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Unwanted Facial Hair

Facial Hair Removal

Advice, support and treatment for women living with facial hair

Did You Know?

Female facial hair is extremely common. In fact, around 5-15% of women are currently living with some degree of excess hair. [1]

For many women, obvious or excess facial hair can be a source of both distress and embarrassment. While all women have some degree of facial hair, it is usually light and unnoticeable. For some women however, the hair can be darker or thicker than usual. This can make it more obvious — something many women find upsetting.

Living with unwanted facial hair can cause a significant knock to your self-esteem and confidence, stopping you from socialising and enjoying recreational outings and activities.

Thankfully, for women who are bothered by their facial hair, there are ways to treat it. Read below for more details on the causes of unwanted facial hair, and the proven treatments available.

Causes of unwanted facial hair

Up to 15% of women are currently living with excess hair[1]. Although unwanted facial hair itself is not dangerous to your health, it can be a sign of an underlying condition. There are several potential causes of unwanted facial hair in women, and understanding these conditions can give you a clearer idea of what kind of treatment is necessary in order to effectively get rid of your unwanted facial hair.

The most common of these possible causes include polycystic ovary syndrome, hirsutism and facial hair as a result of hormone imbalance. Each of these conditions carry a different set of symptoms, but all involve some degree of excess facial hair.

PCOS

PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a common condition which impacts the way a woman’s ovaries work. It is defined by three main symptoms, which are:

  • Polycystic ovaries — the ovaries themselves become enlarged and house many fluid-filled sacs known as follicles. These surround the eggs.
  • Irregular periods — meaning your ovaries aren’t regularly releasing eggs.
  • Excess androgens — these are high levels of ‘male hormones’ in the body, leading to physical symptoms like excess facial and body hair.

It is not known exactly what causes PCOS but it does tend to run in families. There is also no cure for the condition, though a healthy lifestyle can help combat symptoms, and you can treat symptoms like facial hair individually.

Hirsutism

Hirsutism is one of the most common causes of unwanted facial hair in women, as it causes excessive hair growth in certain areas of the body, including the:

  • Face
  • Neck
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Lower back
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs

Additional symptoms can include oily skin, acne, deep voice and irregular periods. It is caused by excess androgens, which is why these symptoms are similar to some of those found in PCOS. Effective treatment like Vaniqa (see below) can help combat symptoms, while tackling lifestyle factors like obesity can also help as obesity can be a factor in causing the condition. Excess hair growth is more common in women after the menopause.

Hormone imbalance facial hair

Both of the above conditions involve excess levels of androgens, which are male hormones. This reflects the wider point that unwanted facial hair in women is usually a case of hormone imbalance. Testosterone is the most well-known androgen. In men, testosterone is involved in the production of sperm and the deepening of the voice.

All women produce some level of testosterone. However, producing excess levels of testosterone may produce effects like increased sex drive, menstrual cycle changes and excess facial and body hair.

This is partially why conditions like PCOS and hirsutism are more common in women who have experienced the menopause, as this change signals a dramatic shift in hormone balance.[2]

How to remove facial hair

Hormone imbalances in women can be difficult to treat. However, there are ways of treating the symptoms of these imbalances, such as unwanted facial hair. This can help women who are bothered by their excess facial hair feel more confident in their appearance, allowing you to enjoy your life without worry or self-consciousness.

There is nothing medically wrong with excess facial hair itself in women. However, it is sometimes a sign of an underlying imbalance or condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Also, many women find it distressing or embarrassing. Effective facial hair removal treatment is available to give women the choice to get rid of their facial hair if they so wish

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Facial hair removal treatment

Some women are happy to live with unwanted facial hair, but others wish to be rid of it. Effective hair removal medication does exist in the form of prescription creams. There are also other methods of removal which many people try, including bleaching, waxing, laser hair removal and electrolysis.

Not all of these methods are equal in terms of effectiveness and comfort, however. For example, both laser hair removal and electrolysis can be expensive and require multiple sessions. They can also be painful. We’ve outlined some of the most popular treatment methods below.

Facial hair removal cream

Facial hair removal cream is one of the most common treatment methods. Creams can cause the hair on the skin’s surface to dissolve, leaving the skin smooth. The effectiveness of this method is largely dependent on the brand chosen, as many products will not be as effective as they claim to be. Others however are proven in their effectiveness. To be safe, it is best to seek out a prescription medication like Vaniqa.

Vaniqa

Vaniqa (eflornithine hydrochloride) is a prescription medication that was developed to reduce unwanted facial hair in women. Designed for application to the skin, it is advised that Vaniqa is only used on the face and adjacent areas under the chin of women affected by unwanted hair. It can take around 4-8 weeks for women to see the first signs that this medication is working – based on usage twice a day, at least 8 hours apart. It has been tested in women of multiple ethnicities, and has shown to be an effective treatment method.

Vaniqa works by slowing down the growth of facial hair by interfering with an enzyme in the follicle of the hair during the growth stage of the hair cycle. Without this enzyme the hair is unable to grow further.

Facial hair bleach

Some women may choose to bleach their facial hair rather than removing it. This can make the hair less noticeable by turning darker hairs a lighter shade. The pros of bleaching facial hair are that the process is fast, easy, affordable and can be done at home. However, it is not an effective choice for women seeking a smooth, hairless surface. It also isn’t a long-term solution, as you’ll see the return of the darker hair when it starts to grow. What’s more, it is only fully effective in disguising short, fine hairs.

Waxing facial hair

Waxing is a longer-term solution than shaving or bleaching. Like bleaching, it can be done quickly and easily at home. It can also provide that smooth skin surface which many women look for. However, waxing can also be a painful process, and often leads to skin irritation. You’ll also have to regularly wax the skin in order to maintain the results, which can cause longer term irritation.

Sources

[1] BBC. Female hairiness health warning. (Accessed December 2018)

[2] NHS. Hirsutism. (Accessed December 2018)

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