Unwanted Facial Hair

During the summer, I live in a town with a kid-friendly speed limit of 15mph. It is not always easy to adjust your gas-pedal foot to the slow pace, but the town is small. Speeding up may save you all of 30 seconds. The kids in town are used to the slow cars. Even after screaming “CAR!” at the top of their lungs during a running bases pick-up game, they will take their time getting to the side of the road – maybe throw in a few more tosses, maybe have enough time to peg one more competitor. Children ride their bikes in the middle of the street and thoughtlessly run after stray balls. This level of comfort is, at the same time, a wonderful throw-back and a real concern.  All it takes is one out-of-towner to ignore the clearly posted speed limit signs for a tragedy to occur.  I give you this back-story to defend myself.  Yesterday, some young Mario Andretti wannabe was going by my home at 60mph (well, 30 at least.)  I lost it and started screaming like a banshee. Even as I was doing it, I thought, “Wow!  I’ve gotten old.” I have officially become that crazy old lady in the white house. So be it. I can live with that. “It’s 1-5 NOT 5-1 you PUNK!” What I can’t live with are some of the other old lady indignities we are forced to suffer. Specifically today – chin hair. As if wrinkles and age spots aren’t bad enough!

Unwanted Facial Hair

1. Some terminology – Hypertrichosis is an increase in facial/body hair.  Hirsutism is an increase in hair in a male pattern.  Trichophobia is a fear of certain types of hair growth or hair abnormalities.  As a culture, we are certainly trichophobic, despite the prevelence of hypertrichosis.

2. Who gets hirsutism? Many women, even at young ages have an excess of body/facial hair.  Genetics are largely to blame.  There are some diseases that present with hirsutism as part of their symptomatology – most notably, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

3. Why does facial hair increase as we age? As we get older, the fine hormone balance in our bodies starts to change. When we are younger and our body is focused on the evolutionary goal of reproduction, our estrogen level is higher than our testosterone level. (There are other hormones involved but to keep it simple, just think estrogen and testosterone.) When our eggs become scarce and conception unlikely (just when things should start to be more fun) our estrogen levels decline and our testosterone levels are higher – relative to what they were before. This causes the increased hair growth. You may notice a fine, diffuse growth or a coarse, sparse growth. Either way, it sucks.

4. When to talk to your doctor. For the most part, the only treatment for hirsutism is cosmetic. But, if the hair growth is sudden, is associated with menstrual changes, deepening of your voice or other systemic symptoms, it is worth mentioning to your physician. If you are on medications, discuss the hair growth with you doctor as some drugs can cause hirsutism.

5. What can be done? In severe cases, there are pharmaceutical options. Birth control pills and anti-androgen drugs may be useful. In the more run-of-the-mill, just one more thing women have to deal with type of facial hair, there are several options. Bleaching may make the hair less noticeable. Plucking and/or waxing are good options and, contrary to popular belief, will not result in more hair growth. Laser hair removal works best on people with dark hair and a light complexion. The problem with the pesky appearance of random coarse chin hairs is they can pop up at anytime. My advice until something better comes along – get a couple of good tweezers and a light-up magnifying mirror and make it part of your daily skin regimen.

That’s day three of annoying little things. Tomorrow, something much less embarrassing – crinks in your neck. Is it really from sleeping with the window open like your grandmother said? Keep the suggestions coming and for Pete’s sake – SLOW DOWN! Pete can’t move very fast.

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