Excess facial and body hair also known as “hirsutism”, is a condition that affects women in which excess and accelerated hair growth occurs on parts of the body such as the face, groin, abdomen and chest (typical male pattern of hair growth). Unwanted facial hair is a common, frustrating condition that affects up to 22% of women. For many individuals, it significantly impacts their quality of life.
Approximately 80% of women with excessive hair growth are affected in areas usually recognized as places where male secondary sexual characteristics occur, such as the beard area. This condition can often lead to severe embarrassment and distress for an individual.
The amount of body hair a person has largely depends on their genetic makeup. Excess facial hair can be caused by a variety of factors. The most common causes are an increased level of male hormones called “androgens” and hereditary traits. An increased level of androgens in females can cause deepening of the voice, increased muscle mass, acne and an irregular menstral cycle. Medications may also cause excess facial hair to grow.
Excess facial hair may also signal the onset of an underlying illness. If any new or sudden hair growth is noticed, consult with a physician. The presence of excessive hair combined with irregular menstral cycle raises the possibility of Polycycstic ovary syndrome(PCOS).
There are 4 levels of severity for excess facial hair growth:
Grade 1 – a few hairs at the outer part of the upper lip/few scattered hairs on the chin
Grade 2 – small moustache at the outer margins of the upper lip/scattered hair with a small concentration on the chin
Grade 3 – moustache extending halfway from the outer margin of the upper lip/light complete coverage of the chin
Grade 4 – moustache on the entire upper lip/heavy growth on the entire chin
Excess facial and body hair for women can be an embarrassing problem. Fortunately, there are a variety of options for managing this condition. Here is a run-down of 8 hair removal techniques.
1. Plucking: Perhaps the most common method of removing excess hair on the face. Involves the manual removal of individual hairs with tweezers, or any other small device that can grasp the hair.
Pros: Very inexpensive and regrowth of hair may take a few weeks.
Cons: The process is slow and often painful. Results are not permanent
2. Waxing: In this method, hair is removed at the root. Waxing typically involves putting heated wax on the surface of the skin, applying thin strips of cloth paper, and suddenly ripping off the strips in one quick motion.
Pros: Can be done on nearly any part of the body. Regrowth can take a few weeks
Cons: Tearing the hair out can lead to skin infections such as follicullitis
3. Shaving: Another highly common method of hair removal utilizing blades to cut the hair at the surface of the skin. Women typically shave their legs and under arms, while men shave the beard area.
Pros: Inexpensive and easy. Can be done on all parts of the body.
Cons: Time consuming. Hair tends to grow back very quickly. Risk of injury and subsequent skin infection.
4. Chemical Delapitories: They are cosmetic preparations (typically in cream form) that are used to chemically dissolve hair from the surface of the skin. Common delapitory products are Nair, Magic Shave and Veet.
Pros: Provides quick removal of hair.
Cons: Chemicals in the preparations can irritate the skin. Regrowth tends to happen in a few days.
5. Electrolysis: Currently, electrolysis is the only 100% effective method for permanently removing hair. In electrolysis, a needle is inserted into the hair follicle and an electrical current is passed though it. This results in the death of the follicle.
Pros: Permanent hair removal. Can be done on all parts of the body.
Cons: The procedure is time consuming, expensive and painful. There is also a risk of permanent scarring and pigment changes of the skin.
6. Intense Pulsed Light: Intense Pulsed Light, often simply called IPL, is not a laser, but a spectrum of light. In this procedure the skin is exposed to short bursts of intense light, which travel down the hair shaft into the hair bulb. As the light is converted into heat energy, the bulb is destroyed.
Pros: Can be used on all areas of the body. Results can be permanent.
Cons: Expensive. The procedure may be painful and usually requires repeat visits. There is risk of scarring and hyperpigmentation on the skin.
7. Eflornithine 13.9% cream: Eflornithine rather than removing the hair, it directly inhibits the growth rate of the hair. It appears to be effective regardless of whether the unwanted facial hair is hereditary or whether it is due to medical conditions such as an androgen excess disorder, e.g., PCOS.
Pros: Minimal side effects. Hair regrowth can take a few weeks.
Cons: Must be continued indefinitely to provide results.
8. Antiandrogens and oral contraceptives: For women, if the cause is hormonal, birth control pills may be taken to help control the growth of excess hair.
Pros: Affects hair all over the body.
Cons: Takes months to show. Some adverse side effects occur, such as weight gain.
No single method of hair removal is appropriate for all body locations or individuals, and the one adopted will depend on the character, area and amount of hair growth as well as on the age of the patient and their personal preference. It’s important to be informed about the variety of treatment options out there to determine the right solution for you.
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