Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a syndrome that consists of multiple hormone abnormalities such as an excess of male hormones as well as resistance to insulin hormones. It is one of the most common reasons for hirsutism or unwanted hair loss.
PCOS is also characterized by irregular menstrual periods. PCOS can occur in any woman of reproductive age, and most signs and symptoms develop during puberty, though it can potentially occur at any age following puberty. The most common signs and symptoms include:
- Infrequent, prolonged, or otherwise irregular periods
- Excess androgen, which may present as severe acne, female pattern baldness, and hirsutism
- Numerous collections of fluid (known as follicles) developing around the ovaries and preventing regular ovarian function
High testosterone levels often mean more testosterone converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Excess DHT contributes to hair loss on the scalp as well as excessive hair growth in the face and body.
The exact cause of polycystic ovary syndrome is not well understood, though high insulin levels and low-grade inflammation may play a role. Genetics and family history may also play a role in PCOS. Unnaturally high levels of androgen may also be a cause and symptom of PCOS.1 Experts also associate obesity with PCOS. More adipose tissue (fat cells) can contribute to the conversion of estrogen to testosterone thanks to the enzymatic activity of aromatase, resulting in hormonal imbalances.2
How to Get Rid of Facial Hair and Reduce Hair Loss in Women with PCOS
1. Weight Loss
The main cause of PCOS is obesity which causes insulin resistance. Therefore, the main treatment of its symptoms such as hair loss and facial hair growth should be obesity.
Reducing your weight may help to prevent the insulin resistance and hormonal fluctuations that are contributing to your facial hair growth.
Consider a diet that is low in carbohydrates as opposed to a low-fat diet because they have been found to be more helpful for weight loss. Avoid over-processed foods which are low and fiber, contain sugar, and cause blood sugar spikes.
Along with your diet, consider maintaining a regular exercise program that works for you. We recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Your exact needs and the types of exercises to perform can vary, especially if you want to lose weight and have not kept a regular exercise routine, so work within your own means.
2. Waxing and Shaving
Waxing and shaving are the easiest short-term solutions to reducing facial hair. However, both have to be repeated regularly as hair grows back. The face is also more sensitive than other areas of skin, so frequently waxing facial hair may potentially contribute to irritation, redness, and ingrown hairs. Most importantly, waxing and shaving do not address the underlying medical issue contributing to the facial hair growth in the first place. You may ultimately just be putting a bandage on something requiring more significant treatment.
3. Hair Removal Creams
Also known as chemical depilatories, topical hair removal creams, gels, and lotions work by breaking down the keratin bonds in hair strands, essentially dissolving the hair for easy removal. As effective as these depilatories can be, they usually comprise some truly harsh chemicals that can contribute to burns, rashes, blisters, peeling, and general irritation. Depilatories also only work to remove hair just above the root. This often means that, even with the removal of the hair, you are still left with a classic five o’clock shadow. Furthermore, because depilatories don’t remove the root, the hair will grow back fairly quickly, usually within the next couple days.9 Similar to shaving and waxing, chemical depilatories do not address the underlying medical issue.
4. DHT Blockers
DHT blockers work to inhibit DHT production and regulate your hormone levels. While DHT blocking supplements and products are normally intended to treat male and female pattern baldness, they may also be helpful in reducing hirsutism in women as they are both caused by excess DHT.
Suddenly growing facial hair as a woman can be a deeply discouraging experience, and while home remedies and lifestyle changes may help, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor to help you address the underlying obesity which causes PCOS.