Women’s Facial Hair: Blame Your Hormones

The development of darker, thicker facial hair in women, especially on the chin and upper lip, is typically the result of hormonal changes and is benign.

IMG_0117.jpg

OK. Ladies, has this ever happened to you? You look in the mirror and spot a dark, thick hair on your chin or upper lip. Aghast, you immediately pluck it. It grows back. You pluck it again. It grows back again, only this time you swear it’s darker and thicker. What’s going on?

You’re not alone. The bad news is that it’s all too common among most women. The good news is that it’s almost always benign.

First, it’s a myth that plucking hairs causes them to grow in darker or thicker. These hairs are coarser and thicker because they are secondary sexual characteristic hairs; that is, they are the result of hormonal changes. They’re not unlike male facial hair, which is also coarse. These hairs appear thicker and darker than fine vellus hairs (peach fuzz) because they’re a different type of hair, not because of tweezing. Most women develop these hairs on the chin, jaw line, and upper lip. Though these hairs can appear at any age, they’re more prominent after menopause. They can also be the result of hormonal changes due to issues ranging from birth control pills and pregnancy to irregular periods and hormonal imbalances.

What can you do to get rid of them? For a fast and inexpensive option, tweezing is fine, as are depilatory creams. But the hairs will grow back. For permanent hair removal, try either electrolysis or laser treatment (at a doctor’s office). There are also some prescription medications that stop hair from growing. If that’s something you’re interested in, then speak with your dermatologist.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Remember, that it’s hormones at work, not you. And that it’s a fixable problem.

Photo credit: FCC, Michael

How to Remove Chest Hair

Explanation of different hair removal techniques for chest hair, including waxing, laser, and shaving.

Blame gold-medalist, Ryan Lochte. The Olympic swimmer’s smooth chest is igniting a trend.

Here’s a quick look at different techniques for chest hair removal:

1. Shaving: Pros: Cheap, easy. Cons: Grows back quickly; itchy chest. Shave with the grain of the hair, not against it. And Kramer’s wrong on this one. Shaved hair does not grow back thicker or darker.

2. Tweezing: Pros: Cheap, easy, hair grows back less quickly. Cons: It takes a long time, especially if you’re really hairy, and is slightly painful.

3. Depilatories: Pros: Painless, cheap. Cons: Funky smell, messy, and chemicals can cause irritation or rash.

4. Waxing: Pros: Hair grows back less quickly; faster than tweezing. Cons: It’s expensive and hurts, as Steve Carell illustrates. Don’t try it at home.

5. Electrolysis: Pros: Permanent. Cons: Permanent. Can also be expensive depending on the number of treatments needed, and hurts. It works by zapping the hair and plucking it out. The zapping part makes it more permanent than tweezing.

6. Laser hair removal: Pros: Permanent. Cons: Permanent. Very expensive and painful. It works by using a laser to explode the hair follicle, which feel like snapping a rubber band against your chest. It only works for darkly colored hairs. Lightly colored or gray hairs don’t respond.

Is Laser Hair Removal Safe?

Yes. Laser hair removal is a common and effective way to permanently remove hair. It is safe, but remember these tips:

  1. Hair removal lasers target the pigment in hair (that’s how they work). Hair lasers can damage darker or pigmented skin as the laser will target both the hair and the skin, burning it. This can lead to permanent skin discoloration.
  2. Tanned skin is dark skin, and laser hair removal should never be done on people with a tan.
  3. Laser hair treatments hurt. Some people find it too painful, while others don’t mind it. Numbing creams can lessen the sting; however, they can only be used in small amounts. Large quantities of numbing cream can be toxic and has led to death in extreme circumstances.
  4. The light from the laser can be damaging to your eyes. Be sure you’re wearing approved safety glasses at all times.
  5. Laser hair removal can be additive – once you’ve treated one area, you might want to treat lots of other “hairy spots” which can be harmful to your wallet.
Photo: Sean Drellinger, Flickr

Ten Things You Should Know About Laser Hair Removal

Laser Nova

Did you know that laser hair removal can take months to complete? That you cannot get laser hair removal if you have a tan? That laser hair removal can actually cause more hair growth? Here are 10 things you should know before getting your unwanted hair lasered off. Continue reading “Ten Things You Should Know About Laser Hair Removal”

How Do Hair Removal Lasers Work?

Summertime is nearly here and the lines are forming for last minute laser hair removal. Lasers are an effective way to permanently remove hair from underarms, legs, back, arms, chest, bikini area, and even faces. But how do they work? Continue reading “How Do Hair Removal Lasers Work?”

Skin Care Myths: Plucking Hairs Makes Them Grow Back Thicker

Before Plucking

Before

After Plucking

After

You can’t catch a cold from going outside without a jacket, and hairs don’t grow back thicker after you pluck them. I swear.

In fact, repeatedly plucking hairs can scar the follicle, which over time can lead to permanent loss of that hair. It is actually a very inexpensive way to remove unwanted hairs.

Waxing, threading, and plucking hairs are essentially the same thing; the hairs usually will grow back (unless you perform this repeatedly over a long period of time).

Electrolysis and laser hair removal, in contrast, destroy the hair follicle. Most of these hairs will not grow back and repeated treatment will lead to permanent hair removal.

If you pluck your hairs:

  1. Start with good, clean slanted or straight tweezers. Be sure the edges are sharp, not damaged.
  2. Pluck in the direction that the hair grows.
  3. Grab and pull the hair out in one quick motion.
  4. Pluck only one hair at a time.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Repeat again.

You might also like:

Are You Over-Scrubbing Your Face?

What Causes Vertical Ridges in Your Nails?

Why Do Women Bruise More Easily Than Men? 

Like this blog? Grab The Derm Feed

Coming Soon: At Home Laser Hair Removal

Hair removal is big business with sales in the billions of dollars. Now there is a new laser (currently undergoing FDA scrutiny) that will provide a safe way for women to do laser hair removal at home. Dr. Tina Alster conducted a study of 20 women who underwent treatment of underarm, forearm, bikini, and leg hair removal. The women had hair reduction of 40-75% after 3-4 treatments performed at 2-week intervals. The results were apparently better on the legs as compared to the underarms and bikini area.

The Silk’n hair removal device made by HomeSkinovations, Ltd. is expected to cost about $800 — similar to a laser hair treatment in a dermatologist’s office.