Unwanted Facial Hair in Women
Excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s body and face is the result of a condition called hirsutism. All women have facial and body hair, but the hair is usually very fine and light in color.
The main difference between typical hair on a woman’s body and face (often called “peach fuzz”) and hair caused by hirsutism is the texture. Excessive or unwanted hair that grows on a woman’s face, arms, back, or chest is usually coarse and dark. The growth pattern of hirsutism in women is associated with virilization. Women with this condition have characteristics that are commonly associated with male hormones.
Hirsutism is not the same as hypertrichosis, which refers to excess hair in areas that aren’t dependent on androgens (male hormones). Hirsutism is excess hair in areas where it’s typically seen in men, such as the face and lower abdomen. Hypertrichosis, on the other hand, can increase hair anywhere on the body.
According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology,hirsutism affects between 5 and 10 percent of women. It tends to run in families, so you may be more likely to have unwanted hair growth if your mother, sister, or other female relative also has it. Women of Mediterranean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern heritage are also more likely to develop the condition.
The presence of excess body hair can lead to feelings of self-consciousness, but it isn’t dangerous. However, the hormonal imbalance that can lead to it may compromise a woman’s health.
Why do women grow excessive or unwanted hair?
Women develop excessive body or facial hair due to higher-than-normal levels of androgens, including testosterone. All females produce androgens, but the levels typically remain low. Certain medical conditions can cause a woman to produce too many androgens. This can cause male-pattern hair growth and other male characteristics, such as a deep voice.
Laser hair removal is a medical procedure that uses a concentrated beam of light (laser) to remove unwanted hair.
During laser hair removal, a laser emits a light that is absorbed by the pigment (melanin) in the hair. The light energy is converted to heat, which damages the tube-shaped sacs within the skin (hair follicles) that produce hairs. This damage inhibits or delays future hair growth.
Although laser hair removal effectively delays hair growth for long periods, it usually doesn’t result in permanent hair removal. Multiple laser hair removal treatments are needed for initial hair removal, and maintenance treatments might be needed as well. Laser hair removal is most effective for people who have light skin and dark hair.
Why it’s done
Laser hair removal is used to reduce unwanted hair. Common treatment locations include legs, armpits, upper lip, chin and the bikini line. However, it’s possible to treat unwanted hair in nearly any area, except the eyelid or surrounding area.
Hair color and skin type influence the success of laser hair removal. The basic principle is that the pigment of the hair, but not the pigment of the skin, should absorb the light. The laser should damage only the hair follicle while avoiding damage to the skin. Therefore, a contrast between hair and skin color — dark hair and light skin — results in the best outcomes.
The risk of damage to skin is greater when there is little contrast between hair and skin color, but advances in laser technology have made laser hair removal an option for people who have darker skin. Laser hair removal is less effective for hair colors that don’t absorb light well: gray, red, blond and white. However, laser treatment options for light-colored hair continue to be developed.
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