Questions and answers about unwanted facial hair
Approximately 40% of women during menopause will experience unwanted facial hair. This condition called hirsutism refers to the growth of coarse, dark hair in areas where women typically grow fine hair or no hair at all, for example above the lip and on the chin.
What causes hair growth on my face? When we are younger estrogen dominates and our face typically has vellus hair. Vellus hair is the fine, short and almost invisible hair. Men on the contrast have terminal hair which is darker, coarser and longer. The key hormone that controls the type of hair is dihydrotetosterone (DHT). Higher levels of this hormone can convert vellus hair to terminal hair. As we approach menopause our estrogen levels drop and there is an increase in DHT (an androgen hormone).
In some cases the extra androgen comes from medications. Some birth control pills as well as certain steroids contain androgens, or have effects similar to androgens. Other drugs indirectly cause the body to make extra androgen hormones; these include some medicines to treat schizophrenia, seizures, migraine headaches, bipolar disorder and high blood pressure. Some disease processes such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can cause hair growth but it’s seen most often during menopause.
Are there any medications to control hair growth? Yes, medications containing estrogen such as birth control can alter the impact of androgens. Some doctors will prescribe an anti-androgen medication called Aldactone.
What treatments are available for permanent removal of facial hair? The common response is to tweeze these pesky hairs. Research has proven plucking can actually stimulate the hair follicle into an active phase causing the hair to grow quicker and thicker.
The FDA has approved two modalities of treatments to permanently remove unwanted hair:
– Laser Hair Removal – Is the treatment of choice for dark facial hair.. A series of 5 treatments is recommended to assure all cycles of hairs are destroyed.
– Electrolysis – This is the treatment of choice for blonde, red or blonde hair or darker skinned clients. The technician treats each hair follicle so each treatment takes longer with more sessions needed.
Many of our clients will start with laser hair removal, and finish their sessions with electrolysis for the remaining thin or grey hairs.
What laser machine works best? When you are ready to start your laser procedures please note the “gold standard” lasers for hair removal is the Light Sheer Diode laser and the Alexandrite laser. There are several multiplatform lasers available on the market today used for hair removal such as the YAG laser or IPL (Intense Pulse Light). Often they are not strong enough to deliver enough heat to destroy the follicle leading to poor outcome. Being an educated consumer will save you money and time and reach your desired outcome.