I was around 12 years old or maybe even younger when I saw my first facial hair appear.
I thought nothing of it. I simply believed it was there because it just decided to be! I knew nothing about hormones, blood sugar levels or unexplained weight gain.
I knew nothing about adrenal cancer and thyroid malfunctions. I didn’t even know what “adrenal” and “thyroid” were let alone explain how the two operate to keep us alive!
Regardless, I grabbed a razor, swiped it away and kept it moving.
Little did I know, nearly 15 years later, that that one hair was the start of a serious personal issue for me.
By the time I was a teenager, I had a beard. In high school, being sociable was not easy for obvious reasons. I was actually somewhat popular but I also had a reputation for being stuck up and off-putting. I simply did not want anyone in my grill that would notice my extra facial fur!
It was not until I became an adult that I realized what “hirsutism” was: the medical term for abnormal facial and body hair growth.
In summary, U.S. National Library of Medicine website describes hirsutism as a woman has visible hair growth patterns that resemble that of a man. The hairs start out much like peach fuzz, very light, soft and often not too visible. But over time, they turn into deep, dark, coarser hairs that become a pain to remove.
On my quest to figure out why I was so hairy in the first place, I eventually was diagnosed with idiopathic hirsutism. This means that the hair is growing for no reason. There is nothing medically out of whack with me or my body functions. Idiopathic hirsutism means a woman simply has an extra sensitivity to androgens running in her blood, making her more susceptible to growing hair in places it should not.
But that’s just one disorder.
I was kind of shocked to realize that there are so many causes to your excessive facial hair.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is the most common condition. This condition causes a woman’s normal functions to malfunction. More specifically, as stated by Women Health, her sex hormones, produced in her ovaries, are abnormal. Often times, the major indication of PCOS is just what its name says: cystic ovaries. Normal ovaries have no or very few minute cysts but when the entire ovary is consumed with cysts, there could be a serious problem. Her menstrual cycle may be thrown off, she experiences odd mood swings, losing weight for her may be a headache and her insulin levels may be compromised, prompting the development of diabetes. With her hormonal levels being off setting, the presence of more androgen than more could cause mild to very severe excessive hair growth to the body. And worst of all, a woman with PCOS may experience grave difficulty conceiving.
PCOS can be a life changer for a woman. More disturbingly, PCOS typically starts during the teenage years. So, just imagine the self-esteem issues a young girl with PCOS may have to contend with. Facial hair would be the least of her problems.
My favorite online resource for PCOS is PCOS Challenge. It is a supportive site filled with information and forums for women to share their grievances about PCOS and ways to manage the condition. That’s a positive thing about PCOS; there are countless support forums to assist in treating it.
When your blood sugar levels are compromised, it’s likely that your insulin levels are dangerously high. Thus, you may be experiencing insulin resistance which may develop into diabetes. According to PubMed Health, Diabetes develops usually through genetics or unhealthy lifestyle choices, particularly with diets. Folks with diabetes may have a little extra weight to contend with and will likely have to take insulin supplements for the rest of their lives. Since the natural insulin levels are abnormal it is not unusual for other hormones to be abnormal as well, including androgens. This is especially true for diabetic women who are overweight; it is not uncommon for them to have excessive hair growth as well as thinning hair and acne.
As with diabetes, there are numerous support forums online; one of the most notable ones will be the American Diabetes Association website.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)
According to Medline Plus, CAH occurs when adrenal glands fail to produce the necessary hormones needed for normal body hormonal functions but, for unknown reasons, will create more male hormones. CAH can occur early in life, before puberty. There are even some cases where infants were diagnosed with CAH. Little girls may start to develop excessive facial hair if they are found to have CAH. She may also develop a deep voice, have an enlarged clitoris and start her menstrual cycle later than usual. Luckily, CAH is not as complicated as PCOS and diabetes and can be managed fairly well by taking hydrocortisone supplements long term.
When someone is diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, it means he or she has too much adrenocorticotropic hormone. It more laymans terms, the Mayo Clinic states it is when the body makes too much cortisol. Cortisol is developed in the pituitary gland in the brain. When cortisol is developed far in excess of normal levels, a tumor in the pituitary gland may develop. Cortisol is released during intense moments, particularly situations that may make a person anxious or stressed out. Key symptoms of Cushing’s disease in women are acne, abnormal menstrual cycles and of course, excessive facial hair.
This list certainly is not exclusive. There are many causes to hirsutism. Taking certain drugs may make a woman develop hair where she does not want it, like certain birth control pills, steriods or nictoine.
It is very important that you speak with you doctor, especially an endocrinologist, if you start developing increasing amounts of abnormal facial and body. It could make the world of difference to you and your health.