The discussion at my book group earlier this week took an interesting twist. We were discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett (which we all really enjoyed). One of the questions in the reader’s guide at the back of the book asked, ""women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of "beauty" changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regiment you ever underwent?" Many of our group’s answers revolved around our teenage days when we underwent perms or an unfortunate hair-dye attempt that turned one of our member’s locks green. But then one of my friends who has reached menopause started talking about her efforts to stymie the growth of heavy hair on her face.
It turns out that approximately 30% of women are like my friend and suffer from hirsutism, according to Livestrong.com. Hirsutism is defined as abnormal hair growth in women by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated (NZDSI). This term, according to the NZDSI website, “refers to a male pattern of hair, i.e. in the moustache and beard areas (chin) or occurring more thickly than usual on the limbs”.There may be hairs on the chest or an extension of pubic hair on to the abdomen and thighs. What is considered normal for a woman, and what is considered hirsute, depends on cultural factors and race."
Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge in The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause reported this unwanted hair growth may be caused by too much testosterone or a person’s genetics. Livestrong.com also noted that this hair growth can be caused by a loss of estrogen after menopause, and that having more of these thick facial hairs is more common in women who do not participate in hormone replacement therapy. Livestrong.com also noted that losing weight can make a difference in facial hair for menopausal women because it decreases male hormone levels.
There are options to deal with this unwanted hair, according to NZDSI, which include:
- Bleaching, which can make hair less obvious.
- Depilatory creams, which may be used, but could aggravate the facial skin and cause dermatitis.
- Shaving up to twice daily to prevent unsightly stubble. Shaving doesn’t cause the hair to grow more thickly.
- Waxing. This procedure, which pulls hair out by the roots, needs to be repeated every six weeks.
- Electric hair removers, which cut and pull hair to remove it.
- Electrolysis and thermolysis, which can permanently deal with excessive hair over time. This involves having a small probe inserted along each hair that discharges a small electrical or heat discharge to destroy the hair. A small area of hair is treated every few weeks. This treatment can be costly if you suffer extensive hair growth.
- Laser therapy also is an option, but researcher has not determined their long-term effectiveness.
My friend tried electrolysis, but found the procedure to be painful and costly. She’s now resorting to plucking out unwanted hairs one-by-one. Laughingly she leaned over to another book group member who is in her mid-40s to enlist help when she becomes too infirmed to handle this regular chore. I laughingly commented that my friend was enlisting the wrong person - she should instead ask our 25-year-old book club colleague whose eyesight and dexterity will still be in prime form when we all need help tackling those pesky chin hairs. Everyone agreed, cracked up laughing
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.