Hirsutism and Women: Why It’s More Than Just Peach Fuzz

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Have you ever wondered why wax salons are making so much money these days? It’s because a lot of women have unwanted hair. They want to get rid of it to make themselves look flawless.

If you are one of them, that’s okay. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, we all have hair we’d like to get rid of, after all.

The truth is all women have and will develop facial and body hair. Often called “peach fuzz,” this type of hair is very fine and light in color.

However, there are instances where hair grows in the most unexpected and bizarre areas of your body. Worse yet, they’re coarse and dark in color, like that of men. No matter how many times you wax, shave or pluck it, these ugly, stubborn hairs keep on coming back to its first love – you.

This condition is called hirsutism. It’s a type of condition that affects women and ruins their self-esteem. If you’re not affected by this condition, then that’s good news for you. Apparently, many women are battling with this, though. So, before you judge, make fun or start name-calling, here are some important things you should know about hirsutism. Maybe, you’ll understand why this is not a laughing matter. Who knows, you might have it someday, too.

Okay, So What Is Hirsutism?

hair growthHirsutism is excessive or increased hair growth in women. It’s a type of condition warranted by unwanted male-pattern hair growth that can result in stiff and pigmented areas.

Aside from the usual spots, women who suffer from this type of condition also experience hair growth on the face, chest and back, which is darker in color.

In other words, areas where women don’t usually have hair.

Aside from excessive hair growth, Hirsutism can also trigger a process called virilization. Because of the excessive androgen levels, women may develop the following signs:

  • Blading
  • Decrease in breast size.
  • Deepening of the voice.
  • Enlargement of the clitoris.
  • Acne.

If you suspect that you have hirsutism, or you noticed there’s an increase in your facial and body hair, then don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. The doctor will conduct various tests on you, such as:

  • Blood tests to measure the level of hormones.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound to check for abnormal growths.
  • MRI to look for tumors or cysts.

What Causes This Type Of Condition?

Generally, hirsutism is not a dangerous condition that can put an end to one’s life. However, it can be embarrassing for someone and may affect self-esteem.

Before you understand the many treatment options, you need to know why this is happening to you.

So, what causes hirsutism? And how do women develop male-like hair growth patterns?

First things first. During the puberty stage, a girl’s ovaries start to produce both male and female sex hormones. Even if you don’t want to, your body produces it naturally in order to grow hair in the armpits and your area down there.

If the mixture is not right, which means there is too much androgens or male sex hormones, hirsutism can happen. This includes male-pattern hair growth and various unwanted male characteristics trapped in a woman’s body.

Does this mean a woman with hirsutism will become a man? Of course not. There are certain characteristics adopted due to too much male hormones but that’s it. The reproductive nature is still there so there’s nothing to worry.

Aside from hormonal imbalance, hirsutism can be caused by:

  • acnePolycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This is the most common cause of hirsutism due to imbalance of sex hormones. The benign cysts that form in the ovaries can also affect the hormone production.
    As a result, a woman might also experience moderate to severe acne, obesity, irregular periods, diabetes and infertility.
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. You can blame your genes for this one.
    A person with this type of condition is born without an enzyme needed for the production of hormones.
    Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is characterized by the abnormal production of steroid hormones by your abnormal glands, including cortisol and androgen. When this happens, hair grows in certain portions of a woman’s body where they’re not supposed to be.
  • Cushing’s Syndrome. The hormone, cortisol, is often linked to stress; hence, the nickname “stress hormone.” Be careful.
    Cushing’s syndrome is a type of condition that occurs when your body is exposed to too much stress hormone. Aside from stress, you can blame adrenal glands for making too much of this or taking prednisone medications for a long time.
  • medicationsAside from stress, you should also be careful with what you take. Medications,
    such as Minoxidil, anabolic steroids, Danazol, testosterone supplements and Cyclosporine can result in excessive facial or body hair growth.
  • Did you know that there is an androgen-secreting tumor that can affect the ovaries or adrenal glands? Though this condition is rare, this type of tumor can also result to hirsutism, so watch out.
  • Of course, what runs in the family stays in the family. If any of your female family members have excessive and unwanted hair growth, then there is a higher possibility that you can have it, too.

Aside from these causes, excessive hair growth is common in women with Mediterranean, south Asian and Middle Eastern ancestry. However, this doesn’t mean that if you belong in the following races, you will automatically get it. The risk is higher, but it is not instantaneous, so relax.

Can Hirsutism Be Treated?

Yes. However, the treatment will depend on the cause of your excessive hair growth and the severity of your hair growth condition.

Below are the possible treatment options available.

Medications. The use of medications can take months before you see results. Nonetheless, you can use any of the following:

  • Oral Contraceptives. This is a common treatment among women to boost the estrogen and progestin hormones. Although used by women who don’t want to get pregnant, this can also be used by those who have excessive hair issues. However, side effects include nausea, dizziness, stomach upset and headache.
  • Topical Creams. Eflornithine is a prescription cream specifically designed for women with too much facial hair.
    Just apply it directly on the affected area to help slow down hair growth. Unfortunately, it cannot get rid of the existing hair on your face.
  • Anti-androgens. Hirsutism is often the result of too much androgen going on inside a woman’s body.
    The good news is anti-androgen drugs can stop them from taking over your body.
    If you decide to use this, make sure to use it together with contraception. Anti-androgen drugs are known to cause birth defects, so better not get pregnant when using this.

Procedures. Aside from drugs, there are a number of procedures that can help get rid of unwanted hair. If you have extra cash to spare, here are some of your options.

  • One effective way to get rid of excess hair forever is through electrolysis. This type of procedure inserts a tiny needle in every hair follicle, which emits an electric current that damages and destroys the follicle. A numbing cream will also be used to reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Laser Therapy. When you opt for laser therapy, a highly concentrated light will pass over the skin to destroy the hair follicles and stop them from growing. Side effects may include skin redness and swelling. This is effective however, the price can be hefty, too, so you’d better save up for it.

Home Remedies. This is the easiest, but the most time-consuming way of addressing hirsutism. Home remedies include:

  • This can work if you want to remove stray hairs. If you plan to remove a large area of hair, then move on to the next option.

  • This is cheapest and easiest way to remove large amounts of hair. However, this should be done regularly, since hair grows back after a few days.
  • This can also remove large amounts of hair quickly, with the effects lasting longer than shaving. This can sting temporarily and may cause skin irritation and redness.
  • Some women hate the idea of removing hair. Instead of waxing or shaving, some prefer bleaching to make the hair less visible. Apparently, this can cause skin irritation, so make sure to test it on small area first before using it on your skin.
  • Chemical Depilatories. This type of product breaks down the protein structure of the hair shaft to help remove unwanted hair. These are available in gels, lotions or creams.

What’s The Bottom Line On Hirsutism?

Excessive hair growth is a long-term and difficult challenge for anyone to deal with. This is especially true for women who, unlike men, are supposed to be hair-free. If you know someone who has this condition, be understanding. Don’t make fun of her just because she has “manly hair” all over. On the other hand, if you are diagnosed with hirsutism, help is on the way.

Yes, it can sometimes affect your self-esteem, but with treatments and support from friends and family, you can live a fulfilling life with hirsutism. And remember, you aren’t alone. Many women deal with this condition, and researchers are working on better treatments, and even a cure.

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