are available.
Dan is a long-time freelance writer focusing on technology, science, health, and medicine, with a lifelong interest in physics, biology, and medicine. His work has taken a particular focus on scientific studies “beyond the headlines,” reading the study to more closely examine the results.