Help & Advice

What is Hirsutism?

Hirsutism is a condition of excessive hair growth affecting up to 15% of premenopausal women.  After menopause, however, up to 75% of women experience an increase in hair growth in unwanted places.

What are the symptoms of Hirutism?

In hirsutism the hair exhibits:

  • Stiff and pigmented qualities
  • Male pattern growth appearing on the body where women do not typically grow thick, dark hair such as the:
    • Face
    • Chest and stomach (from the belly button to the pubic hair)
    • Back

What causes Hirsutism?

  • Excessive amounts of the male sex hormones called androgens
  • Increased sensitivity to androgens leading to an over response of the body to normal androgen levels
  • Conditions that alter the balance of female hormones in the body such as:
    • Polycystic ovary syndrome
    • Cushing’s syndrome
    • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
    • Tumors
  • There are often no identifiable causes (10% of cases)
    • Women of particular ethnic groups are more likely to be affected (e.g. those of Mediterranean ancestry)

Are there any complications related to Hirsutism?

  • Psychological symptoms
    • Can cause one to feel self-conscious or even depressed
  • Other conditions may occur alongside hirsutism, which could be indicative of excessively high androgen levels.  These include:
    • Acne and oily skin
    • Deepening of voice
    • Baldness or receding hair line
    • Enlarged clitoris

How is Hirsutism treated?

A combination approach using the following treatments often gives the best results.

  • Self-care methods include:
    • Plucking, shaving, waxing and chemical depilatories to remove unwanted hair
    • Bleaching to lighten hair making it less visible
  • Hair-removal therapies and procedures include:
    • Electrolysis and laser therapy
  • Medications include:
    • Topical cream
      • Vaniqa (eflornithine) is the only topical prescription treatment that slows the growth of facial hair.
        • Works at the root by inhibiting an enzyme essential for hair growth.  Although it slows new growth, Vaniqa has no effect on existing hair.
        • Can be used in combination with all other treatment options and may reduce the need to remove hair by other means as frequently
        • Non-hormonal
    • Oral Medications
      • Oral Contraceptives containing estrogen and progestin
        • Work by inhibiting androgen production by the ovaries
      • Anti-Androgens
        • Work by blocking androgens from attaching to androgen receptors in the body
        • Must be taken with oral contraceptives in those of child-bearing age as they can cause birth defects

Because hair growth is a slow process, it may take around six months for certain treatments to work so it is important to be patient when treating hirsutism.