Unwanted facial hair can be different for every woman, from a few hairs on the chin, light growth on the chin, light growth on the upper lip or heavy and beard like. The almost invisible ‘peach fuzz’ hair we have always had suddenly becomes more visible and in some cases longer.
We openly speak about bikini waxing and so on but facial hair remains a topic that we only tend to share with our closest friends who may be experiencing the same problem. For millions of women unwanted facial hair can be a huge problem.
Why Face Hair Changes Occur at Menopause
Like most menopause symptoms the reason for unwanted facial hair is often all about estrogen, or to be more precise, the relationship between levels of estrogen and testosterone.
When estrogen predominates, a woman’s face typically has vellus hair – fine, short and almost invisible like ‘peach fuzz’. Men, in contrast, have terminal hair, the longer, coarser, darker beard type hair.
The key hormone that controls the type of hair on your face is dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Higher DHT levels raise your facial hair to convert from vellus to terminal hair production.
During the reproductive years, the higher relative levels of estrogen to testosterone usually keep production of DHT low. However, as menopause approaches and estrogen levels drop, there’s an increase of DHT in the hair follicle. It’s at this point that many women begin to see frustrating ‘beard like’ hairs in places they’ve never seen them before – chin, jaw line, cheeks and even the forehead.
What can we do about Unwanted Facial Hair
The common response to controlling, in particular, chin hairs is to pluck them. The problem with this is that we are lead to believe that plucking can actually stimulate the hair follicle into an active growth (anagen) in which hair growth is quicker and thicker – not something you really want. Some people believe that this is a myth – only you will know whether the texture changes when you pluck a particularly stubborn hair out!
Shaving is not recommended as this can cause ingrown hairs which can become infected. Hair may also grow thicker and faster than before causing bristle and shadow.
Electrolysis can be painful and expensive. Electrolysis involves inserting a small needle into the hair follicle then passing an electric current through it to destroy the hair bulb and stop it growing back. It’s fairly uncomfortable and very time-consuming. The number of treatments required varies from client to client depending on the density of hair growth. You will need to have regular appointments probably once a week for between 6 months and a year. Make sure you find a properly trained practitioner to perform this treatment.
Laser can be uncomfortable and expensive although it is a more lasting treatment if you problem is severe. Laser works by targeting the root of the hair, heating it up and destroying the hair follicle. Because hair grows in phases you may need between 4-10 treatments. Unfortunately, lasers don’t identify white or grey hair.
This is widely available in salons or within the home using facial waxing strips. Quick and cheap. Warm wax is applied to the area with a spatula, fabric strips are applied and then pulled off bringing the hair with it. Lasts 2-6 weeks. Regrowth is relatively fast and better for fine hairs than coarser chin hair. Waxing may cause skin discolouration on darker skin. Hairs must be half a centimeter long before you can re wax.
Facial Hair Removal Creams (Depilatory Creams)
Hair removal creams are applied to the face and left for a few minutes before removing at which point the hair comes away. Chemicals dissolve the keratin in the hair structure. This treatment last a few days to two weeks. Cheap, effective, quick and can be applied at home. However, regrowth is rapid (and can be slightly stubbly) because hair is dissolved to just below the skin surface, not at the root. May also cause irritation to sensitive skin. Make sure you follow the instructions to avoid redness.
Dermaplaning is a more expensive treatment that works well on the cheek area and is very popular in the US. A sharp blade is used to get remove excess hair and exfoliate at the same time leaving the skin looking smooth and glowing for about a month. Many high street salons provide this treatment.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
Similar to laser treatment but uses various light wave lengths (laser uses a single wavelength) which some say reduce the risk of burning and pigmentation. 6-10 treatments are needed, with a gap of one to three months between each one. After a course, hair should not grow back again or should be reduced and come back finer. Takes time commitment and is expensive. As well as being permanent, it is a gentler, less painful form of laser and more suitable for darker skin and fairer hair.
CAUTION: Ensure that any salons/practitioners complete a contra-indication form with you before any treatment commences, particularly with electrolysis, laser, IPL and waxing treatments.
It is important to point out that facial hair can be an indication that there is something physically wrong. If you are concerned in any way or your hair growth is excessive you must consult with your healthcare professional.
Other Causes of Unwanted Facial Hair in Women
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Genetic Disposition
- Hirsutism (a condition where women have excess unwanted hair on their faces and bodies)
- Some medications including hormone replacement therapy
Drinking spearmint tea twice a day can help to reduce androgens which leads to less hair growth.
A diet low in white carbohydrates (such as white bread/pasta/flour products) can help to prevent unwanted hair growth. This is because these foods raise blood sugar, which in turn increases insulin levels. Raised insulin is responsible for the production of too many androgens. A low GI diet will also help you to lose weight
Unwanted Facial Hair. Retrieved from http://www.menopauserx.com/health_center/sym_facial_hair.htm
Causes of Excess Facial Hair in Women, Retrieved from https://onlinedoctor.lloydspharmacy.com/uk/info/causes-of-excess-facial-hair
Causes of unwanted hair growth. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/yourhealth/symptoms/unwantedhair.aspx
Hirsutism. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hirsutism/