Women and Excess Body Hair

What Women Can Do About Excess Body Hair
Executive Summary
Mister Private explains excess body hair and ways to treat it.

Hot Facts
  • What is excess body hair?
  • How does one remove excess body hair?
What Women Can Do About Excess Body Hair
Some women have more hair than others. Think of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo with her unibrow or the bearded lady at the circus. But this is nothing to be embarrassed about! Mister Private can explain excess body hair and ways to treat it.

Excess body hair, or hirsutism, is a condition that occurs in women with male-pattern hair growth. Hormonal factors, such as the balance of estrogen to testosterone, determine how much body hair a woman has. Every woman has low levels of testosterone but some women have an abnormally high amount. Hirsutism is caused by the elevation of testosterone that is produced by the ovaries.

Hair growth varies among individuals. Women sometimes have a slight increase in hair growth during menopause, because estrogen levels plummet, while testosterone levels remain stable or slowly decline over the years. Some particular ethnic groups, such as those of Mediterranean descent, tend to be more hirsute, while Asians are less inclined to grow excess hair. Also, hormone replacement therapy may cause excessive hair growth.

Excessive hair can be shaved, waxed, plucked, chemically dissolved or bleached. Plucking removes hair by the root. This method is best for small areas such as the face. This can be accomplished by using tweezers or an electric plucker. Shaving removes hair from the surface. Contrary to popular belief, shaving does not make hair grow thicker. Shaving is a good alternative for slow hair growth. Razors, manual or electric, are good for this process. Chemical dissolution, such as a depilatory, work by exfoliating unwanted hair. Many depilatories contain moisturizers that soften skin as it removes the hair. Bleaching lightens dark hair on the face and body. Many creams contain hydrogen peroxide, which is a bleaching agent.

Hirsutism is sometimes (but rarely) related to hormonal abnormalities. If excess hair growth is accompanied by irregular menstrual periods, extreme acne or infertility, please consult your health care provider.