While many women wish for thick hair on their head, few appreciate excessive body or facial hair. Normal hair growth for women varies, depending on cultural factors and race. Hirsutism is the term that refers to excessive hair growth in women. Although a common condition, hirsutism may signal an underlying disorder that requires medical attention.
The main symptom of hirsutism is the appearance of excessive hair on various areas of a woman’s body, including the back, chest, abdomen, chin and lips. The pattern and texture of the hair often resembles the typical hair growth in most men. Women with hirsutism may also exhibit other symptoms, such as an increase in muscle mass, a decrease in breast size, acne and irregular menstrual periods.
High levels of male hormones, known as androgens, can cause excessive hair growth in women. This can be due to certain medications, tumors of the adrenal gland or ovaries, polycystic ovary syndrome or Cushing’s syndrome. Hirsutism may also run in families.
The first step in determining the cause of excessive hair growth is to schedule an appointment with your doctor, especially if you also notice a sudden increase in body or facial hair, or if your menstrual periods become irregular. Your doctor may want to conduct hormone tests to determine the cause of your excessive hair growth.
Depending on the extent of your hirsutism, you may want to add some simple practices to your regular beauty routine. Shaving can remove excess hair easily and safely, but may leave razor stubble. Depilatories help dissolve the hair, leaving no stubble, but the chemicals in depilatories may irritate your skin. Plucking and waxing can also remove the hair temporarily.
If you only have small areas of excessive hair growth, your dermatologist or cosmetic clinic may permanently remove the hair with electrolysis or laser hair removal. These procedures damage the area of hair follicles that produce hair strands, eliminating new growth. Medical treatments may involve prescription anti-androgens that help to block the male hormones that may produce excessive hair growth in women. Anti-androgens often take between three and six months to work. Another medicine your doctor may prescribe works by slowing down the growth of facial hair. Eflornithine is a prescription cream that you apply to your facial skin. This medicine normally begins to work within four to eight weeks after beginning treatment.