Facial hair is an issue that many women prefer to keep quiet, with furtive trips to the beauty salon or secret bleaching sessions at home.
However, it’s surprisingly common, with estimates suggesting up one in 10 women has hirsutism, the medical name for excess body hair in women.
While all women have fine, light hair covering their faces and bodies, for some women this hair can be thicker, coarser and more visible – but why? We spoke to dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams at the launch of the new Philips Lumea, where she told us that there are a variety of factors behind female facial hair.
‘Hormones are a major cause of facial hair in women’ says Dr Stefanie. ‘If a woman has a slight hormone imbalance – for example slightly more testosterone than average – it can lead to unwanted hair.’
Conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can lead to these high levels of male hormones, so if you are experiencing facial hair it’s worth seeing your GP to get checked out.
‘Female facial hair can also be genetic,’ explains Dr Stefanie.
The most common time for women to notice the sudden development of facial hair is after the menopause, when huge changes in the body’s hormone balance can lead to alterations in a woman’s appearance.
‘What was previously fine hair can become coarser and more visible thanks to the menopause,’ says Dr Stefanie. ‘Ironically, while the hair on the face becomes thicker, the menopause can also lead to thinning of the hair on top of your head.’
We know what you’re thinking: ‘Oh great.’ Luckily, there are lots of ways you can tackle unwanted facial hair these days. Shaving, waxing and threading are relatively cheap and quick ways to remove the hair, although of course, they require regular maintenance.
Other options to investigate include electrolysis and laser treatments, where electricity or powerful beams of light are used to destroy hair follicles. Although expensive, these treatments can lead to permanent removal of unwanted hair after several sessions.