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Facial Hair

It’s nice to have a flowing head of hair, but most women don’t want to have hair on their face. According to research by Bristol Myers, about 20,000 women are troubled by facial hair, and take steps to remove it. What causes this common problem and what can you do about it?

Causes of Facial Hair in Women

One of the most common times for women to have this problem is around the time of menopause. At this time, levels of male hormones called androgens increase, and this can stimulate hair growth on the face. Some women who have facial hair before menopause produce too many androgens. This may be due to a condition called polycystic ovary disease as well as certain other medical conditions. Some medications also cause hair growth on the face, and some women develop facial hair during pregnancy as a result of hormonal fluctuations.

An increase in hair growth on the face isn’t necessarily a sign of medical problems. Facial hair increases with age, especially in women who are obese. Obesity is linked with higher levels of androgens. Genetics are a factor too. If you’re developing hair on your face, it may be because it runs in the family.


Since hair on the face can occasionally be a sign of medical problems such as polycystic ovary disease, it’s a good idea to see a doctor if you notice an increase in facial hair growth. Once you have a clean bill of health, there are ways to treat this frustrating problem.

Some women shave or pluck hair off of their face, but this isn’t a permanent solution. The hair simply grows back, and plucking and shaving can cause facial irritation and redness. Another approach is to wax the excess hair or use a chemical depilatory. Bleaches and depilatories both contain chemicals that can irritate the skin, and it has to be repeated as the hair grows back. In addition, women who have facial hair growth during pregnancy shouldn’t put chemicals on their face since small amounts can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Another treatment option is electrolysis. There are electrologists trained to perform this procedure, and it destroys the hair root, which should permanently stop hair growth. Unfortunately, it’s costly, requires multiple visits to treat all of the involved hair and most people find it to be painful. It can also potentially cause scarring.

A treatment option that’s growing in popularity is laser hair removal. This method uses a device that delivers concentrated waves of light through the skin. Melanin inside the hair follicle absorbs the light, and the hair shaft is damaged, which stops further growth. This form of treatment works best for people with light skin and dark hair since dark hair contains more melanin to absorb the light from the laser. Lighter skin contains less melanin, which is a positive since you don’t want to damage the surrounding skin cells during the treatment. Side effects of laser therapy include skin discoloration, especially in people with dark skin, burns, swelling, blistering and tenderness.

There are now light systems you can use at home to remove facial hair. If used properly, these devices give results comparable to a laser treatment. They use pulsed light to stop hair growth in a manner that’s painless. As with laser hair removal, this treatment is best for people with dark hair and fair skin. People with dark skin may experience skin discoloration from either laser or pulsed light treatments. The advantage of this treatment is it offers a more permanent solution to the problem of unwanted hair.

Other Treatments

For severe cases of excess facial hair where the problem stems from excessive androgens, doctors sometimes prescribe medications such as oral contraceptives to correct the hormonal imbalance. Unfortunately, these medications may cause side effects.

The Bottom Line?

Excessive facial hair is a relatively common problem that’s sometimes due to a hormonal imbalance or a medical problem, but it’s often an effect of aging. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments for this problem including options available for home use.

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