August 30, 2022 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team
Updated Version - July 12, 2023
Excessive growth of male-like dark or coarse hair on a woman's face, chest, or back is due to a condition called Hirsutism. In this condition, excessive male hormones (androgens), primarily testosterone, are responsible for extra hair growth.
Hirsutism is a common condition, affecting between 5 and 10 percent of women. It tends to run in families, so you may be more likely to have this hair growth if your mother, sister, or another female relative also has it.
The presence of excess body hair can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, but the condition itself isn't necessarily dangerous. However, the hormonal imbalance that can lead to it may complicate a person's health.
Why does Hirsutism Occur?
Because of abnormally high levels of androgen hormones, women may grow excessive body or facial hair. Testosterone is one of the hormone. All people produce androgens, however, females usually have lower levels. But a woman can get hirsutism if her body starts producing too many androgens or if her skin suddenly becomes sensitive to them.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one common cause of hirsutism. It accounts for 85 percent of cases. PCOS causes benign cysts to form on the ovaries, which can affect hormone production. This can also lead to irregular menstrual cycles and decreased fertility.
Tips to Stop Facial Hair Growth for Women
If you have obesity, losing weight might lessen the signs of hirsutism. Maintaining a moderate weight may help you balance your androgens naturally because obesity can alter how your body makes hormones.
If excessive hair growth is a symptom of PCOS or adrenal disorders, you may need additional pharmacological treatment. Drug therapy in the form of birth control pills and anti-androgen medications can help balance your hormone levels.
Steroidal androgens and nonsteroidal (or pure) anti-androgens can block androgen receptors and lower androgen production from the adrenal glands, ovaries, and pituitary glands.
Combination of 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.
Hair removal techniques are a non-medical way to manage excessive hair. These are the same hair removal methods that some people use to keep their legs, and underarms free of hair.
Waxing, Shaving, and Depilatories
Waxing, shaving, and using depilatories (chemical foams) are some common methods to remove hair. These methods are affordable and take effect immediately, but they require continual treatment.
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 is the removal of hair using an electric current. It treats each hair follicle individually, so the sessions can take longer.
Your doctor may prescribe the cream eflornithine to reduce the growth of facial hair. This cream works by interfering with a chemical in hair follicles under the skin, slowing hair growth. Your facial hair growth should slow after 1 or 2 months. Side effects of eflornithine include skin rash and irritation.
It is difficult to manage excessive body and facial hair due to hirsutism for a long time. In most cases, women with diagnosed hormonal imbalances respond well to treatment, though the hair can grow back if their hormone levels fall out of sync again. To live with hirsutism, you must manage your hormone levels, manage your weight, plan a nutrient-rich diet, and seek support if the symptoms are distressing.
What is hirsutism and how is it defined?
Hirsutism is a condition that results in excessive hair growth in women in areas where hair is typically minimal or absent, such as the face, chest, and back. The hair is often dark and coarse, similar to male-pattern hair growth. This condition can stem from an increased level of androgens (male hormones) or an increased sensitivity to these hormones.
What causes facial hair growth in women?
Facial hair growth in women can be caused by a variety of factors, most commonly hormonal imbalances. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), adrenal gland disorders, or certain medications can increase the levels of male hormones, leading to hirsutism. Genetic factors may also contribute to the condition.
Is hirsutism a sign of a more serious health condition?
While hirsutism itself is not harmful, it can sometimes indicate an underlying health condition, such as PCOS or adrenal gland disorders, which might require treatment. If hirsutism develops suddenly or is accompanied by other symptoms like deepening of the voice, it's important to seek medical attention as it may indicate a more serious condition.
What are the common symptoms of hirsutism?
The primary symptom of hirsutism is the presence of thick, dark hair in areas where women typically have little to no hair, including the face, chest, lower abdomen, and back. In some cases, hirsutism may be accompanied by other symptoms of hormonal imbalance, such as acne, irregular periods, or deepening voice.
How can I reduce or stop facial hair growth due to hirsutism?
The management of hirsutism often involves addressing the underlying hormonal imbalance through medications, lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and regular exercise, and direct hair removal methods like shaving, waxing, laser treatment, or electrolysis. However, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most effective approach for each individual case.
Are there lifestyle changes that can help manage hirsutism?
Yes, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet can help manage hirsutism. These lifestyle changes can help regulate hormone levels and potentially reduce the severity of the condition. However, they should be done alongside other treatments as advised by a healthcare professional.
What types of medications are used to treat hirsutism?
Medications used to treat hirsutism are often aimed at reducing androgen levels or preventing androgens from acting on the hair follicles. These may include oral contraceptives, anti-androgen medications, or medications like metformin in cases where PCOS is involved.
How does hormone therapy help in managing hirsutism?
Hormone therapy, such as oral contraceptives, can help manage hirsutism by regulating hormone levels, particularly by reducing the level of androgens in the body. This can slow down the growth of unwanted hair, but it typically takes several months to see a noticeable change.
What are the non-pharmaceutical treatment options for hirsutism, such as laser hair removal and electrolysis?
Laser hair removal and electrolysis are common non-pharmaceutical treatment options for hirsutism. Laser hair removal uses light energy to damage hair follicles and reduce hair growth, while electrolysis destroys the hair follicle using electric current. These methods can provide long-term reduction of hair growth, but multiple sessions are typically required.
Are there natural or home remedies for hirsutism?
While there are some natural remedies suggested for hirsutism, such as spearmint tea or a low-glycemic diet, their effectiveness varies greatly among individuals and they're generally not as effective as medical treatments. It's important to consult a healthcare provider before trying natural remedies, especially in conjunction with other treatments.
Can diet and exercise affect hirsutism?
Yes, diet and exercise can help manage hirsutism. Regular physical activity and a balanced, nutritious diet can aid in maintaining a healthy weight, which helps regulate hormone levels and may reduce the symptoms of hirsutism. A diet low in processed foods and high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is often recommended.
How can I cope with the emotional stress associated with hirsutism?
Living with hirsutism can be emotionally challenging due to societal beauty standards. Psychological support, such as counseling or support groups, can be helpful. It's also important to communicate with healthcare providers about any emotional stress, as they can provide resources or referrals for psychological support.
What is the long-term outlook for someone with hirsutism?
The long-term outlook for someone with hirsutism is generally good. While hirsutism is a chronic condition, symptoms can be managed with appropriate treatment and lifestyle modifications. However, regular follow-up with a healthcare provider is recommended to adjust treatment as necessary and monitor for any potential complications or underlying conditions.
Can hirsutism be cured or is it just manageable?
While there's no cure for hirsutism, it can be effectively managed with a combination of medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and hair removal methods. The goal is to manage symptoms and address any underlying conditions contributing to the disorder.
What factors can worsen hirsutism?
Factors that can worsen hirsutism include obesity, certain medications, and conditions that lead to an increase in androgen hormones like PCOS or adrenal gland disorders. High stress levels may also exacerbate symptoms, highlighting the importance of stress management in managing hirsutism.
Does menopause affect hirsutism and facial hair growth in women?
Menopause can indeed affect hirsutism and facial hair growth. The decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can cause an increase in the relative concentration of androgens, potentially leading to increased hair growth. However, this varies from person to person and isn't experienced by all women undergoing menopause.
When should I see a doctor about my hirsutism?
You should see a doctor about hirsutism if you notice excessive hair growth in areas where males typically have hair, if your periods are irregular, or if you notice other signs of an androgen excess like a deepening voice or increased muscle mass. Sudden onset of hirsutism should also prompt a doctor's visit as it can signal a more serious condition.
How is hirsutism diagnosed?
Hirsutism is diagnosed based on a physical examination, medical history, and potentially blood tests to check hormone levels. The doctor will examine the hair growth pattern and may use a scale to grade the severity of the hirsutism. If an underlying condition is suspected, additional tests might be necessary.
What are the risks and side effects of the different treatments for hirsutism?
The risks and side effects vary depending on the type of treatment. For instance, hormonal therapies like oral contraceptives can have side effects like nausea, headaches, or mood changes. Procedures like laser hair removal or electrolysis might result in temporary skin irritation or pigment changes. It's important to discuss potential side effects with your healthcare provider before starting a treatment.
Is it safe to remove facial hair at home when you have hirsutism?
Yes, it's generally safe to remove facial hair at home when you have hirsutism, using methods like shaving, plucking, or at-home waxing kits. However, these methods only provide temporary relief and can sometimes cause skin irritation or ingrown hairs. For more permanent solutions, professional treatments like laser hair removal or electrolysis may be considered. Always consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of action.