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Everyone has some sort of facial hair; whether it's peach fuzz or chin stubble. I first noticed my mustache when I was 13, and have been tending to it ever since. Plus, I pluck the same single black hair on my chin every month. But have you heard the rumor that facial hair grows thicker as women age?
I hate to break it to you, but there is merit behind the theory that facial hair growth increases as women age; specifically after women go through menopause. And while there's nothing wrong with female facial hair, if it bothers you, this isn't great news. So, we talked to dermatologists who broke down what causes facial hair in women and how we can handle it (if we want to.)
What causes facial hair in women?
If you never had much facial hair, you might not be in the clear for life. It's no secret that hormone levels change as humans age—and this causes a wide variety of side effects such as reduced sex drive, moodiness, and insomnia, to name a few. One of those effects occurs in our hair follicles—on our head, body, and face.
Here's how hormones work: both genders have male and female hormones, androgens and estrogen, respectively.
"The ratios are kept in check for the majority of our lives," Board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, M.D., tells HelloGiggles. "But as the production of estrogen starts to decrease with menopause, the androgens can start to dominate. Those are the hormones that have receptors on hair follicles, so they make the hair on your head grow lighter, finer, and slower, while making the hair in the male distribution (the lower face jawline) start to grow thicker."
So, hormone imbalances are to blame for increasing hair along your jawline and neck. However, going through menopause isn't the only trigger for increased facial hair growth in women. "Changes in hormones can occur at any point, especially for women because of the monthly cycle that women endure," Dr. Hartman points out.
Plus, "It's common for women to grow thicker facial hair due to a shift in hormones from weight gain, pregnancy, or menopause," dermatologist Marina Peredo, M.D., tells HelloGiggles. "All of these factors can cause our body to produce less estrogen and more androgen." Board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., adds, "After you lose your estrogen after menopause, testosterone may dominate and you can have increased facial hair."
PCOS facial hair:
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another cause for increased facial hair in women, no matter their age. "PCOS can lead to increased facial hair in women who are nowhere near menopause," Dr. Hartman explains.
"PCOS is a hormonal disorder that appears in women in their twenties to thirties causing excessive hair growth, weight gain, irregular periods, and acne, among other side effects" Dr. Peredo explains. "Women with higher levels of androgen also have elevated levels of testosterone in blood may also result [in] PCOS."
Dr. Hartman has some recommendations for how to predict this change. "Look at a family history as far as determining whether or not you're going to have trouble with facial hair," she says. "A lot of times it does run in the family. But also, stay in tune with your hormones and make sure your OBGYN is monitoring them as we start to see things change from when you were younger."
How to get rid of facial hair:
To be clear, there's nothing wrong with facial hair—we all have it and you shouldn't get rid of it if you don't want to. However, if that peach fuzz is bothering you, we've got you covered. There is a multitude of ways to get rid of facial hair in women: waxing, creams, shaving, electrolysis, and so on. But Dr. Hartman says that one method reigns supreme: laser hair removal. "It's hands down the best, most effective, and most permanent way to get rid of any hair."
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The way that laser hair removal works is by targeting the pigment in the hair, so darker hair is most receptive to the treatment. "Blonde hair doesn't respond as well, white hair does not respond at all, and with grey hair, you're taking a chance," Dr. Hartman explains. This gives you more reason to try laser hair removal at a younger age, according to Dr. Hartman.
"I tell my patients, 'If you want to get rid of this hair and you're in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, go ahead and do it," he says. "You don't want to get stuck with hair that's white, because so far, technology has not allowed us to treat that hair with any permanent means."
However, if you do have white hair or you're hesitant to try laser hair removal, you're not out of luck. "Using a razor is your best bet," Dr. Hartman says. He also suggests Vaniqua, a prescription cream that prevents hair growth, or Spironolactone, a medication that "blocks the effect of the hormones on hair follicles." (It also helps control hormonal acne.)
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Dr. Jaliman seconds this recommendation of Spironolactone: "This is a safe and effective prescription medication that has been used for years," she says. Just know that you'd have to continue taking that medication for as long as you want to manage your hair growth, and it's not covered by insurance.