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Monday, March 14, 2011

Hirsutism (Unwanted facial hair)

Okay, so this "living out loud" this year isn't always fun and exciting. Sometimes, it's downright embarrassing. But I'm committed to doing this whole transformation on this blog, and that means sometimes either you or I am going to end up cringing. Today it may be both.  :-)

Today's topic is Hirsutism, also affectionately known in some circles as Brillo Chin (thanks to my friend Nancy for that term). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines it this way:

Excessive or unwanted hair in women
The normal amount of body hair varies widely among women. Usually, a woman will only grow fine hair (peach fuzz) on her lips, chin, chest, abdomen, or back. When women grow coarse, dark hairs in these areas, the condition is called hirsutism. This pattern of hair growth is more typical of men.

All women normally produce low levels of male hormones (androgens). Unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) in women may occur when the body makes too much male hormone.

In most cases, the exact cause is never identified. It tends to run in families. In general, hirsutism is a harmless condition. But many women find it bothersome, or even embarrassing.

A common cause is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS and other hormone conditions that cause unwanted hair growth may also have acne, problems with menstrual periods, trouble losing weight, a deeper voice similar to that of men, and diabetes. If these symptoms start suddenly, there may be a tumor that releases male hormones.

The following other causes of unwanted hair growth are rare:

  • Tumor or cancer of the adrenal gland
  • Tumor or cancer of the ovary
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Hyperthecosis (a condition in which the ovaries produce too much male hormones)
  • Medications (testosterone, danazol, anabolic steroids, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, minoxidil, phenytoin)

Rarely a woman with hirsutism will have normal levels of male hormones, and the specific cause of the unwanted hair growth cannot be identified.

I think they forget to mention that this happens to a LOT of women also after menopause, because the body stops producing estrogen like in it's heyday. I had a full hysterectomy in 2001 which seemed to launch my little problem into epic proportions. 

So I have spent the better part of a decade embarrassed and often humiliated by this 'beard' of sorts.  Brillo chin. Hairs that hide until you look and realize you have one that's 2 freaking inches long that came out of nowhere. Or I'd let it grow (that was attractive, a nice little goatee) so I could have it waxed. That would only last a week or so before stubble would come back.

So my two real options to get rid of it were electrolysis or laser hair removal. Electrolysis is permanent, but can cause permanent scarring and swelling in the affected area. Laser hair removal only lasts about 6 months and then can be maintained with "booster shots." Last fall I opted for the laser hair removal and had AMAZING results.It took 3 monthly visits to get the results I needed and now I'm on the "every 6 months" booster phase.

Today it's time for a treatment as the hair is starting to come back.

The process is pretty simple.
  1. Let the hair grow without waxing it for a good month or longer before the procedure. You need the roots there! So they recommend you <gulp> shave for a month. Yuck.
  2. For treatment day, get a prescription numbing cream and put it on your face for an hour before the procedure. The hard part of this is finding some clever way to keep the cream on. The laser center recommended saran wrap and tape. I used 'press'n peel' wrap and electrical tape. 
  3. I HIGHLY recommend taking some motrin about 30 minutes before going. The process is quick but feels like someone is snapping (HARD) rubber bands all over the affected area. It stings.
  4. Wipe the cream off at the laser treatment place, lay back, and in a few minutes it will be over.
  5. Leave, hairless, knowing you won't have to hide, shave, wax, etc. for 6 months. YAY!
I spent 10 years hating to interact with people because I had a hard time hiding this problem. If I shaved it, I got stubble just like a guy. In order to wax, it meant going for many days doing nothing so the hair could grow out long enough to wax. After a while I took a "skaroo it" approach and tried to ignore it. All those methods left my esteem in the toilet.

The laser solution is neither permanent nor cheap. I put this on the "Care Credit" credit card ( and it's interest free for 18 months.  

Laser treatments............$350 per visit
Numbing cream............$15.00

Walking around with my head held high without embarrassment and humiliation?..............Priceless.

Update 3/14/11 @ 8 pm

Here's what it looked like within a couple of minutes of the procedure (it looks worse than it felt, kind of):

And here's what it looked like about an hour later (bumps almost gone and NO HAIR woohoo!):

This should last now for another 6 months.  YAY!


1 comment:

  1. I haave only known u since December. I see u alot. I can say, Ive never seen the hair ur talking about. So..ur doing a great job dealing with it. We all have bad crap we dont want. So keep up chin up(haha). ur beautiful. Rhonda


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