Facial hair in women can be frustrating and annoying. And, what else can make the experience worse if not having to live or deal with it in a part of the world where superstitions and unfounded claims are treated like facts, further giving room for stigmatization?
Facial hair in women has been attributed to myriads of fallacious reasons and women who have it in this part of the world have had to deal with different stereotypes and demeaning name tags.
Growing up in Nigeria as a child, I can remember vividly how bearded women were said to be wicked people, with the goatee a direct proof of their callousness. The fact that I had a bearded female mathematics teacher who was quite a disciplinarian further helped entrench this erroneous belief.
Away from the superstitions, facial hair in women, which is attributed to a medical condition called – Hirsutism – can be caused by a number of factors.
Perhaps the biggest reason why women have facial hair is the imbalance of the male hormones called Androgen, in the body. This hormone is responsible for the distinct male features we know like a deep voice, small breasts, and, of course – hairs in the right places.
It is normal for women to possess this hormone, too, but when it becomes more than normal, it causes virilization, a condition where females develop features associated with male hormones. When Hirsutism is due to high Androgen levels, other male-like features might also start to emerge over time.
Putting on excessive weight can also cause the body to produce more male hormones. According to research carried out by the Us National Library of Medicine, it showed that hirsutism was more common among women with higher BMI.
The study proves that obesity causes more androgen to be produced by the body which then causes them to exhibit man-like features like beards and others.
Some drugs are known to alter hormone levels in the system, for example:
• Anabolic Steroids: This drug is only available by prescription and tries to imitate the effects of the male hormones. They are used by athletes and muscle builders to boost performances and enhance their body features. These drugs are however known to cause hirsutism and other advanced effects of virilization in the long run.
• Minoxidil (Rogaine): This is a solution used to help hair recover from baldness. Contrary to the hype, the effect of this drug is still not proven and it is said to have some negatives.
• Danocrine: This drug is used to treat a disorder called endometriosis in women. It is also used to combat breast pain resulting from fibro-cystic breast disease. This drug is known to cause side effects like weight gain, acne, voice changes, hair growth, and other features of virilization.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
This condition often begins at puberty and is known to cause sex hormone imbalance. PCOS is said to be one of the leading causes of facial hair growth in women and can also cause more advanced effects of virilization due to the production of excess androgen in the body. Other effects of PCOS are irregular periods due to enlarged ovaries, balding, and obesity.
The main cause of this condition is said to be unknown but some claims state that a higher level of insulin is a leading cause of this. And this quite makes sense, since PCOS is known to cause insulin resistance, the body then responds by producing more insulin which triggers a testosterone level increase.
This condition is caused when there is too much cortisol in the body. This condition mostly affects steroid users and in very rare occasions it happens when the body produces excessive cortisol: caused by a tumor in the brain or pituitary glands.
The symptoms of Cushing syndrome can either start gradually or suddenly and if not treated immediately, could deteriorate. Some of these symptoms include:
• The fat build-up at the back of the neck and shoulders (Buffalo hump)
• Puffy and reddish face
• Fat accumulations on the chest and tummy with relatively tiny limbs
• Large purple stretch marks
• Weak skin that breaks easily
• Weight gain that in turn triggers more production of male hormone
Acromegaly is a very rare condition that can be caused by a growth or a tumor in the pituitary gland, which causes the body to produce an excessive amount of growth hormones. This imbalance can cause facial and bodily hair growth. It can also cause other features like large hands and feet, abnormal menstrual cycles, and joint pains.
Because there are various reasons for hirsutism, the help of a medical practitioner is needed to be able to know the root cause and correctly prescribe a solution. The process of diagnosis might have you taking a blood test to check your hormone level, an X-ray for adrenal glands examination, or performing an ultrasound to examine the ovaries and uterus.
After diagnosis, some of the treatment processes might involve:
• Weight loss: if the cause of unusual hair growth is found to be obesity, then there will be a need to drop some of the extra pounds.
• Shaving; one of the most popular methods of removing unwanted hair is by using a razor or an electric shaver. This would have to be done daily to avoid stubble growth
• Tweezing: This method helps to remove unwanted hairs from the root.
• Creams: creams containing depilatories are another option that can be taken to combat this menace. The cream is applied on the affected areas and the hair goes off with it when it is wiped off.
• Medications: if the cause of hirsutism is due to irregularities in the body system, the doctor can prescribe drugs that will help restore balance in the body.
• Electrolysis: this works by zapping hair out from the root with the use of an electronic current. This process works permanently.
Women living with hirsutism go through a lot of stress having to deal with the stigmatization that comes along with having hairs growing in unusual places on their bodies. Many women go through depression due to the difficulty they face when trying to build a romantic relationship.
Hirsutism is not a death sentence. Some of the remedies mentioned above are tried and trusted solutions that have worked for millions of women going through this challenge. However, just as we mentioned above, the help of medical personnel is needed to know the right measures to take.