Since I was a teenager, it’s been me versus this hair. When I was 16, a boy informed me that I had more hair on my upper lip than he did. (File under, “How to terrorize a teenage girl.”) I was beyond mortified, and since then, it’s been me versus this hair, which delightfully, also exists on my chin. My lip and chin hair has been much more of a source of anxiety than my leg hair, which I haven’t shaved in close to a decade.
What I didn’t realize as a teenager was that many women deal with facial hair, including my grandmother, who would regularly sit at her bedroom mirror extracting her wispy chin hairs. We go to extremes to eradicate hair on our faces, because it’s not what is traditionally considered attractive or feminine, and it can be a deep source of shame.
“When someone points it out or touches my face, I freak out,” said L, who’s dealt with facial hair since she was a child. “It’s horrible to feel that something you can’t control is so very distasteful to those around you.”
Bobbe told me that she “goes nuts until [she] can extract [her] enemy. Patrolling facial hairs requires daily vigilance!”
This patrolling often happens in secret. D would wait until her college roommates were done in the bathroom so she could be alone to pluck her chin hairs. “I don’t like my facial hair, and that’s why I take so much time to get rid of it in a way where people usually don’t see me do it. The most important thing for me is to not have to feel the stubble or the related mental anxiety and distraction from it,” she said.
Facial hair in women occurs for many reasons, like genetics, hormonal imbalances (such as polycystic ovary syndrome, an endocrine system disorder that includes acne and irregular periods among its symptoms) and side effects from medicine. While you should know the cause of your facial hair, why it’s growing doesn’t make the fact that it exists any less frustrating or alleviate the pressure to do something about it.
“I am tired of the expectation that the only hair a woman should have is on top of her head,” said Danielle Rosen, a content strategist at CIA Medical. “If there is no health concern relating to hair growth, let it be.”
It’s hard not to be aware of the myriad of ways to remove hair. In terms of temporary methods, there’s waxing, plucking and applying depilatory creams. According to Rachel Loren Bolber, owner of Micro Me Miami, while you can use these methods until you’re blue in the face, “the source of growth must be analyzed in order to prevent it from getting worse.”
Not all facial hairs are created equal, so Bolber uses dermaplaning to remove vellus hair, the peach fuzz most of us have on our chins and on the sides of our faces, and laser hair removal, which damages hair follicles so hair can’t regrow, to address darker hairs.
While laser hair removal is more long term, it does have an expiration date, says Dr. Robin Evans of Southern Connecticut Dermatology. “I always suggest to my patients that if they are contemplating laser hair removal, they should hurry! It only works on hair that is pigmented, so it’s not effective on blond, gray, red or white hair.” Evans also suggests combining hair-removal methods with a prescription cream such as Vaniqa, which will slow the regrowth of hair so you have to attend to matters less frequently.
If you want to take a more natural route to hair removal, Dr. Kathy Taghipour of Savana Urban Spa in London suggests vitamin B6. “Vitamin B6 can reduce the production of prolactin, a hormone that causes the male hormone testosterone to be taken up by tissues. It also dampens cells’ responsiveness to hormones.” Sources for vitamin B include avocados, fish, soybeans, walnuts, peanuts and bananas.
Regardless of how or if you decide to remove your facial hair, know this: You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to be ashamed of it. While you’re secretly shaving or covertly plucking your chin hairs behind the closed door of your bathroom, there are other ladies doing it too, and we might even be relieved to talk to you about it.