Excessive hair growth in certain areas of the body is fairly common, but many women find it distressing to live with. Facial hair that is fine and light in colour, commonly on the upper lip, causes little problem but when hair is dark, coarse and excessive many find it can be embarrassing. Hair that is thick and dark (known as hirsutism) is caused by an excess of male hormones called androgens the most well-known being testosterone. All women produce some testosterone but some have increased sensitivity to it. It’s not clear why this should be but after the menopause it can affect some older women sometimes causing a deep voice and excess facial and body hair growth. Hirsutism can be a long-term problem, growing in areas where men often have hair such as the face, neck, chest, tummy, lower back, buttocks and thighs.
There are a number of home hair removal methods that can help keep excess hair under control, such as plucking and waxing, but simply shaving the excess can cause unpleasant stubble in between shaves. Commercial products are readily available for waxing or bleaching either at home or at your local beauty salon. Some creams act on enzymes in hair follicles providing a longer term solution.
Professional treatments include electrolysis, using electricity to remove hair permanently by destroying hair cells, but this can be painful and may change skin colour. Professional treatment for hirsutism usually involves techniques to remove the excess hair and treatments to help slow its growth or stop it coming back. Specialist hair removal treatments, such as laser hair removal uses powerful beams of light over several months to destroy unwanted, excess facial hair.
If hirsutism is your problem it may be advisable for you to talk to your GP who can look for any underlying cause, advise you about the treatments available or refer you to a specialist. After looking at the areas of excessive growth the GP will ask about symptoms, your medical history, what medication you are taking, and check hormone levels by doing a blood test. Your GP may prescribe eflornithine cream that can help slow down the growth of facial hair or oral contraceptives, including co-cyprindiol tablets that may help prevent excess hair growth. It may take a few months to notice the effects so it’s important to persist with treatments and in many cases, treatment will need to be continued indefinitely.