Female Facial Hair
What is female facial hair?
Female facial hair, sometimes referred to as hirsutism, is when a woman experiences excess hair growth of dark, thick hair, usually on their chin or upper lip. This problem is particularly common after a woman has been through the menopause, with 75% of post-menopausal women experiencing excessive facial hair. This is a result of hormonal changes in the body due to the menopause; your oestrogen levels decrease while your testosterone levels go up, causing hair growth.
It is more common in women who have darker hair, in particular women from Europe or Southern Asia. Excessive facial hair can also run in the family, so if your relatives have struggled with unwanted hair, you may also.
There are various removal options, as well as ways to disguise and lessen excessive facial hair.
Most people's bodies are covered by a fine layer of small, light-coloured hairs. However, when you have excessive hair growth, the hair becomes darker, coarser and more visible. This excessive hair growth is most common on the face, but it may also appear on your neck, bottom, stomach and chest. Many women find this embarrassing and if this is the case, you are advised to seek treatment.
Other symptoms may appear alongside excessive hair growth including:
- Your voice deepening
- Receding hairline
- Oily skin
Polycystic ovary syndrome can also cause you to experience:
- Irregular periods
- Weight gain
What causes female facial hair?
In around 25% of cases, the cause of excessive facial hair in women is not clear. These cases are known as idiopathic hirsutism.
Excess facial hair is more likely to occur in women who have dark hair, especially if they are from Europe or Southern Asia. It can also run in the family, meaning that if your mother suffered with unwanted facial hair, you may have it too.
Polycystic ovaries and the side effects of certain medicines may cause unwanted facial hair, too.
In many cases, facial hair is the result of an increased sensitivity to androgens, which are male sex hormones, in pre-menopausal women. This is most commonly the result of polycystic ovary syndrome (POCS); this syndrome results in irregular periods, weight gain and acne.
Hormonal changes can be the cause of female facial hair, including the menopause. If a woman is going through the menopause, they are more likely to have excess facial hair; this is because their oestrogen levels go down while their testosterone levels go up, causing facial hair to grow.
Excessive female facial hair does not need to be diagnosed by a doctor. However, if you do have unwanted facial hair, you should discuss this with your doctor so they can get to the root cause of hirsutism. If you have an underlying condition like polycystic ovary syndrome, this can be treated at the same time as your facial hair.
It can be diagnosed by your doctor looking at the hair and grading the growth on 9 different areas on your body. They will grade each area from 0 to 4 (0 = no hair growth, 4 = heavy growth of dark hair). If your score comes up to 15 or higher, this is considered to be moderate to severe hirsutism.
Some women may suffer from depression, embarrassment or a lack of confidence as a result of excessive hair growth. If this is the case, you should speak to your doctor about this. If hirsutism appears suddenly, make sure you speak to a doctor.
Female Facial Hair Treatment
There are various facial hair removal treatments available. If you are using a hair removal treatment, you are advised to see your doctor before beginning treatment to make sure you are not suffering from an underlying condition that is causing the hair growth.
Fortunately, there are various ways to remove, disguise or lessen excess facial hair. However, these treatments are classed as cosmetic and are not available on the NHS.
Facial hair removal treatment comes in a range of techniques that require no medical intervention. It is up to the individual to decide upon the most suitable treatment for their condition.
Facial hair removal treatments include:
- Laser hair removal, which can permanently remove hair; it is particularly beneficial for women with pale skin and dark hair. This process can take a long time and is often quite expensive.
- Shaving is a quick and simple method for removing facial hair, but it can cause irritation and leave stubble.
- Bleaching can lighten hair to disguise it. It is most effective on pale skin, but it may result in irritation.
- Electrolysis, which can permanently remove hair just like laser hair removal, but this can also take a long time, be expensive and may also result in scarring or skin discolouration.
Vaniqa cream is an effective treatment for excessive female hair growth. It is not a facial hair removal cream; instead, it slows down the growth of hair and makes it shorter, finer and lighter. As a result your facial hair will be considerably less visible to others. It works by reducing the growth of hair by blocking the enzyme responsible for hair growth within the hair follicle.
This cream can reduce facial hair in up to 70% of people who use it and it has been proven to be effective in all skin colours and types.
Vaniqa cream is safe to use alongside other treatments like hormone tablets or other facial hair removal treatments like waxing or shaving. You should use Vaniqa cream on a regular basis as hair growth will resume within 8 weeks of stopping treatment.
If you need medical treatment for hirsutism, your doctor might instruct you to use a certain oral contraceptive. This will only be prescribed for pre-menopausal women to use.
Oral contraceptives work by blocking the male hormones' effects, to reduce the appearance of facial hair. However, this form of treatment can take up to six months to work.
Female Facial Hair Frequently Asked Questions
Unwanted facial hair is commonly the result of women having an excess amount of male sex hormones (androgens), which are commonly known as testosterone.
Around 72% of pre-menopausal women who have hirsutism have it as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). There is no identifiable cause for around 23% of cases.
Other causes of this problem may be:
- Side effects to medicine
- An androgen-producing tumour
- Cushing's syndrome, which is a rare hormonal disorder
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where small cysts form on the outside of a woman's ovaries. This condition can lead to an imbalance of androgens, because the ovaries produce sex hormones. Furthermore, it can cause acne and weight gain and affect the regularity of a woman's period.
Hormonal changes are very closely associated with the menopause. When a woman is going through the menopause, the amount of oestrogen she produces in her body decreases, while the testosterone levels increase. This can result in excessive body and facial hair.
You may wish to speak to a doctor if you have unwanted facial hair; this problem may cause depression and a lack of confidence.
Your doctor will determine how severe your case of hirsutism is before they recommend any particular treatment for you to use. They will look at the hair growth on 9 parts of your body and grade it from 0 to 4, to determine how severe the case is. If you score 15 or above, you will be classed as having moderate to severe hirsutism.
Your doctor will also try to identify what is causing your excess hair, to see if it is connected to any other conditions, or if it is a side effect of any medicines you are currently taking.
If it is decided that it is the result of another condition, they may refer you for tests, such as blood tests to check your testosterone levels.
There is no cure for excessive female facial hair, but various treatments exist to help lessen, remove and disguise excessive hair.
As a result of hormone changes within the body, which are part of the menopause, this problem is more common in older women than it is in younger women. In fact, three out of every four women may suffer from this problem.
Around 15% of pre-menopausal women will suffer with excess facial hair.
It has been said that shaving will result in hair growth being increased, but this is completely untrue. However, some women may dislike having the stubble that grows back as a result of shaving; shaving on a regular basis can also cause the skin to become irritated.
Waxing is a more effective alternative for many women, but this too has the risk of irritating the skin. In some cases, it can even lead to scarring. Both of these methods can also inflame the hair follicles, so you should be very careful when waxing or shaving.
Using hair removal creams, known as a depilatories, dissolve each individual shaft of hair and, as a result, do not leave any stubble. Furthermore, they too risk irritating your skin, particularly in cases of women who have sensitive skin. Before using any cream on your upper lip, chin, or anywhere else on your body, be sure you follow the instructions carefully.
Alternatively, you could try a bleaching cream which will lighten the dark hairs to reduce their appearance. In many cases, they are not suitable for women with darker skin tones to use. This is another product that may irritate your skin, too.
Electrolysis treatment involves giving a small electric current to a hair follicle to try and destroy its root, permanently. Before having electrolysis treatment, you should make sure that the operator is qualified and recognised by the Institute of Electrolysis; this will ensure your treatment is safe, as electrolysis can be dangerous and cause scarring if not done properly. The person doing the procedure must use new and disposable needles to carry it out.
Electrolysis is costly and takes a long time, so as a result, you may not be able to get it on the NHS.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) and laser treatments are alternative methods that must also be performed at specialised clinics by qualified practitioners. Before having the procedure, check to see that the practitioner is a member of the Healthcare Commission or the British Medical Laser Association.
Laser and IPL treatments can cause scarring, they might result in a slight discolouration of your skin, too. If you have this form of treatment, you must stop using all other hair removal procedures and avoid the likes of tanning beds and any other source of ultraviolet radiation.
Because of their price and the fact that they too are time consuming, you might not be able to get laser and IPL treatments on the NHS.
Unlike depilatory creams, Eflornithine cream will slow down the growth of facial hair. This newly-developed treatment is mostly recommended for women who have tried other products and not seen any improvement, or for women who are unable to use other forms of treatment available for hirsutism. This cream is left on the skin, which means it can be used alongside other forms of removal. To reap the benefits of Eflornithine, you will need to apply it consistently for at least two months before you notice an improvement. Side effects may include acne or burning, but they are normally mild and will not affect everyone who uses it.
Anti-androgen medicines are prescribed in some cases to inhibit hormonal activity that is responsible for excessive hair growth. This is often used for between four and six months before the effects are seen; after this time the growth of hair should slow down and the strands will become thinner, making them less noticeable.
There are various types available, including Finasteride, Spironolactone and Cyproterone. Hair will return once you stop using any of these brands regularly. They have also been shown to harm unborn male babies, so they should only be taken by women who are using effective forms of contraception.
Unwanted hair growth itself is not hereditary, but some of the causes of the problem may be.
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