What causes facial hair on women?

Updated July 19, 2017

Unless you are making money as the bearded lady, facial hair is not an asset if you are a woman. It is a source of embarrassment and at times, ridicule. The Hair Research and Treatment Centre at the University of British Columbia in Canada believes that 22 per cent of women in North America have unwanted facial hair, but it may be up to 40 per cent of the general population, according to the Charité-Universitatsmedizin in Berlin. Having a small amount of facial hair is normal for most women. But if you find that your facial hair is coarse or has increased, consult a physician.


The female anatomy runs a delicate balance of hormones. Androgens, male hormones that include testosterone, are found in both men and women. If there are too many androgens, women will begin to grow excessive coarse, dark facial hair. Other symptoms of hirsutism include decreased breast size, irregular menstruation, a deepening voice and other areas of male-pattern hair growth throughout the body.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Excessive facial hair on women might be caused by cysts on the ovaries. Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome also suffer from high levels of androgens and irregular menstruation. Other symptoms include acne, weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and infertility. Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome are usually treated through birth control pills, anti-androgen hormones and surgery.

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome, a condition caused by having too much cortisol in the bloodstream, also causes excessive facial hair. Cushing's syndrome may also be caused by a tumour in the body, which would be treated through surgery and radiation. This condition might also be a side effect of corticosteroid medications. Other symptoms of this condition are headaches, bruising, weight gain and fatigue.

Obesity and Genetics

Women who are overweight may also see an increase in facial hair. Fat traps androgens, creating a hormonal imbalance. Because weight gain and facial hair are a sign of other conditions and disorders, women should be thoroughly examined by a doctor to make certain that there are no other underlying medical issues. Along with other physical characteristics, ancestry and genetics plays a role in whether women have facial hair. If your grandmother and mother had to pluck their chins, chances are you will, too.

Menopause and Perimenopause

Menopausal and perimenopausal hormonal imbalances can also increase facial hair. Loss of oestrogen and an increase in testosterone can also create hot flashes. Women in their late 30s to their mid-50s might also experience depression, irregular periods, mood swings and night sweats.

Hair Removal Options

There are a variety of ways that women can remove facial hair. Electrolysis removes hair permanently by way of inserting a needle into each hair follicle. Women may experience a tingling sensation during the process.

Laser hair removal works best on women with darker facial hair. This process requires periodic treatments for complete hair removal.

Over-the-counter waxes and creams are easy ways to get rid of facial hair. Both methods might irritate the skin. Creams are applied to the area and then removed after a period of time. To wax the area, put hot wax onto the hair and, after cooling, peel it off.

Tweezing is the most popular and inexpensive way to manage facial hair. There are numerous types of battery powered tweezers and similar hair removal devices on the market. This method works best for minimal facial hair.

Shaving facial hair is not recommended. It will appear to grow back thicker and darker.

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About the Author

Edward Swanson has been a writer for over 22 years. His entertainment stories and health book reviews have been published throughout the country. He received his Master of Fine Arts in dramatic writing from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts.