Excess hair refers to unwanted body and facial hair. We all have hair on almost every part of our bodies, but some people have more than others. This can be embarrassing, distressing and difficult to manage, for both men and women.
WHAT CAUSES EXCESS HAIR?
Excess hair (particularly in women) can be a symptom of a hormonal condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Sometimes excess hair growth has no identifiable cause; this tends to be more common in skin types from a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and South Asian background. It can also be hereditary.
EXCESS HAIR IN WOMEN: HIRSUITISM
In women, excess hair is often referred to as hirsutism. This is defined as hair in a male pattern; hair that is thick and dark, rather than finer and fairer. Hirsutism occurs when females produce an excess of male sex hormones called androgens, or are more sensitive to these hormones. All women produce androgens; it's fluctuating levels which can cause problems.
EXCESS HAIR AND PCOS (POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME)
Although all females produce androgens, these usually remain at low levels. When there is a hormonal imbalance of them, excess hair can occur. This fluctuation of hormone levels and symptoms such as excess hair can be triggered by a medical condition called PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Certain medical conditions and the menopause can also trigger hirsutism.
If you suspect that your hair growth is abnormal, it is best to consult your doctor as it may be a symptom of another problem.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How can I reduce/prevent excess hair?
At-home hair removal
There are a number of hair removal solutions which can be used at home. These offer only temporary results and can be painful, messy and time-consuming.
- Shaving: This is the quickest and easiest method of hair removal but can result in shaving rash, ingrown hairs and irritation, which isn’t ideal if you are removing hair from your face.
- Bleaching: This doesn’t remove the hair, but will make it lighter and less noticeable. Bleaching isn’t advised for very sensitive skin types as it may irritate the skin. It’s also not really effective if you have dark skin because it could make the hair more noticeable.
- Waxing, plucking or threading: These methods all involve pulling the hair out from the root, so can reduce hair growth if carried out on a regular basis. The downside is they can be painful and difficult to do yourself. They can also lead to folliculitis, which is inflammation of the hair follicles.
- Hair removal creams: These work by dissolving the hair with a type of acid. They are popular because they don’t cause stubble, but can irritate some sensitive skin types.
- Epilators: Epilators are electrical hair removal devices which pluck out the individual hairs with lots of tiny tweezer-type mechanisms, which are built into the handheld device. They provide more long-term results than shaving, but can be painful and cause folliculitis.
Medication for Excess hair
A doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help manage excess hair. This might include:
- Eflornithine cream: a topical cream applied twice daily to treat facial hair.
- Oral contraceptives: some contraceptives such as co-cyprindiol block the male hormones (androgens) associated with excess hair.
- Anti-androgens: other types of medicines which also suppress androgens.
Can I get rid of excess hair permanently?
There is no way to completely remove all unwanted hair permanently - but there are methods which provide a permanent reduction. Even when the hair follicle is damaged or destroyed via laser or electrolysis, hormonal changes can cause new follicles to develop, meaning hair will grow in that area. Laser hair removal is one of the most effective and long-lasting solutions for hair removal as it targets the individual follicles and is administered through a course of treatments.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR EXCESS HAIR
Sugaring is one way to remove excess hair naturally. This involves applying a sticky, sugar-based paste your skin so that your hairs stick to it, and pulling it away in a quick, smooth motion to remove the hairs. It essentially works in the same way as waxing, but is gentler on the skin and is easier to wash off. You can make your own sugar paste by heating water, sugar and lemon juice in a pan - but take care not to burn your skin. You can also buy ready-made sugar paste for sugaring.
OTHER TREATMENTS FOR EXCESS HAIR
Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal works by targeting the hair follicles with a high beam laser. The laser beam is pulsed over the skin in the area being treated, ensuring that every hair has been targeted across each session. After a few days, the hairs fall out from the root so there are no prickly patches or ingrown hairs. The treatment is suitable for both the face and body, and is designed to treat all skin types and tones. The treatment works particularly well on coarse, dark hair.
What results will I see with laser hair removal?
The treatment is FDA approved to give a long-term hair reduction of up to 90%. You can expect to see the best results with a course of treatments, after which the hair will have been reduced dramatically and the skin left silky-smooth.
Can I remove any hair with laser hair removal?
The lasers used in this treatment are very precise so can be used to remove hair on the face, underarms, bikini line, back, chest, neck, hands, legs, feet - anywhere on the body where the hair has enough pigment to attract the laser light, even very sensitive areas.