Hirsutism is a condition in which excessive hair grows on the face or body. It can occur in both men and women and tends to run in families. Women are more likely to be concerned about the appearance of unwanted hair.
Women with hirsutism may have dark, thick hairs on their face, chest, abdomen and back. This hair is different from the hair that some women have on their upper lip, chin, breasts or stomach, or the fine “baby” hair all over their body. Women from certain ethnic groups tend to have more body hair than others.
Many cases of hirsutism are caused by hair follicles that are especially sensitive to normal levels of male hormones. Hirsutism can also be the result of abnormally high levels of male hormones (called androgens), such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Some medicines, such as birth control pills and anabolic steroids (the “steroids” taken by athletes) can also cause hirsutism.
Treatment Options for Unwanted Hair
Shaving is the safest and least expensive method of removing hair. However, this will result in rough “stubble” unless you shave every day and your skin may become irritated with frequent shaving.
Plucking and waxing are commonly used but are not recommended. They can cause irritation and make the hair grow faster by increasing the blood supply to the hair follicle.
Electrolysis delivers a small electrical current through a needle placed into the hair follicle. It gets rid of hair permanently, but it is expensive and time-consuming. (Note: home electrolysis products and electronic tweezers do not work well and are not recommended)
Laser hair removal uses a laser light to heat up the hair pigment and surrounding hair follicle. This heat damages the hair follicles so unwanted hair falls out and prevents new hair from growing back. Multiple laser treatments may be required over several weeks. Thicker and darker hair tends to respond better to laser light treatments.
Vaniqa®is a prescription-only medication approved for the treatment of unwanted hair, and is often prescribed with other treatments, such as laser hair removal. Vaniqa® may start to work after 4 to 8 weeks of treatment.