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If You Are "Too Hairy," Here's What You Can Do

Dermatologists reveal ways to get rid of unwanted body hair.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Hypertrichosis is a condition that causes excess body hair and it can affect anyone. The National Library of Medicine states, "Hypertrichosis is defined as excessive hair growth anywhere on the body in either males or females. It is important to distinguish hypertrichosis from hirsutism, which is a term reserved for females who grow an excessive amount of terminal hairs in androgen-dependent sites." When it comes to removing unwanted hair, there are options and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with dermatologists who explained how to treat hypertrichosis and hirsutism. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Causes Excess Body Hair

woman consulting with her female doctor

Dr. Kellie Reed, MD, board-certified dermatologist, Westlake Dermatology, Austin said, "The cause of excess body hair, also known as hypertrichosis, is often unknown. However, there is congenital hypertrichosis which may be due to a spontaneous genetic mutation. Other acquired forms may be associated with various conditions like certain medications, malnutrition, underlying malignancy, or porphyria cutanea tarda. It is not known why these conditions trigger excessive hair growth. Increased body hair in a male pattern distribution in women is called hirsutism and is hormonally driven."

Cedars Sinai states, "Hirsutism can run in families. It may also be caused by:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is the most common cause of hirsutism in women. It is a disorder that causes hormone problems.
  • Disorders of the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or thyroid gland
  • Tumor on the ovary that makes extra androgens
  • Severe insulin resistance
  • Changes in hormones from menopause
  • Use of anabolic steroids or corticosteroids
  • Use of medicine to treat endometriosis
  • Certain other medicines

In some cases, the cause isn't known. This is called idiopathic hirsutism."

The Mayo Clinic says, "Hirsutism may be caused by:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition, which often begins with puberty, causes an imbalance of sex hormones. Over years, PCOS may slowly result in excess hair growth, irregular periods, obesity, infertility and sometimes multiple cysts on the ovaries.
  • Cushing syndrome. This occurs when your body is exposed to high levels of the hormone cortisol. It can develop from your adrenal glands making too much cortisol or from taking medications such as prednisone over a long period.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia. This inherited condition is characterized by abnormal production of steroid hormones, including cortisol and androgen, by your adrenal glands.
  • Tumors. Rarely, an androgen-secreting tumor in the ovaries or adrenal glands can cause hirsutism.
  • Medications. Some medications can cause hirsutism. These include minoxidil (Minoxidil, Rogaine); danazol, which is used to treat women with endometriosis; testosterone (Androgel, Testim); and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). If your partner uses topical products containing androgens, you can be affected as well, through skin-to-skin contact."


Who is At Risk for Hypertrichosis and Hirsutism

Woman is holding a mobile phone and a bottle of pills

Dr. Reed says, "People who have malnutrition such as those who suffer from anorexia, those taking certain medications (such as androgenic steroids, phenytoin, cyclosporin), those with porphyria cutanea tarda, or those with cancer."

Cedars Sinai states, "You are more at risk for hirsutism if you have any of these:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Parents or siblings with excess hair growth
  • Disorders of the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or thyroid gland
  • Severe insulin resistance
  • Changes in hormones from menopause
  • Use of anabolic steroids or corticosteroids
  • Use of medicine to treat endometriosis"


Symptoms of Hypertrichosis and Hirsutism

man with hair loss problem indoors

"Excessive hair growth above the normal for the age, sex, and race or a person," says Dr. Reed.

The Mayo Clinic states, "Hirsutism is stiff or dark body hair, appearing on the body where women don't commonly have hair — primarily the face, chest, lower abdomen, inner thighs and back. People have widely varying opinions on what's considered excessive.

When high androgen levels cause hirsutism, other signs might develop over time, a process called virilization. Signs of virilization might include:

  • Deepening voice
  • Balding
  • Acne
  • Decreased breast size
  • Increased muscle mass


Treatment for Excess Body Hair

doctor and patient having a somber conversation

Dr. Jeremy Fenton, board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City and Long Beach, NY says, "For those that have excess body hair from a genetic predisposition, there is nothing you can do to prevent it. For those that have it due to a hormonal imbalance, the sooner you get diagnosed and potentially treated, the more likely you can prevent the hair from growing. " 



Man shaves his leg isolated

Dr. Fenton shares, "This is inexpensive and easy to do yourself. However, it must be repeated in order to keep the hair short enough so you can 't see it. It also leads to stubble once it starts regrowing."



Mature woman inspecting her skin in front of the bathroom mirror.

Dr. Fenton states, "This is also fairly easy and inexpensive. You can do it yourself at home or have somebody do it for you. It can be painful and can often irritate the skin or leave behind pimples. It usually lasts longer than shaving because it pulls the hair at the root. This also will lead to your hair growing back thinner and thinner over time."



Skin resurfacing on a woman's forehead with the fractional laser at the dermatologist

According to Dr. Fenton, "This is a tedious and sometimes expensive process in which the hairs are removed individually. The benefit to this is that you can treat blonde and grey / white hairs. It does require repeat treatments."


Topical Eflornithine

woman applying neck cream

Dr. Reed says, "Topical Eflornithine is a cream that can help decrease facial hair. It can take 8 weeks of twice daily use to see improvement. It slows the growth of facial hair."


Laser Hair Reduction

Female doctor in latex gloves performing the laser skin resurfacing on the young patient face

Dr Fenton reveals, "The most effective option: laser hair removal. This can sometimes be expensive, but offers the most effective long-term solution.  The hair may regrow but will never be as thick and dark as it was originally. There is some risk of getting a burn or other complication if you are not being treated by a doctor or technician who is not well-trained. Unfortunately, it only works on hair with a color – so it doesn't work on blonde or grey/white hairs."

 Dr. Reed adds, "Selectively delivers energy to a hair follicle, specifically the bulge region which houses the follicle stem cells. Multiple treatment sessions are needed to achieve desired results. This is also not permanent, and often needs repeat treatments over time for maintenance."



Woman holding a pill in her hand.

Dr. Reed says, "This can be helpful for women with hirsutism as it decreases the levels of total testosterone. It takes at least six months to see the best effects."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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