Hirsuitism is the title given to a condition that promotes excess hair growth in women that occurs either on their face or on their body.
We’re indoctrinated as women to remove all our bodily hair from a young age. Hair, apart from what we have on our heads, is our mortal enemy and must be removed at all costs. Thus hundred of pounds are spent on razors, depilatory creams, epilators, tweezers and electrolysis all in the name of keeping us fuzz free and of course, more attractive to the opposite sex. However, for some women, this battle can turn into something altogether more distressing, becoming a serious problem that can place a strain on their health long term.
Put simply, Hirsuitism is the title given to a condition that promotes excess hair growth in women that occurs either on their face or on their body. The hair growth will usually follow a male pattern; so for instance, it will appear over the beard and moustache areas, possibly over the chest and back, along the line from navel to groin and along the thighs and bikini line.
What’s good to know is that it’s rarely caused by a serious medical issue, but the problems it creates by its very appearance are very distressing and can cause great upset and stress. This sadly is more down to society’s perceptions of what is normal and what isn’t.
It’s estimated that as many as a quarter of the female population will suffer from Hirsuitism at some time in their life.
What are the causes of Hirsuitism?
Hirsuitism can have a few causes:
Hormonal imbalances: Conditions such as Polycystic ovaries can raise levels of testosterone in the female body, triggering off excess hair growth and acne on the skin. Once menstruation ceases and menopause begins, this can also trigger off imbalances in hormones which can cause skin problems and facial hair to grow.
Familial Connection: If one or more female relatives suffer from Hirsuitism, then there’s an increased risk of other females in the family from developing it too. In cases such as these, hormone levels tend to be normal and the excess hair is inherited. The hair growth will tend to develop from early teenage years onwards and cease at the menopause.
Race: Family heritage and birthplace can have an effect on Hirsuitism. For instance, women who come from warmer Mediterranean or Middle Eastern climes, or who have that ancestry may be more predisposed to suffering from excess hair.
Medications: Some types of medication for routine conditions can cause excess hair to grow. Drugs used to treat things like epilepsy, blood pressure and routinely prescribed steroids can cause this problem to begin.
Diagnosing and treating
Any woman who is distressed by an excess growth of hair should speak to their GP as soon as they feel able to. It can be an embarrassing and distressing thing to have to talk about, but it is worth getting checked over to make sure there are no other medical problems lurking. A simple blood test followed by a referral to an Endocrinologist can rule out anything more serious and then treatment to remove the hair can begin.
There are lots of different ways to deal with the problem cosmetically once the root cause has been found:
Facial bleach: This will not remove the hair but make it appear less obvious; a good quality brand will shade the hair in and not bleach the skin too.
Depilatory creams: Whilst possibly not ideal for the face, these will help with other areas of the body though they can be messy and smell unpleasant.
Epilation: A longer lasting way of removing hair which can be done all over. Epilation uses a lot of little tweezers to take the hair from the root, meaning that when it grows back it does so finer and lighter. It can be painful at first, but the skin can become desensitised to it.
Electrolysis: One of the best long term permanent hair reduction problem solvers. This can be painful, but it is very effective as it takes the hair and destroys the follicle meaning that it can’t grow back. Finding a properly qualified consultant to carry this out is essential as improper treatment can lead to scarring and pitting of the skin.
Laser Therapy: Laser hair removal is perhaps the most modern phenomenon for treating this condition, like electrolysis it is expensive and needs a professional to carry the procedure out. Unlike electrolysis it is not painful at all and is worth considering if your hair is in areas that are much more susceptible to pain, such as the upper lip.
The testosterone issue
For some women, excess testosterone produces an increase in facial hair, but at the same time it can also lead to hair loss on their head, in the same way men experience once they get a certain age. This condition is known as androgenic alopecia and can affect both sexes once they reach middle age. It is thought that the condition is mainly triggered by problem hormones, but it can be down to other factors too, such as over use of hair products or treatments like relaxing, or the use of extensions, too much use of color or perming. It can also be caused by other more serious things like vitamin deficiencies or medications used to treat specific illnesses. Again, in cases where there is hair loss, it’s always a good idea to seek help from a GP who will be able to run tests to make sure there is no serious underlying cause.