Excessive facial hair in women

Dr. Apratim GoelMBBS,MD,DNB

May 23, 2020

May 23, 2020

Excessive facial hair in women
Excessive facial hair in women

Having facial hair is, of course, normal for women: just like men, our bodies have hair follicles all over the skin. However, different women can have different hair growth: while some may have fine and sparse hair, others may have more. Hair growth pattern can also vary depending upon your family history.

While excess facial hair does not cause any harm, it may instil a sense of self-consciousness in some women. In some of the cases, this excessive hair growth can even be a sign of underlying health conditions.

Hirsutism is a medical term used to define excessive hair growth on a woman’s body and face. This condition affects around 5-10% of women in the world during their reproductive age. Usually, the texture of hair in women is very fine and light in colour. However, a woman with hirsutism would present with thick, dark and coarse hair on the chin, sideburns, chest, around the nipples, tummy, upper and lower back, buttocks and/or upper inner thighs.

While some women accept their excessive facial hair growth, others may wish to get rid of the excess. Here in this article, we will tell you about the reasons for excessive facial hair in women and some ways that can help these women get rid of their unwanted hair.

Excessive facial hair in women causes

Getting facial hair is normal for both men and women. Some women get excessive hair on their bodies due to their genes. If they have a family history of excessive body hair, they are more likely to get the same. But sometimes getting excessive facial hair may indicate some underlying disease or condition that requires treatment. Some of the conditions that can lead to excessive facial hair in women are:

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): In most of the cases of excessive facial hair in women, the reason is PCOS. In PCOS, a large number of immature follicles (fluid-filled sacs containing the eggs) accumulate in the ovaries. As a result, the ovaries can become swollen, which affects the balance of sex hormones in the body. Along with extra facial hair, the woman may complain of the irregular menstrual cycle, weight gain, weak hair and pimples.
  • Enzyme deficiency: Deficiency of the enzyme 17-hydroxylase in women may lead to excessive hair growth on their bodies and faces. Due to this enzyme deficiency, male hormones such as testosterone, start increasing in the body.
  • Hypertrichosis: It is a condition that can be seen in both men and women and is also known as the werewolf syndrome. It can occur due to certain drugs or some underlying medical conditions such as congenital hypothyroidism, acromegaly (increased growth hormone in the body), malnutrition, and sometimes even HIV infection. Hypertrichosis can lead to hair growth on the ear lobe and nasal tip. Hyper means more and trichosis refers to any disease of the hair.
  • Cushing’s syndrome: It is a medical condition marked by an abnormality in the adrenal gland which leads to the formation of excessive cortisol hormone in the body. Cortisol hormone is also known as the stress hormone, as it is released in response to the stressful situations such a disease. Other than hair growth, a woman with Cushing’s syndrome would present with excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, irregular periods and irritability.
  • Male-hormone producing tumours: There are certain tumours that present on the adrenal glands and lead to the production of male sex hormones (testosterone) in the body. These androgen-secreting tumours cause abnormal hair growth in women. They may also lead to a masculine hoarse voice, acne and ambiguous genitalia in women.
  • Drugs: There are certain medications that can promote the abnormal growth of hair in women. Medications used for hormonal therapy (testosterone), for the treatment of endometriosis (danazol), for increasing muscle mass (anabolic steroids) and for the treatment of multiple inflammations (glucocorticoids) may lead to the growth of abnormal hair in women.

Tips to remove excess facial hair in women

Women who wish to get rid of the excess facial hair can choose any of the following procedures of hair removal:

  • Plucking: Every woman has a plucker at home. You can easily remove the extra hair off your eyebrow region, upper lips and chin with the help of a plucker. However, it may not prove effective for heavy hair growth.
  • Shaving: Women who do not wish to go to salons to get rid of their facial hair, don't have to—all they need is a razor. You can buy any razor from the market and use it. Wet the area you want to remove hair from with water and apply any shaving cream, gel or even soap. Once it lathers up, use the razor along the direction of the hair. Once done, wash that area and apply any moisturizer.
  • Depilatory cream: Depilatory creams are easily available in the market and are painless. But make sure that you test the cream on a small section of your hand or leg to test for any allergies first. If you are not allergic to the cream, all you need to do is apply the cream with a spatula on the specific area, let it stay for the recommended time and then take it off with the spatula.
  • Waxing: Waxing can be done at home with the help of soft or hard wax. This can get a little messy, as the wax needs to be melted properly and can become too hot for the skin. Do not practice it at home, if you don’t know how to use the wax or else you may end up burning yourself.
    Rather than hard wax, you can get waxing strips from the market, which already have wax on them. Put the strip on the specific area for hair removal, rub it nicely and remove the strip opposite to the direction of the hair. Wax strips are a lot easier to use than the hot wax.
  • Threading: Threading is a way of removing unwanted facial hair by plucking them out with the help of a twisted cotton thread. You can get this done in salons.
  • Epilators: An epilator is a device which plucks your hair from their roots. It can be painful.
  • Laser hair removal: You can get laser hair removal treatment done by a medical professional. In this treatment, the doctor uses laser light which damages the hair follicles. This leads to a decrease in the amount and rate of hair growth.
  • Electrolysis: Electrolysis is a treatment done to reduce the growth of new hair and can only be done by certified medical professionals. In this treatment, the doctor passes electric current to the hair follicles which damages them and prevents them from forming hair again.
  • Bleaching: Bleaching does not remove the excessive facial hair but it lightens the colour of the hair, making it less visible. Hydroquinone is one of the most common ingredients found in the bleaching kits for the face. You must test the bleaching agent for allergies before using it on your face.

Precautions for removing excess facial hair in women

You need to be cautious while using any of the procedures for hair removal listed above. Keep following things in mind while removing your facial hair:

  • While shaving, make sure that your razor is new and does not have any rust on the blades. A rusty razor may cause skin infections
  • Do not shave hastily or you will end up with cuts (open wounds) and bruises.
  • While using hot wax, make sure that the wax is tolerable on your skin, or else it can cause minor burns. Turn off the wax heater if you see the wax forming bubbles.
  • Do not shave against the grain (in the direction opposite to the hair growth) as it can lead to ingrown hair and sometimes folliculitis. Folliculitis is a condition where the skin shows pinpoint red bumps with a strand of hair in it.
  • Test the depilatory cream and bleaching cream on a small area on your arm or leg before using it on your face.
  • Apply a moisturizer after shaving, as shaving can make the skin dry.
  • Always wet your skin before using an epilator.


  1. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Polycystic ovary syndrome
  2. MSDmanual consumer version [internet].Hairiness. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA
  3. Cleveland Clinic. [Internet]. Cleveland, Ohio. Excessive Hair Growth (Hirsutism)
  4. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; Excessive hair growth (hirsutism)
  5. Sharma NL, Mahajan VK, Jindal R, Gupta M, Lath A. HIRSUTISM: CLINICO-INVESTIGATIVE PROFILE OF 50 INDIAN PATIENTS. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(3):111‐114.
  6. American Family Physician.American Academy of Family Physicians [Internet]. Leawood (KS); Evaluation and Treatment of Women with Hirsutism
  7. Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.Columbia University Irving Medical Center [Internet]. New York. United States; Sex-hormone Producing Tumor

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