Bearded Mom: When Women Grow Full-Blown Facial Hair

Many women spend a fortune—and put up with a lot of pain—plucking, threading, and waxing away unwanted facial hair. Not Mariam.

VIDEO: Get Rid of Pesky Facial Hair

The German-born mom, who goes only by her first name, is making headlines for embracing her significant goatee. 

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Mariam's thick beard is all natural. "It really grows as a goatee, as you can see," she said during an interview with the UK's ITV Network. Instead of shaving, she simply "shortens" the ends to keep herself looking well-groomed, because "If it gets too long, it's a bit frizzy."

Mariam—who is of German and Iranian decent—didn't immediately embrace her facial hair. She says that it began growing in soon after the birth of her son, when she was about 21 years old. Ten years later, it was so thick that she would have a full beard if she didn't tweeze each hair out every morning. It would take her hours to get ready to leave the house, she was so obsessed with pulling out every hair.

"My chin got really red and inflamed from all the plucking, and some of the hairs were ingrown, so it always looked like I'd fallen on my chin," she told ITV's "This Morning." "But when people asked what had happened and I told them they couldn't believe it."

She tried electrolysis three times, "but it just grew back," she confided on the morning talk show. She worried that shaving or waxing would just cause the hair to grow in thicker and darker. She talked to her doctors, who ruled out serious medical problems and reassured her that "it happened to lots of other women, so I shouldn't worry," she remembered. "But they didn't really give me a reason."

Nearly five years ago, she decided to stop plucking and just let the hair grow.

"One day I realized that the hair on my chin belongs to my body and that it should be there," she explained on her blog. "On 6th August 2008, I stopped plucking my facial hair and saw the whole thing as a experiment. What would happen if I let myself be who I really am?"

"When I decided to let it grow it didn't feel brave," she confessed to ITV. "It was more like a curiosity. I wanted to see what would happen to me. There was a big fear that everyone would turn away and nobody would talk to me anymore."

Instead, she found the courage and the freedom to just be herself. She now works with a circus, as their bearded lady act, which gives her a chance to educate people about the issue.

"Today I am happy to have had the chance to live with a beard," she wrote on her blog. "It is an experience that has taught me a lot!"

'I know myself more now,' she told ITV. 'There are always people with a fetish who might only be attracted by the beard, but that is the same with lots of things, even if I were a blonde woman."

What's the cause of excess female facial hair and just how common is it? The FDA reports that more than 41 million women in the United States have hirsutism, or unwanted, male-pattern hair growth. Women with high levels of a naturally occurring hormone called androgen—also known as testosterone—can end up with extra facial hair, according to the Mayo Clinic. Adrenal or ovarian tumors, certain steroids, Cushing's syndrome, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can also trigger excess hair growth in women. The amount of facial hair you have can also depend on where your family comes from, states the Mayo Clinic's website. Women of Mediterranean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern descent are more likely than Caucasians to have noticeable facial hair

Some of the most famous—and most beautiful—women in the world have had excess facial hair. Artist Frieda Kahlo famously flaunted the hair on her upper lip. Generations of women envied Elizabeth Taylor for her amazingly thick eyelashes, but they may have been enhanced by hypertrichosis, a condition that caused dark hair to grow all over her body, including in her ears and nose (the actress was known to shave her face to keep it looking smooth on camera). And Marilyn Monroe used to use a hormone-heavy beauty cream that caused downy hair to grow all over her face.

"She had the heaviest peach fuzz beard of any actress in Hollywood," Gene London, a Marilyn Monroe expert, told British Vogue. "They [studio chiefs] wanted to remove the facial hair, but Marilyn absolutely refused. She said that when the light hit the fuzz it caused her face to have a soft glow, so they didn't have to photograph her through special lenses, lace or Vaseline the way they did with so many stars."


Also on Shine:

Tweezing? Self-Tanner? Women's Beauty Habits that Men Hate
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Waxing vs. Threading? Which Is Better?