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Unwanted Facial Hair

Q: I'm being held prisoner by a problem I can't share with anyone - I'm growing a beard. I noticed soft hairs sprouting at the base of my chin a few months ago, so I started secretly shaving every other day. Now the hair seems to be coming back even coarser. I'm worried there's something seriously wrong. Please help!

Dr. Donnica:
This "secret" is one you share with plenty of women. Estimates are that more than 40 million women (of all ages and ethnic backgrounds) in the US have unwanted facial hair. We all have facial hair, but it's nearly invisible when we're young, since it's a fine, thin type called vellus. But as time goes on, some of that vellus hair is replaced by terminal hair, the mature, thicker type you're noticing.

Hereditary factors are usually the cause of excessive or unwanted facial hair in women. Medical conditions such as androgen excess, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or even menopause can create a hormonal imbalance with an overabundance of male hormones (androgens), so if you notice irregular periods or other symptoms such as a deepening voice, or darkening chest hair, see your doctor.

There are several hair removal options that are longer lasting than shaving; these include waxing, using a depilatory and having electrolysis. You can also speak with your doctor about prescription treatment with Vaniqa cream, which has demonstrated its ability to slow facial hair growth in up to 60% of women. Vaniqa can take up to 2 months to work, and you may want to continue to use another hair removal method until the drug is working effectively.

Created: 7/11/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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