Excessive hair growth can affect both men and women. The medical name for excessive hair growth on women is called hirsutism. Hirsutism is the condition that causes thick, dark hair to grow on the body and commonly affected places are the face, chest and stomach. Men naturally grow more hair than women, however, the medical term for excessive hair growth on men is called hypertrichosis, which is an extremely rare condition characterised by an abnormal increase in body hair.
Excessive hair growth in women is caused by an imbalance of androgen hormones. These are a group of hormones, such as testosterone, that are produced in high levels in men, which is where their name ‘androgen’ comes from – a derivative of the Greek ‘andr’ meaning ‘man’. Androgens are produced in women too – but in smaller quantities – and when the body produces too many androgens, excess hair growth is one of the main symptoms it induces.
The most common cause of hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome, menopause, some contraceptive pills and pregnancy. However, if excessive hair growth runs in the family, it may also be inherited.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is usually associated with irregular hormone levels in the body. Many women with polycystic ovaries have a resistance to insulin, which in turn, results in an impairment of ovulation and causes the body to release higher levels of androgens which are primarily produced in the ovaries.
The menopause can also cause excessive hair growth due to the hormonal imbalances between oestrogen and testosterone. During the menopause, oestrogen naturally diminishes which means the remaining testosterone levels become dominant and the effects of this hormone – such as an increase of darker body and facial hair – presents itself visibly.
Some oral contraceptive pills can also cause changes in body hair, but usually the contraceptive pill is one way to treat excessive hair growth as this helps to regulate and suppress androgens.
Excessive hair growth is often seen prepartum as pregnancy causes a wide range of hormonal and physiological changes to help support the growing baby. However, any extra hair grown during pregnancy is usually temporary and should gradually lessen after birth.
Hypertrichosis, on the other hand, does not occur because of hormone fluctuations and can be a symptom of a serious illness, like cancer, a brain tumour or malnutrition. This is a very rare condition and is sometimes known as ‘werewolf syndrome’.
- Growth of thick, dark hair on the face and other parts of the body
Excessive hair does not always have to be dark and there are three other types of hair that can be equally as troublesome. These are:
- Vellus hair – short, fine downy hair that is often known as ‘peach fuzz’
- Lanugo hair – soft, light-coloured that is longer than vellus hair and can cover large, and small, areas of the body
- Terminal hair – thicker, longer and very pigmented hair usually found on the face, armpits and pubic area. This type of hair is influenced mainly by androgen hormones.
If you notice a sudden change in hair growth, it is best to visit your GP as this is usually a sign of hormone changes.
We offer two types of professional hair removal treatments that work towards achieving complete hair reduction and these are:
Laser hair removal – This is the main treatment we offer which can target large areas of unwanted hair and is gentle enough to use on the delicate parts of the face. Laser hair removal works by using the ultimate combination of light and heat technology to lastingly alter the hair growing environment, where after each session you’ll notice hair regrowth is significantly lighter and finer than before. The biggest benefit of laser hair removal is that once the hair follicle has been altered, the hair does not grow back – so you can expect long-lasting smooth and hair-free skin every time.
Electrolysis – The ideal treatment for targeting small areas of dark or fine vellus hair. Laser hair removal cannot target light hair, so electrolysis is usually seen as an alternative treatment and works by destroying each individual hair follicle using an ultra-fine probe and passing a small electrical current through it. The electrical current is then converted to heat energy which is able to remove even the smallest of hairs.
To prevent excessive hair growth, there are a few options you can do. The first thing to do is try losing weight (if you’re overweight) as this can help regulate fluctuating hormone levels and improve insulin activity which often goes hand in hand with excessive hair growth.
You can also try manual, at-home methods to physically remove any unwanted hair, such as waxing, bleaching and hair removal creams. However, this may cause heavier regrowth which is why a professional route is recommended. You can also be prescribed a cream to slow hair growth on the face, known as an eflornithine cream, but this cream can cause burning, stinging and redness and may not be suitable for sensitive skin.
Certain contraceptive pills are also used to prevent excessive hair growth. The best ones would be the combined pill, which is a mix of both estrogen and progestin, or just the progestin-only pill which is low in androgens and may help to counteract the effects of them.
There are some types of medication to help directly decrease androgen production and may be suitable for men and women. For men, you can speak to your GP about anti-androgens and for women (especially those in, or entering, the menopause), your suitability for hormone replacement therapy will be assessed which may help alleviate excessive hair growth.
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