The Secret and Shame of Unwanted Facial Hair
We pluck, pull, tweeze, wax and shave. We waste time and money on crazy at home hair removal gadgets and suffer through smelly depilatory creams. Yet within a matter of hours, unsightly facial hair returns. But hiding the problem does not make it go away. Despite the centuries of progress for women in society, one thing remains the same: a woman with a mustache isn't very sexy.
The Most Embarrassing Day of My Life
I have always been a hairy gal throughout my life, but it was a sunny day in junior high when I realized I had a problem. It was the ’90s, back when schools still had windows. I was wearing my fashion-forward denim jumper and a flower shirt, thinking I looked so cool, just like Blossom.
My friends and I were standing by the window during the morning break, anticipating the bell while enjoying our few minutes of freedom. With the morning sun shining through, the lighting was perfect. Too perfect, in fact. As I turned around and faced the window, that is when another girl cracked, “Hey, your mustache is showing!” Immediately everyone laughed.
To make matters worse, she said this while standing in front of a boy I liked. I was mortified and speechless. As any girl would do, I put my hand over my face and ran to the bathroom. I spent the rest of the day covering my mouth, making every effort to hide my shame. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life.
I have been in a constant battle with my body in an effort not to look like the Bearded Lady, which is what they called the hirsute Annie Jones during her freak-show stardom in P.T. Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth” circus in the late 1800s. (She also grew out the hair on her head to an impressive six feet.) While I was in high school and college, however, my dark hair was only on my upper lip and could be easily remedied in the shower as I was shaving my legs. Three swipes on my face and done. Nobody would know my secret.
Then motherhood came. As if pregnancy and weight gain were not enough, the dark hair I had hid on my lip for years was starting to show up on my neck, chest, arms and chinny chin chin.
At first, it started with lone wolf hairs, single shoots sprouting up in random places. I could easily pluck and forget about it. As time passed, the lone wolf turned more into a cult following, getting thicker and thicker.
The Second Most Embarrassing Day
As if that day in junior high wasn't bad enough, the second most embarrassing moment of my life happened when my husband caught me shaving my face. We had been married for years before he even knew what I was doing in the bathroom all of that time. Little did he know that I was shaving, plucking and mustering through the mental and physical pain of getting rid of my man-like hair.
When he finally saw me, of course, he laughed. I cried. But like a good husband, he hugged me and told me he didn't care. His only question was if I had used his razor or not. I did, but he didn't have to know that.
Even though I was humiliated, for the first time since that day in junior high, someone else knew my secret. Finally, a weight had been lifted and I no longer carried my shame in silence. I don’t mind if the sun shines through the window next to me.
So, Why Am I Getting Hairier As I Get Older?
This is a question that a lot of women ask. As we get older, we tend to develop more androgenic dependent body hair. It is totally normal to find wild hair from time to time, but for some of us, a simple pluck does not solve the problem.
For those with high levels of androgen, the most common cause of unwanted hair is PCOS -- polycystic ovary syndrome. That is defined as a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. But even women who don't have PCOS can still have dark hair in unwanted places.
Hirsutism, the medical term for male pattern hair growth in women, is related to the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase and is responsible for converting testosterone to androgen. In men, it causes BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and male pattern baldness. For women, this enzyme amplifies androgen signals in the body. It is responsible for thinning hair and the growth of facial hair.
Even if you had your hormone levels checked and your testosterone levels came back normal, don’t assume nothing is wrong. It could be a sign of androgen sensitivity, making hair follicles more receptive to androgen intake.
How to Get Rid of Unwanted Facial Hair Naturally
You can quickly search online and find several home remedies for facial hair growth, ranging from toothpaste to a baking soda mask. However, these products are not designed for use on the skin and can do some severe damage if you are not careful. Plus, it is probably not the best idea to put something on your face that you can also use to clean your toilet.
Plucking is ok, but depending on the amount of hair you have, this can take hours. The continual pulling of hair leads to scarring and leaves skin appearing rough with an uneven texture, even when no bumps are present. Also, excessive plucking leads to ingrown hairs. Those are the worst.
Shaving is the quickest way to get rid of dark hair on the chin, neck and face, but it still leaves the dark hair follicle behind, under the skin. Electrolysis is another option, but it is very expensive and inconvenient. For it to work, you have to let the hair grow out long enough for the laser to penetrate the hair shaft. And it takes several visits to see results for one area.
Does Saw Palmetto Help Hirsutism?
Saw Palmetto is a popular plant-derived, natural anti-androgen supplement which may help prevent or reduce Hirsutism. Let’s just say that P.T. Barnum would not have allowed this in his show. It will not turn dark coarse hair back to fine vellus hair, but it may prevent new hair from being impacted by androgen. It works by inhibiting the conversion of DHT (dihydrotestosterone, a sex steroid and hormone) while prohibiting the binding of androgen receptors and androgen production.
One bottle of Havasu Nutrition’s Saw Palmetto is enough to last at least three months, which is perfect because studies show that for noticeable results, it needs to be taken daily over the course of 12 weeks.
Another benefit is that it is safe for long-term use. For us who have too many hairs to count, to really see results, it may mean we need to change our diet by eating fewer carbs and more lean meat as well.
When I think back to the 1990s, I kind of wish there was a bottle of Saw Palmetto handy in my locker at school. Go further back to the 1890s, however, and I am pretty sure P.T. Barnum would not have approved of its use by Annie Jones. But hey, at least she made the most of her facial hair.