Hirsutism is a condition that affects women, and it causes excess hair growth on the face, back, chest, arms, and buttocks, as well as other areas where you wouldn’t typically expect to see hair growth in females.
Hirsutism isn’t a serious or life threatening condition, but it can cause low self-esteem and even mental health problems for some women, especially those that believe that facial hair diminishes femininity.
Luckily, there are hirsutism treatments available for women that want to reduce the appearance of their facial or body hair, and some of these are available from iMeds UK after you complete an online consultation form.
Hirsutism causes thick, dark hair growth in areas that you’d generally expect to see in males. One of the most common areas to experience this hair growth is on the face, particularly around the chin, sides of the face, neck, and even the upper lip.
Women with hirsutism may also notice dark hairs on their lower abdomen, as well as their back and buttocks, though these areas are often easier to cover and not as obvious as facial hair in women.
Hirsutism is almost always caused by an imbalance of hormones, but in some rare cases, it can occur without any underlying cause. In these cases, the condition is called idiopathic hirsutism.
Everyone grows hair on their face, but in women, this is most often known as “peach fuzz” – fine, and lightly pigmented hairs that are barely visible – medically known as vellus hairs. However, the hairs associated with hirsutism are known as terminal hairs, and are much darker and thicker than vellus hairs, meaning that they’re more noticeable. This is what often causes distress in women with hirsutism – not the presence of hair itself, but the fact that it’s visibly dark and thick.
Hirsutism is a manageable condition, but if you go to your GP without knowing what’s causing your excessive hair growth, they may want to refer you for more tests to find out if you have any underlying conditions.
Hirsutism is a fairly obvious condition, as its main symptom is thick and dark hair growth that occurs in a male pattern. However, it can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms that also indicate a hormonal imbalance. Some other signs that you might notice in addition to excessive hair growth include:
- Balding or thinning hair
- Deepening voice
- Enlarged clitoris
- Decreased breast size
- Increased muscle mass
- Recent weight gain
- Menstrual irregularities
- Oily skin
- Greasy hair
Your GP may refer you for blood tests or ultrasounds if you also present with any of these additional symptoms, as they can be indicators of other conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Cushing’s disease, or other problems that can cause facial hair in women.
As mentioned before, hirsutism is usually caused by a hormonal imbalance, and is often the result of the over-production of androgens in females. Androgens are male hormones, and although all women produce them in small amounts, elevated levels can begin to cause issues such as hirsutism and menstrual irregularities.
Some women are more prone to the over-production of androgens than others, and this is usually down to underlying conditions such as PCOS, or certain tumours that might encourage the release of male hormones like testosterone.
An overwhelming majority of women with facial and body hair also have PCOS, making it one of the leading causes of hirsutism, but some other common causes can include:
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Tumours affecting hormone levels
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Thyroid problems
- Some medications
You should always see your GP if your hirsutism is causing you distress, especially if it’s accompanied by any other symptoms that could indicate any of the conditions above.
Because hirsutism is most often caused by other conditions, it can be difficult to prevent or avoid. However, losing weight if you’re overweight may help, though plenty of women with a healthy BMI also experience hirsutism.
PCOS hair growth
With PCOS, hair growth can be a common issue, and polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the main underlying causes of hirsutism. Luckily, PCOS can be treatable once the condition has been diagnosed, and it often involves taking medication such as the contraceptive pill to balance the hormones as well as regulating menstrual cycles.
PCOS hair growth generally happens as women with the condition have higher levels of androgens than those without it. this hormonal imbalance can also cause irregular periods, acne and weight gain – some of the other hallmark symptoms of PCOS.
With PCOS, if the hormonal imbalance can be treated, its common to see an improvement in symptoms, including hirsutism.
Hirsutism treatment often consists of managing the hair growth cosmetically, as well as treating the underlying cause such as the over-production of androgens.
Your GP may recommend the contraceptive pill to try and regulate your hormones, but sometimes, it might not reduce the appearance of your excess hair growth.
In these cases, your GP may recommend methods such as shaving, waxing, threading, or even bleaching the facial hair with a specially-formulated bleach that’s safe for the area. However, some women might not be happy with maintaining the cosmetic regime of removing hair regularly, and would rather try something more permanent such as laser therapy or electrolysis – both options for women with hirsutism. However, before booking such a therapy, it might be an idea to ask your GP or a dermatologist about the pros and cons of each method and which might be best for you.
All methods of hair removal have their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s up to you to find out which one would be most suitable. Some methods can even be used together, for example, shaving and laser therapy.
In addition to these treatments, there’s also a facial hair removal cream that can be available on prescription in some circumstances.
Facial hair removal cream
Facial hair removal cream such as Vaniqa is available to some women that struggle with hirsutism, which contains eflornithine.
However, it may only be available in certain circumstances. For example, if you have PCOS that’s already being treated appropriately, you’ve already considered/tried all other methods of hair removal, if you’re distressed by your excessive hair growth and co-cyprindiol isn’t a suitable treatment for you, and if you’re able to follow the treatment regime.
If you’re prescribed Vaniqa, you may be reviewed after 3-4 months to see if it’s working efficiently. After this amount of time, your hair growth may not be gone, but you should see some improvement in your symptoms, and hair should be less noticeable.
Vaniqa doesn’t actually remove hair in the sense that some other hair removal creams do, but it works by slowing hair growth and making it less noticeable. You may be able to use Vaniqa with facial hair bleach such as Jolen, but you should always check with your GP or a pharmacist before you do as they’re both applied directly to the face.