While some women strive to make the most of their sparse hair, others wish they had less hair, especially when the excess hair appears on the face or the upper body. Excess hair growth in women, known as hirsutism, can occur for a variety of reasons, including heredity. Although this is a common condition, hirsutism may signal the presence of a health problem that requires medical attention.
Although the main symptom of hirsutism is excessive hairiness, you may also notice accompanying symptoms like irregular menstrual periods, a decrease in the size of your breasts, acne and an increase in muscle mass. The texture of your body hair and the pattern of growth may resemble that of a man, often appearing on your chin, jaws, upper lip, chest, back and abdomen.
Genetics play a major role in the pattern of your hair growth. Other causes include high levels of male hormones, called androgens, that promote the growth of body and facial hair in women. Polycystic ovary syndrome, tumors of your ovaries or adrenal glands, as well as certain medications, can cause the appearance of excess hair.
Contact your doctor if you notice a sudden increase of body or facial hair, especially if you experience a change in your menstrual periods. Hormone tests that measure the amount of androgens in your body can help your doctor determine the cause of your hirsutism.
While some causes of hirsutism require medical treatment, simple home remedies may help enhance your appearance by decreasing the amount of your facial and body hair. Temporary methods for removing excess hair include shaving, waxing, plucking and chemical depilatories. These methods may cause temporary discomfort and localized areas of skin irritation.
Visit your dermatologist or cosmetic clinic for professional treatments that provide long-term results. Laser hair removal and electrolysis discourage new hair growth by damaging the part of your hair follicles that produce new hair strands. These procedures may require numerous treatments to eliminate new hair growth.
Medical management of hirsutism may include prescriptions that contain anti-androgens, substances that help block the production of male hormones that cause excessive hair growth. These medications may take between three and six months to produce results. A prescription cream called eflornithine may help slow the growth of your facial hair. Topically applied to your skin, this cream usually begins to work within four to eight weeks.