Women’s Facial Hair: Blame Your Hormones

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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

The Link Between Obesity and Acne

Many of you are trying to lose weight in 2012 (W00t!) Did you know that you might be helping your acne as well? Obesity can lead to excess hormones such as androgens and insulin-like growth factors which trigger acne. Losing weight can help reduce your hormone levels and improve your acne. Have you lost weight and seen your acne improve?

School Stress, Hormones, and Acne

Dear Dr. Benabio,

OMG, my face is a disaster! My acne is worse than ever. PLZ help me!

Desperately,

Your Patient

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Many of my patients email me; this is the most common email I am getting this week. Why is everyone’s acne flaring up all of a sudden? It’s because of this simple formula: [High School Stress + Hormones = Acne].

Acne results when your pores clog, trapping sebaceous oils and bacteria deep in the skin. When you’re under stress, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that helps you stay alive in life or death situations. High school, however stressful, is not usually life or death, but your body doesn’t know that, and it reacts as if it were.

Two side effects of increased cortisol are increased sebaceous oil production and increased inflammation in your skin. The result: big, red pimples in the middle of your face that make you now wish you were dead.

If you have painful, cystic acne bumps, then your dermatologist can inject the worst ones with steroids to reduce the inflammation and to flatten them out quickly — “Nurse! Give me a syringe with Kenalog. Stat!” (Who said I don’t do emergencies?) Steroid injections can, however, cause atrophy or dimpling in your skin, which can last for months — much longer than the original pimple.

  • Spot treating acne is difficult at home. Tretinoin products such as Retin-A, Differin, or Tazorac do not work if applied to acne spots.
  • You can pop a pimple; however, unless it has a white head, squeezing usually just makes a little pimple into a big pimple.
  • Apply a spot acne treatment such as Neutrogena Rapid Clear Fight and Fade Gel. The mild acids in it help dissolve a pimple when applied directly.
  • Use a spot cover-up or concealer that has salicylic acid in it. Yes, guys, it is OK for you to apply a dab of cover-up. Use your sister’s.
  • If you have a little extra cash lying around (humor intended), then acne zappers like Zeno can help. They apply heat directly to the pimple killing the bacteria and hastening recovery. Or just use your iPhone, (I’m sure they will have an app for that soon, right?).

Remember that school is stressful, so eat well, sleep well (preferably not in calculus class), and exercise regularly. These will decrease your stress hormones and help keep you acne free.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any free products or reimbursement from any products mentioned in this post; these are my unbiased suggestions.

Photo: John Steven Fernandez