What Causes Facial Hair in Women (and How to Combat It)
Unwanted facial hair is anathema to women, who go to extensive lengths to combat the problem. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medication that will significantly reduce the problem.
Having a thick, full head of hair is a point of pride for many women, but most would just as soon not have hair grow elsewhere, like on the face, armpits, or legs.
When women discover unwanted facial hair, their first course of action is usually to simply get rid of it. Most of the time, this type of hair growth does not indicate an underlying medical problem, but in some cases, excess facial hair can be caused by a treatable medical condition: when the condition is treated, the problem goes away.
Statistics, Signs, and Symptoms
Roughly 8 percent of women in the United States report unwanted facial hair growth.
If you’re a woman with unwanted facial hair growth, it’s important to learn whether it is harmless or caused by a medical condition. Certain ethnicities, including women of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and European ancestry are more likely to develop unwanted facial hair growth than others. However, if you have excess facial hair growth along with any of the following symptoms, you should visit your doctor to determine if there is an underlying cause for the hair growth:
- irregular periods
- increased acne
- increased “masculinity” in the form of deeper voice, enlarged shoulder muscles, or male pattern hair loss
- obesity, particularly when weight gain occurs in the midsection
- high blood pressure
- symptoms of diabetes
Causes of Unwanted Hair Growth
Around half of the women who experience increased facial hair have higher than normal levels of male sex hormones, or androgens. There are many possible causes of high androgen levels in women, including the following:
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can result in infertility
- adrenal gland tumors
- ovarian tumors
- Cushing syndrome
- medications like pheytoin, minoxidil, diazoxide, and cyclosporine
- use of anabolic steroids
- danazol, a drug used to treat endometriosis
What are the Risk Factors?
While genetic inheritance and ethnicity may play a role in whether a woman develops unwanted facial hair, genetics may also come into play with certain medical conditions. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, can often be linked with family history. In women with PCOS, a diet and exercise program that helps control weight can help control unwanted hair growth as well. Women with PCOS who are also obese may cut their risk of unwanted facial hair growth if they consume a low-calorie diet.
What You Can Do About It
You have options when it comes to the removal of unwanted facial hair growth. Some women are good candidates for laser hair removal. This hair removal technique works best in people with a combination of fair skin and dark hair. But your best solution to unwanted hair growth starts with finding out if there is an underlying medical cause, and if so, getting treated for it.
If there is no clear medical cause for your excess facial hair growth, your doctor may prescribe a drug specifically designed to combat excess facial hair, like Vaniqa. Vaniqa is a prescription drug that works within the hair follicle, blocking formation of the building blocks for enzymes responsible for the synthesis of hairs. It causes hair regrowth to be slower, so that you can use other hair control methods (like waxing, shaving, or tweezing) less frequently.
Many women find that the new hair that grows in is finer and less noticeable after using Vaniqa. Vaniqa can also be used in conjunction with laser hair removal.
Vaniqa is a long-term medication: if you stop using it, your hair will go back to the way it was, so combining Vaniqa with laser hair removal may be worth exploring for a more thorough solution to unwanted facial hair.
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