Is Excessive or Unwanted Hair in Women?
Excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s body and
face is called hirsutism. All
women have facial and body hair, but the hair is usually very fine and light in
The main difference between normal hair on a woman’s body
and face (often called “peach fuzz”) and hirsutism is the texture. Excessive or
unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s face, arms, back, or chest is usually
coarse and dark. The growth pattern of hirsutism in women is similar to that of
normal hair growth in males.
The presence of excess body hair can be embarrassing, but it
isn’t dangerous. However, the hormonal imbalance that can lead to hirsutism may
compromise a woman’s health.
Do Women Grow Excessive or Unwanted Hair?
Women develop excessive body or facial hair due to
higher-than-normal levels of male hormones. Male hormones are called androgens,
and they include testosterone. All females produce androgens, but the levels
normally remain low. Certain medical conditions can cause a woman to produce
too many androgens, causing male-pattern hair growth and other unwanted male
characteristics, such as a deep voice.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one common cause of
hirsutism. Benign cysts that form on the ovaries can affect hormone production,
leading to irregular menstrual cycles and decreased fertility. The Office
of Women’s Health (OWH) states that women with PCOS often have
moderate-to-severe acne and tend to be overweight.
Other forms of hormonal imbalance that cause excessive hair
growth include the following adrenal gland disorders:
- adrenal cancer
- adrenal tumors
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Cushing disease
glands are located just above your kidneys and are responsible for
hormone production. People with congenital
adrenal hyperplasia are born without an enzyme that’s necessary for
hormone production. Those with Cushing
disease have higher-than-normal levels of cortisol. Cortisol is sometimes called the
“stress hormone.” All of these conditions can affect the way your body produces
In addition, you can also experience excessive body or
facial hair growth if you take any of the following medications:
- anabolic steroids
Hirsutism tends to run in families. You may be more likely
to have unwanted hair growth if your mother, sister, or another female relative
also has it.
Your doctor will take a detailed medical history when
diagnosing hirsutism. Discuss your medication use with your doctor to help them
determine the cause of your condition. Your doctor will order blood tests to
measure your hormone levels.
Ultrasound or MRI scans of your ovaries and adrenal glands
may be necessary to check for the presence of tumors or cysts.
for Excessive or Unwanted Hair
You may need medical treatment if excessive hair growth is a
symptom of adrenal disorders or PCOS. Drug therapy in the form of anti-androgen
medications and birth control pills can help balance your hormone levels. Birth
control pills may also cause the cysts on your ovaries to shrink. These drugs
are usually a long-term solution for hirsutism. You will most likely notice
improvement after three to six months of drug therapy.
Your doctor may prescribe the eflornithine cream 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.
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.
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. If you suffer from
hirsutism, you may need to be more proactive about waxing, shaving, and using
depilatories (chemical foams).
Laser hair removal and electrolysis are also effective ways
to permanently eliminate coarse, unwanted hair. 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. Electrolysis is the removal of
hair using an electric current. Both of these methods can be expensive and
require several sessions to achieve the desired results.
for Excessive or Unwanted Hair
Excessive or unwanted body and facial hair is a long-term
challenge. Most women with diagnosed hormonal imbalances respond well to
treatment, but the hair can grow back if your hormone levels become out of sync
again. The condition can be embarrassing and may make you self-conscious.
Counseling and support from friends and family can help you to cope with the