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Eeeeeeeeeek Unwanted Facial Hair!

Jul03

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Hi there,
I was reading a post where you invited readers to confess their beauty secrets. Maybe you can help me with my problem because it seems like I have the worst version of a problem a lot of women have.
About 5 years ago – mid 20s I started noticing hair on my chin/front of my neck. I plucked. And plucked. This causes ingrown hairs and I loked like I had acne there. I finally got laser – which was expensive but HERE IS THE BAD PART about that: you cannot have any sun exposure for a month beforehand so you go to the apointment all excited and they basically hand you spf 50 and a straw hat and tell you to return in 30 days. AND…you CANNOT pluck for that entire time. You have to…SHAVE. They tell you to shave your face. So I did. And I felt like a dude. I went to my treatments (5 in all, about 800 dollars total) and you have to shave every day – they tell you the hair will be dead but it pushes its way out so you have to keep shaving. After my last treatment (which, BTW yes, it hurts – but as long as it worked, I totally didn’t care) I had to keep shaving and shaving and shaving. I kept getting ingrown hairs. The hair kept coming. Five years later and now I’m back to plucking.
Here is the current and really bad problem: Apparently all of the plucking has caused discoloration. I now have about 30 spots of dark skin on my chin and front of neck. If I look at that area in the car visor mirror, it is horrifying! Not only are there hairs – I pluck about 20 a day, I would estimate. But there is this shadow of dark skin in the shape of a beard!!!! I can’t tell how “obvious” it is – like if it’s visible from 20 feet away or if you wouldn’t notice unless I pointed it out to you. Thus, I wear foundation every single day – which sucks because you really have to blend down there so it doesn’t look weird, and it sucks because this time of year I have an awesome tan, but you can’t apprciate it because I have to cover it up with foundation – although I sometimes try to get away with blending really well so I only cover up the offending area.
At this point, I don’t know if I should go back to shaving – that has its own drawbacks – that prickly, 5 o’clock shadow feeling – you can see those suckers in bright sunlight!!!! and more ingrown hairs. I guess I would deal with that if the dark spots would go away.
I have been tested for hormone levels, PCOS and they are negative – I’m just hairy. :(
It’s a really horrible feeling. I’m married and this is the one thing I do not discuss with my husband.
Hey – don’t post my name, ok????

Well, if it makes you feel any better, yours is NOT the first question I’ve gotten about unwanted facial hair. Not by a long shot.
Of course, dozens of questions about it later I’m still not sure I have a great answer. We’ve all tried Nair and home wax kits and that fancy little no!no! gadget that Sephora is pushing says it’s “not recommended for use on the face” in the fine print. (Which…is pretty much the only spot on my body that would justify a $250 razor-type-thing, so honestly I politely suggest they go back to the drawing board on that one. I hate shaving my pits as much as the next girl, but please.)
I picked your question to publish because, frankly, most women struggling with the facial hair problem are debating whether to try laser treatments. Which you did, with less-than-awesome results. (Yours is probably the second or third anecdote I’ve heard about laser hair removal not being totally permanent too, which sucks. My husband has been eyeing the procedure for years.) I’m wondering if you’ve ever contacted the clinic to report the spectacular failure of your treatments? Any odds of a free or discounted re-do or touch-up session, or some “expert” advice about the dark spots?
razor6.gifFrom what little I know about laser hair removal, it’s very likely that the treatment is actually to blame for your current skin discoloration. (It’s a commonly-noted side effect, usually temporary, but in rare cases it can be permanent or very long-lasting.) The plucking and chronic ingrowns don’t help either.
Have you tried waxing? Piggy-backing the chin area with a regular appointment to get your eyebrows done? Tell the tech you’re very prone to ingrown hairs and she might be able to give you advice about what products to use post-wax and plucking to prevent them. (Plucking is no different from waxing, by the way, if you pluck and run without following up with a good product you’ll get ingrown hairs and irritation for sure. ) Waxing isn’t permanent, of course, but with time the hairs SHOULD get thinner and weaker, and your regrowth time SHOULD slow, and even cutting down on the number of hairs you pluck in-between waxes would probably be a relief, no?
As for the skin discoloration, it sounds similar to a sun or age spot, to which I’ve found nothing effective, at least in the over-the-counter realm. A dermatologist may prescribe a bleaching cream for you though, so make an appointment with one (preferably one on the “cosmetic” side of the field — you know, the kind with Botox and crap like that, since these doctors tend to be a bit more willing to help out with non-skin-cancer-type concerns). While you’re there, ask the doctor about hair removal options. Maybe a prescription hair removal cream like Vaniqa? (Disclaimer: I know nothing about Vaniqa besides what I’ve read about it on the Internet. This is not an endorsement or anything other than me throwing options wildly out to the wind, talk to your doctor about risks and side effects, blah blah back-peddling talkyspeak.)
One last note on shaving: I’m sure we all know this by now, but the whole “if you shave it’ll grow back darker and thicker” thing? Total myth. Shaved-off stubble may APPEAR darker and more noticeable, but shaving has absolutely no effect on the hair follicle, either by making it grow thicker hair or multiplying the number of strands. That said, I still totally get why shaving your face is probably near the bottom of your list of Ideal Hair Removal Options.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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26 Responses to “Eeeeeeeeeek Unwanted Facial Hair!”

  1. Brandi Jul 03 at 11:18 am Reply

    Please, if you haven’t already, go to your doctor and get checked for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Facial hair is a very common symptom of PCOS. PCOS is often written off or not recognized since the symptoms can be vague, but it can cause a lot of health problems including infertility. Just to be safe check with your doctor. Read about it on the internet (I like the Merck Manual website) and if the symptoms fit but your doc won’t listen get a second opinion. PCOS can really mess you up!

  2. Nic Jul 03 at 11:20 am Reply

    Good advice. As a fellow very hairy lady, I second the waxing thing. You don’t need to be too grown out for it to work well, and you can tweeze the few then miss. it makes it much more manageable than tweezing every chin hair. I am sensitive to ingrown hairs as well, and the tech puts aloe on me after the wax, and I haven’t had trouble (yet…knock on wood).

  3. elizc Jul 03 at 11:46 am Reply

    I’ve used Vaniqa for almost 2 yrs now. I believe it’s for upper lip only. I tried it on my chin/neck but it didn’t help — in fact, I started getting some new hairs, but that was probably just coincidence because I’m hitting The Change.
    Even on the upper lip, it only slows and thins the hair down a little but I still have to bleach and pluck the heavier hairs. Upshot is that I still have upper lip hair. I probably won’t renew my Vaniqua presc. But I have very tough hair — someone with finer hair might have better luck with it.
    I had some laser stuff done but no joy — apparently my hairs isn’t dark enough. Ha! Waxing is a good idea and buys a few weeks of peace but you have to let it grow out first and I hate that.
    From what I understand the only permanent hair removal technique is electrolysis. I’m actually considering it on my chin & neck. Not sure I’d do it on my lip — that area is very sensitive.
    A trip to a good dermatologist who won’t try to sell you more laser treatments would be a good place to start.
    I know it sucks. But I’ve been dealing with it for over 25 years and I’ve finally accepted it. Most people don’t notice or care.

  4. Dana Jul 03 at 12:02 pm Reply

    One Word: ELECTROLYSIS
    My family is of the dark haired variety and all the women folk use electrolysis. I’m still going for my eyebrows b/c I am lazy and don’t go often enough but my sister is done b/c she is much more vigilant.
    I had laser on my legs and it worked wonders. I have 50% less hair (and I’m still hairy. See above: dark haired variety) so I’m surprised it did not work on your face.
    But since it did not you must find a good electrolysis; preferably one who is also an skin care specialist. Mine is and she takes care of acne, dark spots, ingrowns etc.
    It will work, I promise!

  5. cagey Jul 03 at 12:33 pm Reply

    WTF? Amy, when did I write this question to you? Oh wait, I did NOT, but damned straight could have because is My Very Own Facial Story (to a certain extent).
    I had a GREAT experience with laser hair removal. Unfortunately, what those evil places do NOT tell you is that pregnancy will mess you up and much of the hair will grow back. I am still so furious at the money I spent, but I digress.
    I have issues with the ingrowns, also. I finally went to a dermatologist this year and told him EXACTLY what the problem was. I now use Ziana, which is an anti-bacterial with retinol-something or another. After you pluck/wax, it is easy for bacteria to break you out. The retinol-something or another helps with exfoliation to prevent ingrowns. My face is a squillion times better now.
    Also, regarding the PCOS, mine was diagnosed via ultrasound. The reader may want to verify that she does not need an ultrasound, I was not aware you could test for that via bloodwork.

  6. MamaCarter Jul 03 at 1:06 pm Reply

    Electrolysis is the way to go. It is the only permanent process to remove hair, and on most folks it works like a charm. I’m a blonde with (argh) jetblack hairs on my chin – or, I was, until I did eletrolysis. Oh yeah, and I got rid of that one random hair on what would be my adam’s apple if I were a guy. Now THAT was embarrasing. A friend actually tried to pull it off, thinking it was a loose fiber. Ow. With electrolysis you have to be careful not to break out afterwards, so clean the skin with rubbing alcohol and don’t put anything on it for the rest of the day. (all my appointments were on Saturday morning and I would stay in that night…just in case). Good luck.

  7. Julie Jul 03 at 2:08 pm Reply

    AMEN DANA!
    Electrolysis is the ONLY way to go.
    It’s semi-painful but you get your moneys worth and it WORKS!
    Also- I recently switched my birth control and it helped minimize breakouts and chin hairiness…

  8. Frema Jul 03 at 2:15 pm Reply

    What about threading? I know many women who swear by it for their eyebrows, and one girl had it done to remove the mustache-looking thing above her lip. They love it.

  9. The Muse Jul 03 at 5:07 pm Reply

    If you’re looking for a permanent solution, go with electrolysis. (A friend of mine had it done on her hands – she had unusually hairy knuckles.)
    Otherwise, I highly recommend threading. Many Indian women get their entire face threaded, and most places offer it without batting an eye. I occasionally have my upper lip done, and never have a problem with breaking out – just immediate redness that goes away within 30 min.

  10. Ash Jul 03 at 10:29 pm Reply

    My friend used electrolysis under her arms. It has worked really well, and she had no problem with shaving in between. What they dont tell you is that you need to do it once a year or so to keep up the maintence.
    While i know you had bad luck with lazer hair removal, i think it could be good to give electrolysis a try. Because shaving everyday would be a horrible experience!

  11. Sheri Bheri Jul 04 at 8:33 am Reply

    I’ve been having good results with my lazer treatments, but I would say that 5 is just not enough. My doctor recommends 8 to 10.
    The way it was explained to me was that the lazer ONLY affects hair that’s in a growth phase (about 20% at a time), if you do the math, at 10 treatments you’ve eliminated 90% of the hair (5 treatments is only 68%). You also have lots of latent follicles that can be stimulated into growing by whatever (stress, hormones, ect), so I’m pretty sure once I hit “the change” I’ll have to do it again.
    The lazer has been miraculous for me, I still have to shave every few days, but my skin is NOT red and bumpy, with ingrown hairs and pimples.
    I’m doing my armpits too and it’s AMAZING. I was hairy like a MAN, I had to shave everyday and STILL had a “five o’clock shadow” – blech. Now I can shave every couple of days, I could go longer, but they get itchy.
    I just wanted to point out a positive lazering story.

  12. debbie Jul 04 at 11:38 am Reply

    electrolysis. i had a very similar problem, laser didnt work, plucking caused discoloration, but OHMYGOD electrolysis worked wonders. you have to go about 10 times, its not cheap, but it works and is so worth the money. i havent been in years now, nothing as grown back, its amazing!

  13. Mary Jul 04 at 11:16 pm Reply

    I had electrolysis a few years ago, and it was a wonderful thing. The hair tends to grow back but it’s finer and lighter and finally goes away entirely. She did warn me, though, that new hair would grow in over the years, and that has happened. It’s still a thousand times better than it used to be, and if I could get my act together and go back a couple of times that would probably take care of it. Not cheap, but much cheaper than the prices you’re talking for a laser. I usually spent about $30 – $40 a visit, and I think I went ten times.

  14. Anon Jul 06 at 1:42 am Reply

    Used an anon name, but had to use an email so there we go :) I have a very very bad problem in similar veins, but I have really dark thick hair all around my neck. I have pale complexion and dark hair, and I have a REALLY bad case…I shave every day, and my whole neck is covered in scars from doing so. Laser didn’t work, despite me being an ideal candidate, which was a huge waste of money – apparently it just doesn’t work on some people with no real explanation why.
    So I turned to electrolysis…but with the thickness of my hairs (I hate to say it, but it’s guy thickness…) the treatment has been VERY slow and VERY expensive. I’m currently stopped treatment, but I will probably go back. Its been about 5 years and I’d say maybe a 50% reduction, but even so, I’m so aware of the rest that I shave my neck to shreds, meaning my neck is really scarred + really bad shaving rash, and I’m about to go out to find a really heavy duty concealer so maybe I can actually tie my hair up for once. Anyway. I’m not so much offering advice (although electrolysis does work, albeit slowly) as much as sympathising…

  15. Anon Jul 06 at 8:34 am Reply

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOUTHANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for answering this! Sounds from the other comments that electrolysis is the way to go…can’t afford it on my student budget, but I am going to write an email to my parents RIGHT NOW begging them to give me that for my birthday/Christmas/whatever…

  16. The artist formerly known as hairy beast Jul 08 at 1:02 pm Reply

    It is so interesting to read all the different views on shaving vs. waxing, electrolysis vs. laser, birth control pills vs. Vaniqa. I’ve tried them all, so I’ll throw my story into the ring too.
    I started getting my eyebrows and upper lip waxed when I was 13. One day the well-meaning but ultimately bane of my existence waxer commented on the hair of the side of my face and asked me if I wanted to get rid of that also. At the time I don’t remember having really noticed a problem there myself so it must have been pretty light and soft, but as soon as she mentioned it, of course I was totally embarassed and wanted it gone. Now I’ve read conflicting opinions on waxing…some say that it reduces growth over time, and others that the increase of blood flow to the area stimulates more hair growth. I am STRONGLY of the second opinion and I winced when I read Amy’s advice to start waxing. I am convinced that waxing is what really messed my face up. I think the major problem is that waxing picks up EVERYTHING…the dark stuff that I wanted gone and also all the fine baby hairs that everyone has and aren’t a problem. But once I waxed those baby hairs you could feel them as they grew in. Please don’t wax. I know that waxing doesn’t change the follicle itself, but at the very least you are going to go through a short and stubbly phase as hair that was previously nice and soft grows in. And because of the peach fuzz that we all have, there will be a line between where you waxed and where you didn’t. Plus, think of how harsh applying hot wax every week is on your skin…wax gets your whole face, not just the hair. Same issues with all-over shaving, which is going to be so hard on your skin long term. I had already gotten my period a year or two before I started waxing, but I suppose the age could have had something to do with it as well. At any case, all of a sudden I went from having a mustache to having a beard and I mostly blame the waxing.
    Eventually my amazing mother realized that waxing my entire face every week for the rest of my life wasn’t really a good long term plan. I switched to electrolysis at about 15 and did that every other week or so until I was 21. Electrolysis was a good short term solution for me becuase it isolated treatment to the offending hairs, they didn’t have to grow out very long to be grabbed, and it was much easier on my face than waxing, but clearly it was in no ways permanent. And I still have small scars on the underside of my chin where the ingrowns were the worst.
    At 16 I went to a reproductive endocrinologist who confirmed that I don’t have PCOS but suggested birth control pills, which did seem to help a bit and which I’ve been on nonstop for 10 years. I also used Vaniqa along with the electrolysis. All this medicine, along with the electrolysis, and I still had a problem that interfered with my daily life.
    We finally accepted that none of these treatments were really fixing the problem and over the years had cost a fortune. My family had very little money and I was just out of college, but we decided to give expensive laser a try anyway. The reason I originally wanted to write is that I noticed you only spent $800 on 5 sessions, which sent up a major red flag to me. I assume you went to some sort of laser center or spa for a price that low. I went to a “real” dermatologist and spent about $400 a session. Incredibly expensive, I know. But I really think that going to an actual doctor is your best bet in avoiding burns and receiving treatment that actually works. This is your face we’re talking about. You don’t want some beauty school drop out who just finished 6 weeks of training at the med-spa messing with it! I would suggest finding someplace really good and trying laser again. Sure you have to shave in between, which is no fun, but that’s just temporary.
    Apparently it’s very different for everyone, but laser was the solution for me. Finally after all those years of trying everything short of a blood sacrifice to the god of smooth skin, something worked. Really worked. I think I did 5 sessions in all, and in the end, oh my god, what a freakin’ miracle! I still check my face in a magnifying mirror and pluck about 10 hairs every morning, but they are spread out over my whole face and easy to manage. Maybe 3 times a year I’ll bleach the whole area to make it absolutely perfect. No concentrated dark areas. Soft skin. No more scars. Compliments on how nice my skin is! As I type this I am sitting at work, with my hair up and NOT A DROP OF MAKEUP ON MY FACE. Neither of those two things would have happened just a few years ago. Both of them in conjunction is like something out of a science fiction movie for me. I hid behind my hair all through high school. I developed the terrible habit of not washing my face at night in college because I couldn’t bear for my roommates to see me without makeup. Now I live with my boyfriend and I don’t think he has any idea I used to have a facial hair problem. Just remembering how it used to be and how manageable it is now is making me tear up.
    Oh, and I know the cost I’m suggesting is formidable. My mother fought with our health insurance carrier and somehow managed to get them to partially reimburse her for the electrolysis and laser, so I would look into that for whichever option you choose.
    Sorry to go on so long, but I hope something in this helps someone else. And it feels pretty awesome to share this, because I have never talked to anyone about this except my family, and despite my mom’s amazing efforts to help me fix this, I was so ashamed of it that I was distant and cold with her about it. I should send her flowers right now!

  17. JenJen Jul 08 at 5:00 pm Reply

    One more coming out in favor of HIGH QUALITY, MODERN laser. I did electrolysis for a year with virtually no results. I finally gave up on it and watched as my chin/neck hair problem just got worse and worse. I had the acne, the ingrowns – right before my period my neck would look like raw meat from the ingrown hairs and zits. I took to wearing turtlenecks whenever I could and concealer the rest of the time.
    Finally I achieved enough wealth to be able to consider laser. I am fortunate to have a group of coworkers who share all kinds of recommendations, and through them found a wonderful laser practitioner. I have spent probably about $1500 so far and still need to see her every couple of months, but the difference is amazing! I still have the occasional ingrown, but overall my neck and chin are smooth and the hairs that do grow back are much finer, and in some cases clear instead of black.
    It’s possible that you went to a clinic that was using the old school laser machines – from what I understand they are not as effective as the technology that’s out there now.
    If you’re located in the Pacific Northwest maybe we can be put in touch and I can give you the contact info for my laser person. If you’re elsewhere, please ask around (I know it’s embarassing to have to talk about it, but there are a lot of us out there) and find a laser technician who has worked successfully with others like you. And, whatever you do, don’t go to one of those shops in the mall.

  18. Amelia Sprout Jul 08 at 10:01 pm Reply

    Hehe, I just wrote about my facial hair, and then someone pointed out you had just done this…
    Good info. But another question for the women who have experienced PCOS, does the medication actually clear it up?
    Cause seriously, I’m gonna have to answer a LOT of questions about why I’m so embarrassing when my daughter gets older if this keeps up. (and I remember my granny shaving)

  19. lacey Jul 11 at 9:32 am Reply

    My best bet- lots of fine, downy hair on my face and neck that the light loved to catch and accentuate- and pressed powder made me look like a chinchilla- was a gentle facial wax at a salon that uses a soothing cream afterwards like an Aveda salon. The next day, and for a few days afterwards, wash with a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil, use a mild clarifying lotion that exfoliates a little bit- I use Clinique Clarifying Lotion, more like an alcohol based toner but not as flammable as Sea Breeze. Then use a facial lotion with salacylic acid (not if you are pregnant!)- like Neutrogena anti-acne solution twice a day for the next two or three days on clean skin. A nice pampering cream with SPF in it after an hour or so helps comfort the skin after the salacylic has had time to work.
    Best of luck!
    lacey

  20. Shannon Jul 22 at 3:32 pm Reply

    Ugh I know EXACTLY were your coming from!! I’ve been plucking my neck and chin for years and it keeps getting worse!!! I can’t afford the electrolysis’s so I’m stuck with plucking!!! Let me know if you know of any other ways to get rid of this horrible problem!!!!

  21. Dawn Feb 06 at 2:54 am Reply

    It’s so comforting to hear that I’m not the only person with the horribly embarassing problem of the “she beard”.
    I’ve always had a problem with side burns, which I started sugaring (same process as waxing only not nearly as harsh on your skin and much easier clean up) when I was about 17. Over time, the hair on the sides of my face began to come in softer and finer – I still had to wax but I found that I could go for longer periods in between sugaring sessions.
    Last year, I found myself pregnant with twins and the added hormones of a double pregnancy did something to my body which kick-started the growth of my facial hair. I asked my OB about it and she assured me that at least some of the hair would just “go away” once my hormones leveled off post-partum, but that has not been the case. Now I’m sugaring my entire chin and upper neck every few weeks and plucking in between times which makes me feel completely disgusting! Ugh!
    My point? Um…I guess just to commiserate. It has been helpful to read about everyone else’s experiences with laser and electrolysis treatments since those are options I have been considering for a long time!
    Thank you, Amalah, for posting this!

  22. Unknown Feb 28 at 11:52 pm Reply

    You should look into buying “clean and easy the One touch” electrolysis system, which allows you to perform the procedure at home on your time and save $$$. In addition, if you feel the first choice is not for you because it can be very tricky to handle (i’ve been there) I would also consider a facial epilator such as Emjoi Tweeze and eze-tweeze – those can range anywhere from like 15 bucks to 25 depending on where you look.
    I also have the Nono hair removal system and it leaves stubble so I do not recommend using on the face in order to achieve perfect and SMOOTH results.
    Good luck!

  23. anon Mar 29 at 1:08 pm Reply

    I had fine blonde peach fuzz on my face and neck and hated it. Little did I know that compared to what I’m going thru now, that was like heaven. I’ve recently used a Sally Hansen remover and I’m covered with stubble! I hate it and I’m extremely depressed. I’m too embarassed to even see my boyfriend. I don’t know what to do. Right now I’m trying to let it grow in (hoping) that it will go back to the way it used to be. Do you think this is possible? How long do I have to wait?

  24. kagana Mar 30 at 7:24 pm Reply

    well i have done everything from nair to vaniqa to plucking.
    I noticed one hair and started plucking and pluckign til it spread and became worst. I too kthe stupid advice of a doctor who was not my dermatologist and plucked adn plucked. I’m not blamign her cuz i would have plucked anyway,but not as much.
    vaniqua made it worse. Turns out im the litle percent that has a severe reaction to it. It made my problem worst. I think vaniqua is for like thin hairs because it made my already ingrown hairs ingrown and infected. So i stopped using that and i had to start all over again.
    in the end i hope that just growing it out will work. I pray to god it will. I don mind having normal peach fuzzy hair. Its jsut the dark ingrown hair thats killign me. I’m trying duac and retina for the spots and nair for the hair. I just want it all to be over.
    please if you have an suggestions. tHey will be greatly appreciated

  25. Raheli Jul 01 at 1:50 pm Reply

    I too had facial hair!!
    At first I bleached it, but it didn’t work – it just became blond .. then I waxed it ,that worked ..but I did great damage to my skin.
    Eventually I found an excellent solution to this problem!
    For all woman who suffer from fine hair on their face, you can use: “Spring it” bar from myspringit.com .Its a spring that removes the hair from the roots without doing any damage to our skin!! Its amazing. i give it thumbs up

  26. Christina Bedeaux May 15 at 8:46 am Reply

    I also have a bad problem with facial hair. It is so bad that one of my Co workers asked me about it. That was a kick to the self esteem. I shave my upper lip once a week and pluck my chin as needed. Don’t they have a cream to stop unwanted hair from growing +

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