While growing up in Nigeria, we were told that women with facial hair were wicked and masculine. Facial hair was seen as the mark of wicked women. As a child and teenager, I believed this narrative.
Looking back, I am embarrassed at the level of ignorance that was sold as a narrative. Also, I somewhat understand the impact such a negative narrative would have had on women with facial hair. To be candid, facial hair and wickedness have zero connection. A woman having hair growing on her face or body is due to a condition known as hirsutism.
What is Hirsutism
Hirsutism refers to the abnormal growth of hair on a woman’s face and body. This condition causes excessive hair in areas where it’s usually seen in men. For instance, the face and lower abdomen.
Normally, every woman has both facial and body hair. However, they are mostly light in colour and not visible. In contrast, unwanted hair growth triggered by hirsutism is dark, coarse and visible. Also, hirsutism is connected to virilization.
This condition tends to be hereditary. If your mother and other female relatives have facial hair you are likely to have the same.
What is Responsible for the Growth of Excessive Hair in Women?
Having above the normal level of androgens results in excessive hair in women. Every woman generates androgen but a low level of it.
However, some health conditions can make a woman generate too many androgens, including testosterone. This could result in hair growth in areas usually seen in men. It also triggers in women some male characteristics, for instance, a deep voice.
Medical Conditions That Cause Hirsutism
Some medical conditions cause hirsutism which is the abnormal growth of hair in women. Some of these conditions are:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of hirsutism. According to research, PCOS is responsible for three out of every four hirsutism cases.
This condition affects the production of hormones due to the benign cysts formed on the ovaries. Some symptoms of PCOS are:
- Weight Gain
- Mood swings
- Pelvic pain
- Trouble sleeping
Adrenal Gland Disorders
Various adrenal gland disorders are causes of hormonal imbalance which can lead to excessive hair growth in women.
Examples of adrenal gland disorders are:
- Cushing’s disease
- Adrenal tumours
- Adrenal cancer
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
The adrenal glands, which are located slightly above the kidneys, are responsible for hormone production. Having any adrenal gland disorder can result in hormonal imbalance.
For instance, people with Cushing’s disease have abnormally high levels of cortisol. Cortisol is also known as the “stress hormone.” Furthermore, people with congenital adrenal hyperplasia are born without an enzyme which is crucial for hormone production.
These disorders affect the way the body generates androgens.
Some symptoms of adrenal gland disorders are:
- Excess weight in the upper body
- Bone and muscle weakness
- High or low blood sugar levels
- High blood pressure
Other Causes of Excessive Facial Hair
Some other causes of hirsutism are the intake of certain medications.
Certain drugs to stimulate hair growth could lead to hirsutism. Also, in treating testosterone deficiency the anabolic steroid could lead to hirsutism.
Finally, some women have idiopathic hirsutism. This means the cause of their hirsutism is not detectable. Abnormal hair growth has been a nightmare to many women globally. Therefore, it is cruel to increase their pain through false narratives and stigmas.
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