Did you know that many Japanese women get their face shaved by barbers using straight razors? Historically, the practice of removing hair is rooted in aesthetics and, some daresay, merely for vanity. However, those who suffer from hirsutism would disagree.
“Most women can get away with shaving just their armpits or legs,” says Sanie, 32, a nurse in Singapore. “I have to get rid of excess hair or my upper lip and jawline regularly. Or else it’ll look like I have a moustache and a five o’clock shadow.”
Generally, hair serves a significant purpose and naturally grows as a protective function. But for Sanie and up to 10% of females with hirsutism, there’s just too much of it in the wrong places. Removing the barely-noticeable ‘peach fuzz’ on the face is one thing but “being mistaken for a dude is a blow for (some) women,” she adds.
So why do some females have more facial and body hair than others? Is there a solution to what women like Sanie see as a problem? At The Aesthetics Centre, we believe that every woman has the right to feel beautiful in her way. How she chooses to look is her decision. And we’re here to help everyone attain their self-development goals.
What is Hirsutism?
Human hair is made of keratin protein and is attached to the skin through follicles. At the base of each follicle are hair bulbs containing hair shafts. These develop when cells in the hair bulb divide and grow. In women with hirsutism, the follicles are overstimulated, causing more hair growth than typical of females.
Women going through hirsutism have visible coarse or dark hair on the face or body. The condition usually manifests on the upper lip, chin, sideburn area, and the chest and abdomen—where hair commonly grows on males. These are mature hair, like the ones on the scalp, according to Medical News Today.
Hirsutism is mostly genetic, caused by medication or due to an underlying condition. It’s most likely an inherited condition “if you have a normal cyclic pattern of menstrual periods,” as Harvard Medical School puts it. The common causes of hirsutism are:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)—a disorder where females produce high levels of male hormones (androgen), which may manifest in irregular periods, obesity, and excess hair growth.
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia—a genetic condition wherein the adrenal glands produce too much steroid hormones in the body, including cortisol and androgen.
- Tumors—in rare cases, abnormal growths in the ovaries or adrenal glands secrete androgens, which in turn causes the hirsutism.
- High Insulin Levels—overstimulating the ovarian cells to produce androgens or activating the insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) to increase androgen production.
- Thyroid Disorders—wherein the thyroid produces more hormones than what’s needed to regulate metabolism and manage body temperature (including hair-growth hormones).
- Cushing Syndrome—when high levels of the cortisol hormone are introduced into the body, or when the adrenal glands make too much cortisol.
- Medications—including minoxidil, danazol, testosterone gels, or dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Frequent skin-to-skin contact with people who use topical products containing androgens may also lead to unwanted hair growth.
Common Hair Removal Options
Like most women, Sanie and others with hirsutism usually turn to DIY hair-removal solutions that can be done in the privacy of home—mostly shaving and plucking. They too put themselves through salon treatments like waxing and threading. Depilatory creams and various products to get rid of unwanted hair are also a go-to.
However, one can only go so far with shaving, plucking, or waxing. It’s easy to do these on your own for the underarms, legs, and torso. But it may prove tricky for hard-to-reach areas such as the back and buttocks. Regular shaving or plucking off hair from the face is not always a good idea since the skin there is more sensitive.
Likewise, there’s the risk of razor burns, cuts, or swelling with shaving, plucking, or waxing. And nearly all women can attest to the inconvenience, discomfort, and occasional pain of doing it frequently. Ingrown hair could also develop on oft-shaved, plucked, or waxed areas.
Another downside is keratosis pilaris, where keratin builds up and gets clogged in the pores and prevents the hair shaft from growing out of the follicles—creating patches of ‘chicken skin’. In rare cases, folliculitis or infection of the hair follicle might develop.
On the other hand, there are depilatory creams that contain alkaline chemicals that safely react with the hairs on your body by breaking down the keratin. However, some products may cause rashes, mild irritation, burning, and itching.
Treatments Delivered by Dermatologists
Aside from home remedies and DIY solutions, there are various hair-removal treatments that a dermatologist can offer.
One such treatment is electrolysis, where shortwave radio frequencies delivering heat are applied to the skin to destroy the growth centre of the hair. The common side effects associated with this procedure is skin irritation, pain, and swelling.
The doctor may also prescribe medication or FDA-approved prescription creams that are clinically proven to reduce the growth of unwanted facial hair, particularly in women.
And finally, there’s medical-grade laser hair removal, where pinpoints of laser light are beamed at the targeted area, causing the weakening of the follicles, and inhibiting growth. Hair does tend to grow back but in shorter lengths and within a longer amount of time.
There are different kinds of laser hair removal devices, each specifically designed for unwanted underarm or facial hair, and larger areas like the back, chest, and shoulders. But there are also laser devices that can be used on the whole body.
At The Aesthetics Centre, we offer hair removal services using the GentleMax Pro™ by Candela™, which has been used widely in the industry for 20 years now. It is a dual-platform laser that delivers a 755nm Alexandrite laser and a 1064nm Nd:YAG laser. It can be used for different treatment options, and for most types of skin colouring.
How you address unwanted hair is a matter of personal preference—for Sanie and others with hirsutism or any woman for that matter. It’s your choice whether to stick with quick-fixes such as shaving or plucking, or a more permanent solution such as laser hair removal.
But before making a beeline for the nearest salon, keep in mind that the laser hair removal procedure is meant to be performed at a certified facility. Aside from administering the treatment, Dr Anita can give you the consultation and advice that only a trained and accredited professional can.
So, chin up ladies and put your ‘hair scare’ to rest. Let The Aesthetics Centre guide you on your first step to hair-free silky-smooth skin. Be beautiful the way you want, how you want it. Just glow with it!