For many women, excessive and unwanted hair growth in places like the face, chest, back or lower part of the stomach present not only a nuisance but a source of great frustration and anxiety. In extreme cases, this condition is called hirsutism and it is linked to the hormonal imbalance in the body. This disorder can cause major psychological challenges for women struggling with it since it can lead to the excessive and noticeable facial hair growth. According to the estimates, around 5% of women in the reproductive age suffer from this condition.
However, excessive hair growth, or hirsutism in extreme cases, is rarely discussed, since female hairiness is somewhat of a taboo in contemporary culture. This lack of available information leaves many women without some very valuable information on how they can diminish the symptoms and effectively treat their condition.
What’s on this page?
What is considered abnormal hair growth?
All women have hair all over their bodies, although it is most prominent in certain areas such as the head, armpits and genital area. So, abnormal hair growth is identified when excessive growth is noticed in the areas where it’s usually unexpected, like on the chest, the lower part of stomach, cheeks or the upper lip. Often, this condition is accompanied by stronger and more noticeable hair on legs and arms. For women struggling with hirsutism, facial hair can even get male-like in appearance with full-grown beard and moustache. This condition is especially problematic since women who are affected by it feel very embarrassed by their bodies and often opt for completely withdrawing from social life.
However, there is no strict definition of abnormal hair growth. Some women will naturally have more hair in certain body parts than others without it being classified as a medical condition. However, if you notice excessive hair growth at some point in life, without prior experience with the problem, it is usually indicative of hormonal imbalance or polycystic ovary syndrome.
Where does unwanted hair usually grow?
- Upper lip and cheeks
- Back and lower back
- The lower part of the stomach
- Arms and legs (stronger hair that common)
What causes excessive hair growth?
There are several reasons why conditions similar to hirsutism may develop in women. However, in roughly half of all documented cases, the root cause cannot be identified, leading to the assumption that genetics significantly contribute to this condition. What’s more, scientists have proven that this hirsutism is more common in some ethnic groups than others, which further strengthens the genetic hypothesis.
For those cases where the cause has been identified, hormonal imbalances and conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) play a prominent role. Once cysts appear on the ovaries, they interfere with hormonal balance, leading to excess testosterone (male sex hormone) which in turn causes the excessive and unwanted hair growth. It is not uncommon that women even discover they have PCO only after they visited the doctor to ask for a treatment for hair growth.
For others, hormonal changes that happen after the onset of menopause can also cause some form of hirsutism as the oestrogen levels gradually drop. Especially in early phases, this can lead to the dominance of male sex hormone and hair growth, but medical experts mostly agree that it is a normal, yet unpleasant part of menopause that will go by itself once the body gets accustomed to the changes associated with menopause.
However, there are also other somewhat more serious conditions that are associated with excessive hair growth, so despite the fact that this is primarily a cosmetic issue, it is still recommended to consult with the doctor in order to determine the exact cause and rule out some of the more severe conditions.
Living with excessive hair growth
This condition is in no way dangerous, although it might be a symptom of some other hormonal condition. However, in those cases where the root cause cannot be identified, it is absolutely benign. However, due to concepts of feminine beauty, this condition is burdened by social stigma and is considered to be somewhat taboo. For women affected, this can lead to significant psychological challenges, low self-esteem and even depression. It’s not uncommon that women with excessive hair growth start avoiding public places and especially places like swimming pools or beaches, where it’s harder to hide the condition. In extreme cases, this can lead to complete isolation and dissolution of social life.
If, on the other hand, the condition is actually a symptom of some other problem, like PCOS for example, then treating the root condition usually diminishes unwanted hair growth, too. This is why it is important to consult with a doctor and do tests that will help you identify the exact nature of your condition and subsequently, the proper treatment.
For the cases where hair growth cause cannot be identified, numerous hair removal treatments are available. While they cannot stop hair growth entirely, they can help make the condition less noticeable, thus significantly contributing to the self-esteem of the affected women.
Unwanted hair growth treatment
There are many different hair removal methods you can opt for if you’re struggling with some form of hirsutism. Some of them are pretty straightforward and don’t require professional assistance, while others rely on cutting edge technology in order to produce longer-lasting results.
Many women opt for the simplest solution of them all – simply shave the unwanted excess hair. This is a very common hair removal method, practiced by countless women across the world, including many of those who do not have the aforementioned condition but decide to shave their legs and armpits because of the dominant beauty ideals. It is even not that uncommon to see women unaffected by excessive hair growth to shave their arms too.
On the other hand, for women suffering from a more serious form of hirsutism which includes prominent facial hair, shaving isn’t really an option, since it is only a temporary solution, and usually, facial hair stumps will still be visible after shaving.
Birth control pills
If excessive hair growth is caused by PCOS or some other hormone-related condition, birth control pills can be the one-for-all solution. Pills contain a significant amount of oestrogen, female sex hormone, that can counteract the impact of testosterone, bringing the hormones in balance and simultaneously treating both the unwanted hair growth and its root cause.
Vaniqa hair removal cream
Another rather efficient method of removing unwanted facial hair, especially when your condition isn’t related to PCOS, is the prescription-only hair removal cream Vaniqa. The cream should be applied to face (or other affected areas) daily. Its unique mechanism of action inhibits the hair growth in each hair root. But as such, it produces results only during the duration of the treatment – once you stop using Vaniqa, the unwanted hair will return after some time. Will it can technically be applied to any affected area, the medical experts behind the cream emphasize that it was designed specifically for removing unwanted facial hair, which remains its only recommended use.
ILP and laser treatment
Aside from already mentioned, there are also some high-tech methods for removing excess hair, most notably, ILP (intense pulsed light) and laser treatment. Both work by burning the root and hair follicle in order to “kill” each individual hair and prevent it from growing again. While this is one of the more efficient methods in the long term, you will need many treatments before you can notice the difference.
Waxing is another commonly used method of waxing, used not only in cases of hirsutism but also for purely cosmetic hair removal. By waxing, you rip the hairs from their roots which prevent them from growing again for weeks at a time. Although the results are somewhat longer lasting than with other methods, you still don’t remove the hairs for good. Wax treatments are available in beauty clinics, but with the simple and straightforward approach, you can even do it at home by yourself. However, keep in mind that there are different types of wax, intended to be used on different body parts.