What are my options for dealing with excessive facial hair?
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. Everyone has facial hair, but the amount, thickness, length, and color may vary. This means, what’s considered “excessive” hair growth is subjective. An increase in hair growth can be associated with many factors, including genetics, hormone levels, certain medications, or underlying health conditions. Electrolysis is one way to remove unwanted hair, and it’s approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and generally considered safe.
There are various conditions characterized by excessive hair growth, such as hypertrichosis. Hypertrichosis—also known as the werewolf syndrome—is a broad condition encompassing different types of excessive hair growth on the body. Both people assigned male at birth (AMAB) and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) can have hypertrichosis, which may be caused by inherited syndromes, medication use, inflammation, or physical trauma.
Another condition known as hirsutism, mainly characterized by an overabundance of hair growth, primarily affects people AFAB. Hirsutism often involves dark hair growth on the upper lip, chin, chest, or back. Hirsutism is caused by elevated levels of androgens (a type of hormone) and can occur naturally, be linked to medication use, or be a symptom of underlying conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or Cushing’s syndrome.
While having too much facial hair doesn’t usually harm your physical health, it could affect your mental health. For some, the solution is to try hair removal methods, such as electrolysis, which removes hair permanently. Electrolysis treatment involves inserting a thin needle into the hair follicle and delivering an electric shock, which damages the hair root and prevents hair from growing. Electrolysis is currently the only FDA-approved permanent hair removal method and is suitable for sensitive areas of the body. Electrolysis is also considered safer than laser hair removal due to the fact that it’s non-invasive, and laser has the potential to damage the skin.
That said, you may experience slight discomfort during the treatment and reddening or temporary dark spots on your skin after treatment. If the procedure isn’t done correctly, it’s possible to experience scarring or get an infection from an unsterile needle. However, these risks are extremely low if you go to a practice certified in electrolysis.
If you notice unusual hair growth or feel dissatisfied with the hair removal methods you’ve tried, you may want to see a health care provider. They may run tests to understand if you have any underlying health conditions that may be contributing to the growth. Based on the test results, they can offer treatment options. You may also choose to see a mental health professional if you’re feeling any emotional distress.
Remember that, at the end of the day, what you do with your hair is up to you—whether you choose to keep it or leave it. If you opt for electrolysis, it’s best to choose a professional facility.
Cheers to unraveling the mysteries of hair and its electrifying solutions!
Originally published May 01, 1994
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