Ah, chin hair. If you’ve spotted (and swiftly plucked) the odd hair sprouting from your neck or chin area, you probably haven’t thought much of it. Most people - that's both men and women - will grow the occasional unexpected strand in all kinds of areas on their body without it becoming a cause for concern. It's totally normal.
However, if you’ve noticed excessive or repeated growth of hair on your face, or are wondering what on earth is going on with that one stubborn thread that can’t be beaten by your tweezers, there are a number of possibilities to consider.
"Excessive dark, thick, coarse, hair growth in females, which appears in a male pattern, is referred to as hirsutism. This can involve a single or multiple areas, such as moustache and beard area, chest, lower abdomen, back and inner thighs," explains Elizabeth May, an expert from the Private Skin Laser Clinic in Hampstead.
So why exactly does excessive hair growth happen? "Hirsutism is is generally caused by a hormone imbalance, that is, an increase production in the male hormones called androgens, or an increase in skin sensitivity to androgen," she adds.
Sound familiar? If you're worried about your chin hair, or just want to know what's causing yours, here’s what could be going on behind the scenes…
You have PCOS
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, is a condition that affects how your ovaries work, explains Elizabeth. Symptoms include irregular periods, weight gain, adult acne, and fertility problems, alongside excessive hair growth.
If you’re suffering from one or more of these signs and you’re concerned, she encourages you to speak to your doctor about your options. There’s no ‘cure’ for PCOS, as such, but there are treatments that can help to manage the condition, ranging from lifestyle changes all the way through to surgery.
You have Cushing’s syndrome
Elizabeth also notes the possibility of Cushing’s syndrome. It's far less common than PCOS, affecting an estimated 1 in every 50,000 people, but women are three times more likely to develop it.
What is Cushing's syndrome, we hear you ask? Well, a syndrome caused by high levels of a hormone called cortisol. In addition to facial hair, it can cause weight gain, stretch marks, skin that bruises easily, and muscle or bone weakness. It can occur as a side effect of taking certain medications, or more rarely, because of a tumour developing inside a gland, so it needs managing with appropriate advice from a medical professional.
You’re getting older
While hormone imbalances and syndromes can be responsible for hair growth in some women, for others, it’s simply a sign of a few more birthdays going by. "There is a natural tendency to get hairier with age, especially post-menopausal," confirms Elizabeth.
In this instance, the hair on your chin could just be a fact of life, but it can be worth consulting with your GP to make sure that there’s nothing more serious going on without you realising.
Your weight needs addressing
If your increase in chin hair production has coincided with a noticeable weight gain or weight loss, the two could be related. "Obesity upsets the balance of male and female hormones," details Elizabeth. As we’ve already learned, your hormones can have a major impact on hair growth.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, she adds, extreme weight loss can cause an increase in fine hairs, like those usually seen in children. This is known as lanugo, and can be an indicator of anorexia, a disorder for which you should always seek the support of an expert.
Your medication is affecting you
It’s rare, says Elizabeth, but certain medications can cause an increase in hair growth. Like? "Some chemotherapy drugs for cancer, and some medicines for epilepsy", she explains.
"Plus, anabolic steroids used illegally in sport and sold in some gyms may increase facial hair if used by women," she continues. These are class C drugs, and should only be sold by pharmacists with a prescription; if you’re using them without guidance, facial hair may be just one of a range of very serious side effects, from aggressive behaviour and mood swings to blood clots and increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
You’re predisposed to hair growth
"Hirsutism is not hereditary but can be more common in some ethnic groups," explains Elizabeth. "So if your female relatives have facial hair you are no more likely to be hairy than other women in your ethnic group," she explains.
Specifically, "it occurs more commonly in women of mediterranean or Middle-Eastern origin. However, in the general population, 10% of caucasian women will experience it too," she continues.
How do I get rid of chin hair?
Want to tackle the hair on your face once and for all? "Treatments available for removal of facial hair are varied with markedly different results," Elizabeth admits. "Physical removal, such as shaving, plucking, waxing, bleaching and hair removal creams, is common and inexpensive but can sometimes irritate the skin."
Similar (but not the same as) upper lip hair removal options, you have to be more careful with treating your face hair as your skin is more sensitive.
"Medications that have an anti-androgenic action can be used if a hormonal cause is diagnosed," explains Elizabeth. But, do note here: these are only available on prescription, and range from oral contraceptives to spironolactone.
"Electrolysis is often suggested if the hair is grey, blond, or ginger in colour," she continues. But, again, there are side effects, and it can sometimes cause inflammation and scarring.
The most effective treatment? "If the hair is coarse and dark, laser is the most effective treatment, inducing a gradual decrease in hair growth, resulting in finer, lighter hair on the face," Elizabeth concludes.
So there you have it—your complete guide to the causes of chin hair, plus your guide to the best removal methods. Remember, female chin hair is fairly normal, but if it is bothering you, booking an appointment to see a specialist can't do any harm.
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