Women with facial hair

Excessive or Unwanted Hair in Women

Hormone management

If you’re overweight, your doctor will probably suggest that you lose weight to reduce your hair growth. Obesity can change the way your body produces and processes hormones. Maintaining a healthy weight may correct your level of androgens without the use of medication.

You may need medical treatment if excessive hair growth is a symptom of PCOS or adrenal disorders. Drug therapy in the form of birth control pills and antiandrogen medications can help balance your hormone levels.

Antiandrogen medications: Steroidal androgens and nonsteroidal (or pure) antiandrogens can block androgen receptors and reduce androgen production from the adrenal glands, ovaries, and pituitary glands.

Combination birth control pills: These pills, which have both estrogen and progesterone, may help shrink the cysts from PCOS. The estrogen can also help reduce excess hair. These drugs are usually a long-term solution for hirsutism. You will most likely notice improvement after three to six months of drug therapy.

Cream

Your doctor may prescribe the cream eflornithine to reduce the growth of facial hair. Your facial hair growth should slow after one to two months. Side effects of eflornithine include skin rash and irritation.

Hair removal

Hair removal techniques are a nonmedical way to manage excessive or unwanted hair. These are the same hair removal methods that many women use to keep their legs, bikini line, and underarms free of hair.

Waxing, shaving, and depilatories: If you have hirsutism, you may need to be more proactive about waxing, shaving, and using depilatories (chemical foams). These are all pretty affordable and take effect immediately, but they require continual treatment. Shop for depilatories.

Laser hair removal: Laser hair removal involves using concentrated light rays to damage your hair follicles. Damaged follicles can’t produce hair, and the hair that’s present falls out. With sufficient treatments, laser hair removal can provide permanent or near-permanent results.

Electrolysis: Electrolysis is the removal of hair using an electric current. It treats each hair follicle individually, so the sessions can take longer.

Both laser hair removal and electrolysis can be expensive and require multiple sessions to achieve the desired results. Some patients find these treatments uncomfortable or slightly painful.

I remember when I first noticed it. I was going through my skin-care routine, when one stray (but surprisingly long) chin hair caught my attention. That’s new, I thought to myself. I plucked it and have continued to do so since, but over the years, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one with rogue, unwanted chin hair that appears from time to time (and by that I mean every two weeks on the dot).

It’s come up in conversation at the Well+Good office, and amongst my friends, and while we vary in the number of hairs that appear and how often they come, we all have them. After doing some digging, I learned what the elusive culprit typically is: always mysterious hormones (surprise!). Since these guys are extremely complex and differ for everyone, not everyone will have the same chin hair woes. So, to find out about all of these variables, I sought out the expert advice of a dermatologist and a hormone expert. Keep scrolling for their insight.

Why unwanted chin hair happens

First of all, know this—so many ladies experience the hairy issue. “Having stray facial hairs is very common for women,” says Arash Akhavan, MD, a New York City dermatologist with the Dermatology and Laser Group. “It’s not uncommon for women in their mid to upper 20s to begin noticing stray hairs on their face.” And usually, the number of hairs one finds tend to increase with age. “Due to hormonal changes, hair does increase with age,” says Dr. Akhavan. “Even after undergoing permanent hair removal procedures such as laser hair removal and electrolysis, one must remember that periodic touchup sessions will be needed since new hairs are always popping out.”

That’s because facial hair in women is frequently hormonally driven—which can stem from a number of conditions. “The top hormone for hair growth is testosterone,” says Suzie Welsh, hormone expert, CEO, and founder of Binto, a personalized supplement brand. “This is a sex hormone that’s naturally more predominant in men than women. When women have hormonal fluctuations, and more specifically, higher circulating testosterone levels, one of the side effects is unwanted hair growth—which is called hirsutism in the medical world.”

“Having stray facial hairs is very common for women.” —Arash Akhavan, MD

You could experience such fluctuations if you deal with PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, she explains. “This is one of the top reasons women have hormonal fluctuations and higher testosterone—women with PCOS have more male sex hormones, which results in facial hair growth,” says Welsh. Chin hair on women can also stem from hormonal imbalances. “These sorts of imbalance issues are often caused by some other adrenal disorder, which would be a complication or miscommunication of the glands that control your sex hormone feedback loop,” says Welsh. And lastly, it can happen, and often does, when women enter menopause.

As for why some women get one or two strands while others get more populated facial hair, it’s all about certain specificities: “The pattern depends on the hormonal fluctuation and the amount of hair follicles you may have,” she explains. “If you have a greater hormonal balance, your unwanted hair pattern will be more severe.” Note that women experience serious hormonal changes (which can throw off your hormonal feedback loop) during adolescence and into adulthood, and then during menopause, adds Dr. Welsh.

Besides hormones, it can also come down to genetics. “Genetics play a huge role, as does ethnicity,” says Dr. Akhavan. “Sometimes facial hair in women can also be a sign of hormonal abnormalities, and I recommend to all my patients with facial hair to have a laboratory evaluation to assess for this possibility.”

How to get rid of unwanted facial hairs

Once you get the all-clear from a doc to determine nothing more serious is at play, you might want to think about how to get chin hair off for good. Dr. Akhavan says that the best method is laser hair removal. “We now recommend the new Motus AX laser, a highly effective laser appropriate for all skin tones that has zero pain associated with it,” he says. If you’re going the more DIY route, however, he notes that you can wax, thread, pluck, or shave the area, but reminder, hormonal hair often comes back quicker than that on the rest of the body.

If you have the fear that removing those hairs will result in even more springing up in their place, fear not: That’s a giant lie. “There’s no truth to the myth that you can grow extra hair by removing the hair that you have,” says Dr. Akhavan. I can attest to this. As a bona fide plucker, I still only have one grow back in place of the one I always take out (bless).

Having other hair problems? Here’s how to fill patchy eyebrows:

On a related note, here’s how to remove your nipple hair. And this is one editor’s case against shaving *down there.*

Tweezing or threading. There are different ways to pluck hair out at the root. You can use tweezers. Or you can hire someone to “thread” — use a long, tight strand to loop around and remove each unwanted hair. These methods can cause pain and redness.

Waxing. A quick way to remove lots of unwanted hair by the root is with melted wax. Often you get this done in a salon. Wax is applied to the skin, then removed quickly. It can cause pain and redness.

Creams. Some creams have strong chemicals called depilatories. You apply the cream, let it sit for a while, and when you wipe it off, the hair goes with it. They can irritate sensitive skin, so test a small spot before you use one on a large area.

Electrolysis. You can remove hair for good with electrolysis, a pricey service that zaps hair at the root with an electric current. After you repeat the process a few times, hair should stop growing in treated areas.

Laser Hair Removal. The heat from lasers can remove hair, but you need to repeat the process a few times, and it sometimes grows back. The treatment targets hair at the root, so it’s painful and could damage or scar your skin.

Medication. Doctors can prescribe drugs that change the way your body grows hair. When you stop using the medication, hair will grow back, though.

  • Birth control pills make the body produce fewer male hormones. With regular use, you should have less hair on your face or body.
  • Anti-androgen blockers help your body make and use fewer male hormones, so you should grow less hair over time.
  • Vaniqa (eflornithine) is a face cream that slows hair growth where you apply it.

You need to have sideburns. Period.

04 Sep You need to have sideburns. Period.

Posted at 03:35h in News by Erica Fleischman

There are few things that shock me these days. A new client coming into the salon for the first time without sideburns though still send shockwaves through me, every time. I will say to myself and then I mean, who are we kidding, if you know me you’ll know that I can’t help myself so I say directly to him, “Did you ask to have your sideburns cut off by the last person who cut your hair? or I may say “Did you cut your sideburns off by accident while shaving this morning in the shower?” or “You don’t really think having no sideburns looks good on you, do you?” or “Do you ever see a model in GQ or Esquire or a celebrity walking the red carpet without sideburns?” Really these questions I’m asking are all rhetorical. I ask all these questions and then no matter how the guy responds (because really, no excuse is a good excuse when it comes to a lack of sideburns) I say, “If you are going to get your haircut here at Fleischman Salon, then you must grow a sideburn. You cannot tell anyone I cut your hair before you grow a sideburn.” Then I usually continue ranting, “This is not the salon for you if you can’t take the sideburn tough love. This will change your life, trust me, because having a sideburn = GAME CHANGER.

You may think I’m nuts but admit it, you’re intrigued. If I’m right, read on…

These clients with no sideburns almost always respond with “Why do I need a sideburn?” or “Jesus, you are really passionate about sideburns, there must be something to that, tell me more, make me understand.” And I answer, “I’m so glad you are asking these questions! That must mean you care and want to learn and are open to change.” I also assume that when you come into our salon and have made the commitment to pay $75 or $85 or $100 for a haircut with us you are open to suggestions and advice. Yay! Everybody wins! Now this is my kind of game.

So here in this blog, I thought it appropriate to write a bit about sideburns. Mostly because I feel so passionately about the subject and cannot bare to keep my thoughts on them from you.

1) They frame your face.

Would you put a photo that’s important to you on a shelf without a frame? Maybe, but the picture won’t attract any positive attention because without a frame it keeps falling over, or the edges start to curl, or the color gets warped. But, put a nice frame around the photo, and the photo takes on a whole different meaning. People will stop and look. Same goes for your face, put the proper frame around it, aka sideburns, and you’ll look like the best version of yourself.

2) No matter the haircut style, always have a side burn.

I don’t care weather you have long flowing locks or a number one all over, (which by the way, unless you are Wentworth Miller from Prison Break, I don’t suggest you ever have a number one all over). No haircut style can go without a sideburn.

3) Length matters.

The length of the sideburn matters. When I tell you to grow a sideburn, I am visualizing a certain length I consider to be the “perfect” length. That perfect length can be found by using the following method: Take a look at the inside of your ear- it has a little circular notch at the bottom. The bottom of that notch is where your sideburn should end. That is where you bring the edge of your razor to when you are shaving. That’s my perfect length on almost everyone, but the answer is yes, there are other acceptable lengths, none of which go above halfway up the ear. You can never go wrong with my “perfect” length but if you go just above or just below my perfect length, it’s cool. ps. I don’t know what’s worse though, no sideburn or a sideburn that was cut too short. Either of the two are my worst nightmare.

4) Depth/density matters.

By depth/density, I mean how thick are the sideburns I’m telling you to have. Keep your sideburn depth in check. The hair should be cut and blended tight to the face. Enough density to see the sideburn shape but close enough to the face that in a week you won’ have peyot (Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Keep your shit in check here, when the density gets too thick, go in and ask for a cleanup. Your stylist would be happy to quickly reblend and tighten up your burn. Oh and DO NOT try to do it yourself with the same razor you use while shaving. You’ll fuck it up and take a chunk out of your beautifully shaped sideburn, guaranteed.

5) Width matters.

Don’t EVER shave into your sideburns to make them thinner.
I can’t even talk about those toothpick sideburns I see guys walking around with. That’s like whole next level shit. I can’t begin to get involved with talking about what I feel is wrong with that. To me, a natural shaped sideburn is the only sideburn to have. By natural shaped sideburn, I mean the way the sideburn grows naturally next to the ear before what we would consider to be your beard hair. Thin out the depth but always leave the natural width. Some guys have more width than others in their burns, and that’s ok. Natural is always the way.

6) You do have hair to grow a sideburn, even if you think you don’t.

Even if you can’t grow a beard. Even if throughout your whole life you never thought you had enough hair to fill in a sideburn, let whatever hair is there grow. I can create a sideburn even if you tell me I can’t. Trust me, I can. Grow two hairs and I can form a sideburn.

7) Everyone will start to comment that you look better.

They’ll probably say “Have you lost weight?” “Are you tan?” “Did you get laid last night?” When in reality all you have done is grow a fucking sideburn.

8) Share your new found love of sideburns.

Next time your buddy comes back from getting clobbered at the local barber, pass on your newfound appreciation for sideburns and tell him what’s up. Don’t just make fun of him behind his back. Don’t gchat to your other buddies about how childish and ridiculous and fucked up he looks. PAY what I have taught you FORWARD. Teach others that having sideburns is crucial to life…for me it goes water, food, sideburns.

9) Unless you have a shaved head you are to have a sideburn. End of discussion.

Well, this has been fun. I feel better having put this out into the world.

These 8 Women With PCOS Are Embracing Their Beards and Body Hair

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal imbalance that affects 10% of women of childbearing age and usually starts after puberty. Women with PCOS have higher levels of androgens, or male hormones, and many experience hirsutism, or abnormal hair growth that follows a male pattern.

RELATED: How to Lose Weight if You Have PCOS

To treat this symptom, many women with PCOS rely on hormonal contraceptives and hair removal with electrolysis, lasers or shaving. The eight women below, however, have chosen to forgo the side effects and potential pain and skin damage from these treatments and instead embrace their hair growth. Read on to hear what they have to say about their diagnosis and how they learned to love their bodies.

Little Bear Schwarz

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“Yes, I have a beard due to my Polycystic Syndrome,” Schwarz tells Health. “But it’s not in and of itself deleterious to my health, nor is it a ‘mistake,’ a ‘joke,’ a ‘tragedy’ or a subversion TO or a detraction FROM my womanhood. On the contrary it is beautiful, natural, and the crowning glory OF my womanhood.”

Leah Jorgensen

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“Someone recently asked me why I am trying to normalize body hair when my amount of body hair isn’t ‘normal’,” Jorgensen captioned one Instagram post. “My reply was…who says it isn’t?! … I am tired of this being kept in the dark. I want this to be seen and I want this to be talked about.”

Nova Galaxia

Image zoom Nova Galaxia/Facebook

“Women shouldn’t have to shave if they choose not to, but what about those of us who have way more hair than what is considered socially acceptable?” Galaxia wrote in blog post for Graceless. “What about us women with dark, thick tummy and chest hair? What about us women who are fully capable of growing a big, bushy beard?”

Alma Torres

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“I like my beard because I feel more comfortable,” Torres told Marie Claire. “I don’t have to hide behind all the piercings, I don’t have to hide behind the crazy colors in my hair. I can actually feel like me.”

Miranda Nodine

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“Sometimes the way hair grows blows my mind!” Nodine wrote on Instagram. “Like that little empty patch from my chest to my shoulders! Lol. It’s so cute! My body is not your concern.”

Annalisa Hackleman

“I like having my beard because it makes me unique,” Hackleman told Marie Claire. “I think it gives me a talking point to people, to educate them or teach them about PCOS. They think that if a woman can grow a beard, she must have crazy body hair, she must be a werewolf. And that’s just not true.”

Rose Geil

“I definitely feel womanly, sexy, and sensuous,” Geil said in an interview with Barcroft TV. “I feel more feminine, and it has very little to do with my appearance. It comes from my attitude and giving myself the freedom to be who I am.”

Harnaam Kaur

Kaur told People: “I feel that my appearance empowers and strengthens me to walk into the world, knowing that I stand up for a diverse look in beauty. . . . I believe that we cannot label what is perfect in society these days, as people are different from each other. It is beautiful to see people accept who they are regardless of what they look like.”

Facial hair is an issue that many women prefer to keep quiet, with furtive trips to the beauty salon or secret bleaching sessions at home.

However, it’s surprisingly common, with estimates suggesting up one in 10 women has hirsutism, the medical name for excess body hair in women.

While all women have fine, light hair covering their faces and bodies, for some women this hair can be thicker, coarser and more visible – but why? We spoke to dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams at the launch of the Philips Lumea, where she told us that there are a variety of factors behind female facial hair.

“Hormones are a major cause of facial hair in women” says Dr Stefanie. “If a woman has a slight hormone imbalance – for example slightly more testosterone than average – it can lead to unwanted hair.”

Conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can lead to these high levels of male hormones, so if you are experiencing facial hair it’s worth seeing your GP to get checked out.

“Female facial hair can also be genetic,” explains Dr Stefanie.

The most common time for women to notice the sudden development of facial hair is after the menopause, when huge changes in the body’s hormone balance can lead to alterations in a woman’s appearance.

“What was previously fine hair can become coarser and more visible thanks to the menopause,” says Dr Stefanie. “Ironically, while the hair on the face becomes thicker, the menopause can also lead to thinning of the hair on top of your head.”

We know what you’re thinking: “Oh great.” Luckily, there are lots of ways you can tackle unwanted facial hair these days. Shaving, waxing and threading are relatively cheap and quick ways to remove the hair, although of course, they require regular maintenance.

Or you could keep a pair of tweezers on hand to get rid of little unwanted hairs. Our experts at GHI tried and tested lots of tweezers but it was the Benefit Grooming tweezer & brush that came out on top.

lookfantastic

BUY NOW Tweezerman Slant Tweezer, £21.95

These tweezers are super comfortable to hold and great at grabbing thick and fine hairs.

Read the full review on the GHI website.

Other options to investigate include electrolysis and laser treatments, where electricity or powerful beams of light are used to destroy hair follicles. Although expensive, these treatments can lead to permanent removal of unwanted hair after several sessions.

However, some brands have been developing their own IPL hair removal devices making the treatment easy to do at home and a little less expensive, like the SmoothSkin Muse device.

BUY NOW SmoothSkin Muse Intelligent IPL Hair Removal System, £349

Read more information on hair removal methods here.

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Women like me have been keeping a secret. It’s a secret so shameful that it’s hidden from friends and lovers, so dark that vast amounts of time and money are spent hiding it. It’s not a crime we have committed, it’s a curse: facial hair.

What can be dismissed as trivial is a source of deep anxiety for many women, but that’s what female facial hair is; a series of contradictions. It’s something that’s common yet considered abnormal, natural for one gender and freakish for another. The reality isn’t quite so clearcut. Merran Toerien, who wrote her PhD on the removal of female body hair, explained “biologically the boundary lines on body hair between masculinity and femininity are much more blurred than we make them seem”.

The removal of facial hair is just as paradoxical – the pressure to do it is recognized by many women as a stupid social norm and yet they strictly follow it. Because these little whiskers represent the most basic rules of the patriarchy – to ignore them is to jeopardize your reputation, even your dignity.

About one in 14 women have hirsutism, a condition where “excessive” hair appears in a male pattern on women’s bodies. But plenty more women who don’t come close to that benchmark of “excessive” still feel deeply uncomfortable about their body hair. If you’re unsure whether your hair growth qualifies as “excessive” for a woman, there’s a measurement tool that some men have developed for you.

In 1961, an endocrinologist named Dr David Ferriman and a graduate student published a study on the “clinical assessment of body hair growth in women”. More specifically, they were interested in terminal hairs (ones that are coarser, darker and at least 0.5cm/0.2 inches in length) rather than the fine vellus hairs. The men looked at 11 body areas on women, rating the hair from zero (no hairs) to four (extensive hairs). The Ferriman-Gallwey scale was born.

It has since been simplified, scoring just nine body areas (upper lip, chin, chest, upper stomach, lower stomach, upper arms, upper legs, upper back and lower back). The total score is then added up – less than eight is considered normal, a score of eight to 15 indicates mild hirsutism and a score greater than 15 moderate or severe hirsutism.

The Ferriman-Gallwey scale for the measure of hirsutism
Illustration: Mona Chalabi Photograph: Mona Chalabi The Ferriman-Gallwey scale for the measure of hirsutism
Illustration: Mona Chalabi Photograph: Mona Chalabi

Most women who live with facial hair don’t refer to the Ferriman-Gallwey scale before deciding they have a problem. Since starting to research hirsutism, I’ve received over a hundred emails from women describing their experiences discovering, and living with, facial hair. Their stories loudly echo one another.

Because terminal hairs start to appear on girls around the age of eight, the experiences start young. Alicia, 38, in Indiana wrote, “kids in my class would be like, ‘Haha look at this gorilla!’”, Lara was nicknamed “monkey” by her classmates while Mina in San Diego was called “sasquatch”. For some girls, this bullying (more often by boys) was their first realization that they had facial hair and that the facial hair was somehow “wrong”. Next, came efforts to “fix” themselves.

Génesis, a 24-year-old woman described her first memories of hair removal. “In fourth grade, a boy called me a werewolf when he saw my arm hairs and upper lip hairs … I cried to my mom about it … she bleached my lower legs, my arms, my back, my upper lip and part of my cheeks to diminish my growing sideburns. I remember it itched and burned.”

After those first attempts come many, many more – each with their own investment in time, money and physical pain. The removal doesn’t just make unwanted hair go away, it raises a whole new set of problems, particularly for women of color. Non-white skin is more likely to scar as a result of trying to remove hair.

Instead of reading or finishing homework on the car drives to school growing up, I would spend the entire length of the drive obsessively plucking and threading my mustache. Every day. – Rona K Akbari, 21, Brooklyn

On average, women with facial hair spend 104 minutes a week managing it, according to a 2006 British study. Two-thirds of the women in the study said they continually check their facial hair in mirrors and three-quarters said they continually check by touching it.

The study found facial hair takes an emotional toll. Forty percent said they felt uncomfortable in social situations, 75% reported clinical levels of anxiety. Overall, they said that they had a good quality of life, but tended to give low scores when it came to their social lives and relationships. All of this pain despite the fact that, for the most part, women’s facial hair is entirely normal.

If I know I have visible facial hair, I’m much more reserved in social situations. I try to cover it up by placing my hand on my chin or over my mouth. And I’m thinking about it constantly. – Ashley D’Arcy, 26

Meanwhile, my 95-year-old demented, deaf and blind Italian aunt sits in a nursing home, and whenever I visit, she points to and rubs her chin, which is her way of communicating to take care of the hair situation. That’s how I know she’s still in there and she cares. I hope someone returns the favor in 40 years. – Julia, 54

There are, however, some medical conditions which can cause moderate or severe hirsutism, the most likely of which is polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, which accounts for 72-82% of all cases. PCOS is a hormonal disorder affecting between eight and 20% of women worldwide. There are other causes too, such as idiopathic hyperandrogenemia, a condition where women have excessive levels of male hormones like testosterone, which explains another 6-15% of cases. .

But many women who don’t have hirsutism, who don’t have any medical condition whatsoever, consider their hairs “excessive” all the same. And that’s much more likely if you’re a woman of color.

The original Ferriman-Gallwey study, like so much western medical research at the time, produced findings that might not apply to women of color (the averages were based on evaluations of 60 white women). More recent research has suggested that was a big flaw, because race does make a big difference to the chances that a woman will have facial hair.

In 2014, researchers looked at high-resolution photos of 2,895 women’s faces. They found that, on average, the white women had less hair than any other race and Asian women had the most. But ethnicity mattered too – for example, the white Italian women in the study had more hair than the white British women.

The percentage of females with at least some upper lip hair by race. Source: Javorsky et al, 2014 Illustration: Mona Chalabi Photograph: Mona Chalabi

But more than a gender thing, for me my hair was about race/ethnicity. My hairiness really solidified how different I was from my peers. I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas. And although my school was pretty diverse, the dominant beauty norm was to be blonde and white. – Mitra Kaboli, 30, Brooklyn

These numbers might be helpful to women like Melissa who said her facial hair meant “I felt inferior, I was a ‘dirty ethnic’ girl”.

But giving reassurance to ethnic minorities probably isn’t why this research was undertaken. The study was funded by Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods company worth $230bn which sells, among other things, razors for women. They know that female hair removal is big business.

Over the years, as women showed more of our bodies – as stockings became sheer and sleeves became short, there was pressure for these new exposed parts to be hairless. Beginning in 1915, advertisements in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar began referring to hair removal for women. Last year, the hair removal industry in the US alone was valued at $990m. The business model only works if we hate our hair and want to remove it or render it invisible with bleach (a norm just as unrealistic as hairlessness – brown women rarely have blonde hair).

When did we sign up to an ideal of female hairlessness? The short answer is: women have hated our facial hair for as long as men have been studying it. In 1575, the Spanish physician Juan Huarte wrote: “Of course, the woman who has much body and facial hair (being of a more hot and dry nature) is also intelligent but disagreeable and argumentative, muscular, ugly, has a deep voice and frequent infertility problems.”

These signposts are strictest when it comes to our faces, and they extend beyond gender to sexuality too. According to Huarte, masculine women, feminine men and homosexuals were originally supposed to be born of the opposite sex. Facial hair is one important way to understand these distinctions between “normal” and “abnormal”, and then police those boundaries.

Scientists have turned their sexist and homophobic expectations of body hair to racist ones, too. After Darwin’s 1871 book Descent of Man was published, male scientists began to obsess over racial hair types as an indication of primitiveness. One study, published in 1893, looked for insanity in 271 white women and found that women who were insane were more likely to have facial hair, resembling those of the “inferior races”.

These aren’t separate ideas because race and gender overlap – black is portrayed in mass media as a masculine race, Asian as feminine. Ashley Reese, 27, wrote “part of my self-consciousness about my facial hair might also tie into some ridiculous internalized racism about black women being less inherently feminine”. While Katherine Parker, 44, wrote, “It makes me feel very confused about my gender.”

Some women are pushing back. Queer women – those who are questioning heterosexual and cisgender norms – are already thinking outside of the framework that shames female facial hair. Melanie, a 28-year-old woman in Chicago explained that as a queer woman “there is less of a prescription for what I should embody as a woman, what attraction between my partner and I looks like, which has helped immensely in coming to terms with my facial hair”.

Social media accounts like hirsute and cute, happy and hairy and activists like Harnaam Kaur are resisting these norms too, by shamelessly sharing images of hairy female bodies. And even women who aren’t rejecting these standards outright, feel deeply ambivalent about them. “I understand, on a rational level, how inherently misogynistic it is to expect women to be constantly ripping hair out of themselves, hair that grows naturally, wrote one woman who, like many I heard from, asked to remain anonymous. “But I can’t bring myself to accept it and let it grow.”

Another wrote: “It’s one thing to be a little heavy, or short, or both. But facial hair? That’s pushing it.”

I’m not about to judge any woman for removing her facial hair. Despite knowing that I don’t need “help”, I still go to see a beauty “therapist” each month. I pay huge sums so she can zap me with a laser that damages my hair follicles. I’ve signed up for a solution, even though I know that the problem doesn’t really exist. I lie there wincing with each shock as she asks me about my weekend and says “Honey, are you sure you don’t want me to do your arms too? They’re very hairy.”

Why Do Women Get Facial Hair?

Excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s body and face is caused by hirsutism, a common condition that affects 5-10% of women. Hirsutism is defined as the presence of disproportionate male-type hair in some areas of a woman’s body (known as androgen-contingent parts of the body).

Having excess body hair can often generate a sense of self-consciousness and even guilt, but does not pose any immediate danger. Still, a woman’s health may be at risk due to the underlying hormonal imbalance that causes the condition.

Background

The presence of facial and body hair is normal for women. However, the texture of the hair is usually very fine and light in color. With hirsutism, hair sprouts in a thick, dark, and coarse male-type pattern and can be seen on a woman’s:

  • face
  • chin
  • sideburns
  • chest and periareolar area
  • lower abdomen
  • upper and lower back
  • upper inner thighs

Why Do Women Develop Excessive Hair?

Women are born with all the hair follicles they will have. This amount varies depending on the racial or ethnic group to which you belong. Hirsutism represents the change from vellus (soft, fine, light-colored hair) to terminal (dark, coarse hair) in male-pattern areas. Once the hair follicle is stimulated by the hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone), it changes the hair from vellus to terminal.

The hair follicle will never convert back to vellus and can only be removed by laser or electrolysis. Testosterone (T) is converted to DHT, so any condition that increases your testosterone levels will cause hirsutism:

COMMON CAUSES OF HIRSUTISM:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Most common; 5-10% of all reproductive-aged women have PCOS (hormonal imbalance), and 60-70% of these women have hirsutism
Unknown No explainable reason (known as idiopathic hirsutism)
Enzyme deficiency (17 hydroxylase deficiency, a form of adrenal hyperplasia) A deficient enzyme causes an increase in male hormone production
LESS COMMON CAUSES OF HIRSUTISM:
Medications Bodybuilding steroids, testosterone, and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)
Androgen-producing tumors Tumors that produce male hormones
Cushing’s Syndrome An adrenal gland disease

When Should Excessive Hair Growth Be a Concern?

Any cosmetically disturbing hair growth may be a cause for concern, particularly if the onset is rapid and is associated with masculinizing signs such as:

  • A deepening of the voice
  • An increase in muscle mass
  • An enlargement of the clitoris
  • Male pattern balding

What Roles Do Age and Genetic Predisposition Play?

Hirsutism before puberty and after menopause is much more uncommon and requires prompt evaluation. Hirsutism tends to run in families and is more common in specific ethnic groups including women of Mediterranean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern descent; it is less pervasive in women of Asian and Native-American heritage.

What Can You Do to Prevent or Treat It?

For PCOS, the birth control pill along with anti-male hormone medication will reduce and, eventually prevent any new terminal hairs. For women who are overweight or obese, embarking on a weight-loss program may help since obesity can alter the way the body produces and processes hormones.

If you want to get rid of existing terminal hair, laser or electrolysis is typically needed. Plucking, pulling, or shaving can worsen hirsutism by irritating the skin.

Questions or comments? Please feel free to contact us, and we’ll be happy to address any of your concerns.

7 Women Who Are Embracing Their Facial Hair to Prove a Point About Beauty Standards

Nova Galaxia/Facebook

Female beauty standards have evolved a lot recently. But one stigma continues to endure: facial hair. While it’s totally normal to have a little or even a lot of fuzz on your chin, upper lip, or between your brows, most women still opt to hide or get rid of it by shaving, waxing, plucking, or bleaching. Yet increasing numbers of women are rebelling against the hair removal norm and instead are proudly letting it grow out naturally.

RELATED: I Tried Sugaring After Shaving My Bikini Line for 8 Years—Here’s Why I’ll Never Go Back to Razors

The ladies behind this female facial hair movement are tired of all the time spent on maintenance, and they hope to spread a message about acceptance and self-love. Here’s what they say about their “excess” facial hair and why they’ve put down their razors once and for all.

Sophia Hadjipanteli

“When you live in a world where the next best thing is just a scroll away, it can be really intimidating for people who have not entirely developed their self-confidence yet,” the model told Health. “We end up hiding things online and only show what we think will have the best response. This is definitely a cycle I fell victim to until I started the #UnibrowMovement.”

“Women shouldn’t have to shave if they choose not to, but what about those of us who have way more hair than what is considered socially acceptable?” she wrote in a blog post for Graceless. “What about us women with dark, thick tummy and chest hair? What about us women who are fully capable of growing a big, bushy beard?”

Scarlett Costello

“Preferred eyebrow half,” she captioned this fierce and proud image of her unibrow.

Shelly Riner

“I’ve always had a lot of dark, coarse hair all over my body: on my arms, my legs, my armpits, you name it,” she told Health. “I’m the type of person who generally doesn’t care what others think of me, so making the choice to let my hair grow wasn’t earth-shattering.”

“Yes, I have a beard due to my polycystic syndrome,” she told Health. “But it’s not in and of itself deleterious to my health, nor is it a ‘mistake,’ a ‘joke,’ a ‘tragedy’ or a subversion TO or a detraction FROM my womanhood. On the contrary it is beautiful, natural, and the crowning glory OF my womanhood.”

J.D. Samson

“Before I was proud of my facial hair, I tried to mask it as much as possible,” Samson told Marie Claire last November. “I definitely took the advice of my mother and sister about when I was supposed to bleach it.”

Femina Flower

“Can i call myself super human if i have quite the cutest little nose hairs, a baby mustache surrounded by rather shaping facial hair (i swear its coming in nice), hella blemishes, and unplucked eyebrows that resemble those furry caterpillars we’ve always been afraid of having on our faces?” she captioned this Instagram photo.