Excessive Hair Growth

What is excessive hair growth?

Dark, coarse body hair growing in places it does not usually grow is called excessive hair growth, or hirsutism. It can happen in both men and women but is usually more of a problem for women than for men.

What is the cause?

Several things can cause excess hair growth, such as:

  • Genetics. The tendency to have a lot of hair may be inherited, which means that it is passed from parents to children through their genes. Inside each cell of your body are genes. Genes contain the information that tells your body how to develop and work. Having a lot of body hair is more common for some races, ethnic backgrounds, and families.
  • Hormone problems. If your body makes too much of some hormones, you may have more body hair.
  • Some medicines, such as hormones or steroids

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is unwanted dark, coarse hair on places such as your upper lip, cheeks, chin, neck, chest, belly, inner thighs, or low back.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have blood tests to check the levels of hormones in your blood.

How is it treated?

The treatment of excessive hair growth depends on the cause. If it is caused by a medical problem, treatment of the problem may help stop the growth of extra hair. If the hair growth is caused by medicine you have been taking, a change in medicines may help.

Extra hair growth caused by pregnancy hormones usually goes away within 6 months after delivery.

If excessive hair growth is a racial, ethnic, or family trait, you may choose to remove unwanted hair. Professional hair removal methods include:

  • Hot wax treatments. Hot wax is a way to remove hair for a short time, but the hair will grow back. Waxing can cause heat burns or irritate your skin when the wax is peeled off.
  • Electrolysis, which uses a pulse of electricity at the base of each hair to destroy the part of the skin that grows hair, called the hair follicle. You will need several treatments to remove the hair permanently.
  • Laser hair removal, which uses a laser to destroy the hair follicle. Laser therapy works best on dark hairs. You will need several treatments to remove hair permanently.

Every hair removal method has risks. Ask about the risks before you have any procedure. See a licensed professional cosmetologist, esthetician, or electrologist for these procedures. Check with cosmetic surgery or skin care clinics or full-service beauty salons. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have.

How can I take care of myself?

Here are some things you can do at home to treat excess hair growth:

  • Use tweezers to remove a few hairs, such as around the eyebrows or chin.
  • Shave large body areas such as the belly, legs, and underarms.
  • Use depilatory creams to remove hair. These creams may irritate your skin and should not be used around your eyes or in your genital area. Carefully follow the directions on the labels of hair removal products. Try the product first on a small patch of skin before you use it on a large area.
  • Make hair lighter and less noticeable with bleaching. Bleaching works well on the arms, thighs, and just below the nose. Bleaching can cause blisters, rashes, or peeling skin. Carefully follow the directions on product labels.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-05
Last reviewed: 2013-12-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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