Excess facial hair

Originally Published: May 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 13, 2011
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Alice,

I would like to know the reasons for excess facial hair. Are there any solutions for it? How safe is electrolysis?

—Tales of Hair

Dear Tales of Hair,

Fuzz or no fuzz, an intriguing question. All humans of all ethnicities and genders have some facial hair; however, it's the thickness, quantity, length, and pigmentation of facial hair that varies from person to person. It sounds like you're talking about more facial hair than the average Joe or Jody. There could be multiple reasons for excess facial hair. One thing to take into consideration is whether or not the excess facial hair has recently appeared or if it's always been there. If the excess facial hair is new (or has become unusually thick or dark — especially for a woman), this could indicate some underlying health issue and it may be wise to visit a primary care provider.

Another reason for excess facial hair is genetics. Some families grow darker, courser or thicker body hair than others. The hair growth patterns of one's parents can sometimes be an indicator (though not a sure predictor) of how hairy a person will be.

Medications and certain medical conditions can also cause excess facial hair growth. Usually, however, excess facial hair does not indicate a major medical problem. One mild medical condition that causes excess facial hair growth in women is known as hirsutism. This condition can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious medical condition (such as polycystic ovarian syndrome or, more rarely, Cushing syndrome), but often there is no identifiable cause. You can learn more about hirsutism by checking out Help — I am a woman with a hairy chest! from the Go Ask Alice! archives.

You asked about electrolysis. It's relatively safe, as long as the practitioner is sanitary. Electrolysis involves the use of a tiny metal probe that is inserted into the hair follicle. An electric current destroys the hair at its base. The treatment sometimes has to be repeated for it to be permanent and it can be expensive.

For suggestions on different hair removal methods, including more information on electrolysis, check out Hair removal from the Go Ask Alice! archives and the Q&A's listed below.

Alice