University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Richard Caplan, MD
Professor Emeritus of Dermatology
First Published: 2000
Last Revised: September 2004
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
What's a young woman to do when she finds that she is sprouting an occasional--or not so occasional--whisker?
While heredity is usually involved, the natural aging process also results in coarse facial hair in some women, says Dr. Richard M. Caplan, professor of dermatology at The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
In some countries, facial hair is prized as making a woman more attractive; in our culture it's the other way around. For the woman who has hair she doesn't want, Dr. Caplan explains that there really is no ideal solution to the problem of facial hair removal. There are advantages and disadvantages to all removal methods.
Some of his solutions: Learning to live with it is the safest course, but probably the least likely to be followed. Bleaching facial hair, if it's not too, coarse, may be satisfactory for fair-skinned women and dangers are few.
Shave it off. It doesn't cause hair to grow more quickly. Use tweezers. Tweezing is tedious and can be painful for persons with sensitive skin, but can be satisfactory.
Chemical depilatories can be spread over the area and, through chemical action, weaken the hair shafts. However, some skin may be very sensitive to the chemical action, so follow directions and be cautious and precise. A tiny amount of surface skin will be lost temporarily.
Electrolysis, or permanent hair removal by killing the root, might seem to be ideal, but it isn't very dependable and can be expensive.
Laser hair removal is new within the past five to seven years, adds Caplan's colleague, Dr. Christopher Arpey, associate director of dermatologic surgery at UI Hospitals and Clinics. The procedure causes a reduction in hair number and caliber by damaging the hair root through heating by light. A repeated series of treatments is usually required over time, and people with darker hair and lighter skin usually respond best, he says. Newer laser systems may allow those with lighter hair or darker skin tones to experience better results.
Any sudden growth of hair should be reported to your family doctor, since some treatable disorders display this symptom.