It takes a brave woman indeed to break societal conventions of beauty – one such woman is Harnaam Kaur, a 23-year old Britain who is confronting the notion that woman should be sleek and hairless, particularly on the face. Ms Kaur has finally ditched facial hair removal to embrace a full beard, and all for a good cause – to raise awareness of bullying. Her approach may be extreme, but it’s also bringing the taboo subject of female facial hair out into the open.
You’re not alone. Contrary to popular opinion, women do have facial hair. As children, we all have a fine covering of body hair called vellus – in fact, having body hair is one of the characteristics which distinguishes us as mammals (even whales and dolphins have some body hair). As we grow, however, hormonal changes cause this hair to become more pronounced and often darker - with males receiving the lion’s share of the hair, due to their higher levels of androgens. While both men and women sprout facial hair at puberty, in women this is usually less obvious – mostly in the form of so-called peach fuzz, and it may be lighter or darker depending on our colouring. So, not having any hair at all on our faces would make us very strange mammals, indeed!
Hirsutism is a condition in women in which there is excessive hair growth. It’s fairly common, affecting up to 10% of women of child-bearing age, according to the Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit medical centre in Cleveland, Ohio. As Harnaam Kaur can attest, and the UK’s National Health Trust (NHS) warns, hirsutism can cause severe psychological harm, including ‘depression, embarrassment and lack of self-confidence’. It can also point to more harmful underlying conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), where cysts develop on the ovaries, leading to fertility problems. It’s important for sufferers of hirsutism to seek medical help, both for the physical and psychological effects of this condition.
Although we may not suffer from hirsutism, as we grow older, we do tend to develop more facial hair. This is because androgen levels rise as we age. While it’s a normal part of growing older, many women prefer to remove some or all of this facial hair – the decision to do so, or not, remains a personal choice. Here are the some of the ways in which you can lessen or remove female facial hair:
– this quick at-home solution effectively deals with those stubborn stray facial hairs. There’s a sharp pain associated with plucking, but it quickly subsides. Bear in mind that tweezing can cause damage to the hair follicle which can cause in-grown hairs which, in turn, can cause pimples or skin abscesses. Washing the face with warm water, first, helps relax the skin and makes plucking out hairs easier.
– can be carried out at home with a commercial bleaching kit from a supermarket or pharmacy. Although it doesn’t remove facial hair, it lightens dark hair, making it less noticeable. Cleanse the face, mix the bleach according to the instructions, apply for the required time, then wipe off and cleanse again. Always do an irritability test on your inner elbow, first!
– commercial hair removal creams are also readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Do check that the one you buy is intended specifically for the delicate facial area. This hair removal method can be done at home – slather on the cream, get comfy on the couch and wait for the required time before wiping cream, and hair, off.
– ‘salon-quality’ at-home waxing kits for facial hair are available but you may prefer to get a beauty therapist to do this for you at a day spa. It’s a tad painful, but effective and long-lasting.
– medical electrolysis destroys individual hairs, so that they can’t grow back. It’s a time-consuming procedure – you’ll need several sessions. It’s also fairly costly, and causes some discomfort, but does produce permanent results. Electrolysis is best done by a dermatologist.
– a laser is used to literally ‘zap’ hair, vaporising them. Depending on the hair thickness and extent, a patient will require two to six laser treatments. The American Academy of Dermatologists warns that this treatment is dangerous in unqualified and inexperienced hands – only consult a skilled medical doctor for this one. It’s a costly procedure, and can be painful, but the results are permanent.
– you may be tempted, but the best advice is don’t do it! Rather bite the bullet and make an appointment at your local spa for a waxing treatment. If you fear the pain of waxing, book yourself in for a spa massage afterwards to reward your bravery – like getting a lollipop after seeing the dentist!