Women's Health Wednesday May 27, 2015

Hirsutism Q&A - With The Hirsutism Hub

Hirsutism is a condition that causes a woman (or man) to develop excessive hair growth on parts of the body including face, neck, chest, stomach, and genital area. Around 1 in 10 women will develop excess facial hair as a result of the condition.

We contacted leading hirsutism blogger, The Hirsutism Hub to see if her readers/followers would be interested in having our experts answer common questions about excessive hair and all things related to hirsutism. The response has been overwhelming with each question as unique as the last. Unfortunately our experts were unable to answer all the questions (sorry), but below are the ones that made the final cut.

What method of hair removal is best?

Deciding which hair removal options work for you will depend on a number of things. For example, what kind of hair you have, how your hair and skin react to the process and how long you want the results to last. There are a variety of methods available, and the effectiveness of them can vary from person to person. Some people will respond very well to over-the-counter solutions, whereas others may require alternative options such as prescription treatments or laser hair removal. Many women wish to avoid shaving certain areas, such as the face, but then some may prefer it as a regular way of keeping on top of their hair removal. Making this decision is something that you should do based on the experience you've had with various products.

Does shaving make the hair darker and thicker?

Despite appearances, this is a myth. In actual fact, shaving does not lead to the hair growing back thicker or darker. However, shaving does mean the hair will grow back with a blunt tip – and may therefore appear thicker. This is why the regrowth feels 'stubbly' and may seem more noticeable than the hair that was there before. This is a good reason many women avoid shaving areas such as the face.

Does Vaniqa really work?

As a prescription medication, Vaniqa has been clinically proven to work. Indeed, in order for any medication to be issued on prescription, it needs to have passed rigorous clinical testing to make sure that it is effective in the majority of cases. Vaniqa contains an active ingredient, eflornithine, which works on the hair follicles to minimise hair growth and minimise the visibility of hair, with results evident after just four to six weeks of use.

How do I find a doctor or support system that actually cares about hirsutism and PCOS?! All the doctors I visit blow me off!

Unfortunately, some doctors will take less time to talk to people with these kinds of conditions. As they are not always seen as harmful to your health, some people with these conditions may have experienced a negative attitude or reception. It can be difficult to gauge the level of distress that a person with excess hair growth is experiencing. Although most doctors will have an understanding of the psychological issues, they may not be as understanding as someone who has extensive training in the psychological field. If you have experienced this sort of reaction, then it is worth remembering that there are help groups, like Verity that exist specifically to support people who have PCOS. Voicing your concerns is the best way to ensure that you receive the help you deserve.

Some studies show insulin resistance is related to idiopathic hirsutism? Will I develop insulin resistance or diabetes if I have hirsutism?

Although links have been made between hirsutism and insulin levels, as yet, it has not been concluded for certain how far this connection goes. Certainly, there has not been any conclusive research conducted to suggest that you are more likely to develop diabetes if you have hirsutism. In fact, it is thought that a high level of insulin in the blood may play a role in causing hirsutism. If you are concerned that you may be developing, or at risk of developing, diabetes, then it is important that you discuss this with a doctor. Symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot, tiredness and sometimes weight loss.

What is the best birth control for hirsutism? I know many doctors will prescribe that to reduce symptoms.

The combined oral contraceptive pill is the best birth control you can use for hirsutism. This includes one of the most popular pills, Yasmin. Whilst the combined contraceptive may still take about 6 months to work, this is still the most common treatment for hirsutism. Another type of contraceptive – although more closely related to acne treatment – is co-cyprindiol. It is always advised to talk to your doctor before starting treatment.

Should women invest in at-home hair removal IPL devices?

Hair removal IPL devices have been successful in removing a significant amount of hair, however these generally work best for those with average hair growth. Many IPL devices are not recommended for use on eyebrows or the face, so they may not be appropriate for you. However, there are devices out there that can really help. The best option is to visit your doctor and do plenty of online and in-store research before investing.

Are there any herbal supplements that could curb hirsutism?

There are certain herbal remedies that could potentially help reduce facial hair growth, however with herbal supplements, research can be slightly inconsistent. The University of Maryland Medical Centre have stated that chaste tree, spearmint tea, palmetto and black cohosh could all help the condition, as well as cinnamon or green tea.

What is the best way to get rid of hair on large areas (i.e on the back)?

There are hair removal treatments suitable for large areas such as your back but you will obviously need a helping hand, which can be embarrassing and sometimes costly, if you choose to visit a salon. There are hair removal creams for various areas of the body, but for large areas, something more substantial such as regular waxing or laser treatments can provide longer lasting results.

Will medicines like Spironolactone make my head hair fall out too?

The side effects of anti-androgens such as spironolactone haven't been fully reviewed so there is no direct link between the medication and hair loss from your head. Whilst spironolactone does prevent hair growth, there are a number of better treatments for hirsutism you can try beforehand. A review of research into using spironolactone to treat hirsutism found only weak evidence that this treatment is effective.

Will losing weight help me reduce hirsutism?

Research shows that being in control of your weight can help reduce the symptoms of hirsutism. Losing weight reduces the production of androgens and therefore the amount of hair your body grows. It has also been suggested that the sorts of food you eat could help control excessive hair growth. A high intake of vitamin B, lots of protein and foods that contain magnesium such as avocados, nuts and fish, can help. Drinking spearmint tea and eating fewer carbs (but not cutting them out entirely) have also been found to improve symptoms.

The Hirsutism Hub is a blog/website designed to help women all over the globe contend with the embarrassment of excess body hair. Founder and brain child of the blog, Mo, has pledged to help women with androgen excess conditions (hirsutism, PCOS, etc.) deal with their self-esteem problems due to excessive hair growth and removal. To find out more, read her blog.

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