Written by Dr Christina Hennessey
All women have hair on their body and faces, but this is usually very fine and light in colour. If it
grows thick, coarse and dark it can be embarrassing, and you may wish to find a way of removing it.
What causes excess facial hair in women?
There can be many reasons for excess facial hair in women. One of the main causes is higher than
normal levels of male hormones in the body.
Male hormones are called androgens, the most well known of which is testosterone. In men,
testosterone is involved in the development of deepening of the voice and the production of sperm.
All women produce some testosterone, but higher than normal levels may increase your sex
drive, affect your menstrual cycle and produce excess facial and body hair.
One of the main causes of high levels of male sex hormones in premenopausal women is
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition which causes cysts to grow around the edge
of the ovaries (the organs which produce eggs and sex hormones). As well as excess hair
growth, women with PCOS may put on weight and have irregular periods and acne.
Rather than increased levels of male sex hormones, some premenopausal women have increased sensitivity to them. This means that they have a greater effect on your body, causing things like excess hair growth and a deep voice.
The cause of excess hair growth in women who have already been through the menopause is usually a hormone imbalance resulting from the menopause itself. Your body adjusts its levels of hormones, and you may be left with an unusually high level of testosterone.
Other causes of excessive facial hair in women
In a small number of cases, excess facial hair may be caused by:
- Medicines, such as minoxidil which is taken for high blood pressure.
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia – a hereditary condition which affects the adrenal glands (which produce sex hormones).
- Cushing’s Syndrome or Acromegaly – rare hormonal disorders.
- Being overweight or obese.
- An ovarian tumour.
How can excess facial hair in women be treated?
There are a number of treatment options available, including:
- Shaving – this is quick and easy, but you may have to shave every day, and there may be unpleasant stubble in between shaves.
- Waxing – this is effective if done regularly, but may be painful and cause redness
- Bleaching – this can make dark hair less noticeable in the short term
- Hair removal creams – Vaniqa, which we offer through our online service, is a cream which reduces hair growth by acting on enzymes in the hair follicle. It can provide a more longterm solution to excess facial hair growth than shaving, waxing or bleaching.
- Electrolysis – electricity is used to destroy hair cells and remove hair permanently. This may take many treatments over a long time, and can be painful and change your skin colour.
- Laser hair removal – powerful beams of light are used to destroy hair. It can last several
months. Other causes of excessive facial hair in women