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How to Get Rid of Unwanted Facial Hair

Jan15

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AHHH! Help! Dearest Amalah, I am asking you this question because I do not know where else to turn and am so ashamed! Before my pregnancy I had a chin hair or two that would pop up every now and again. A tweeze here, a tweeze there and all would be fine. During my pregnancy I noticed these little hairs popping up more and more often. I began having to pluck weekly and then almost every other day.
My daughter is 10 months old now and my chin situation is frightening. I have two patches on either side of my chin and under my jaw going all the way back to my neck line and it is a disaster. Recently I was getting ready for a big event, and since I have a baby and a full time job and hubby to take care of I was running short on time..I eyed the little pink razor in my shower and …well… now I have an even BIGGER problem. I have these two little patches and the section under my chin that have essentially turned into a girl beard (I am not kidding, I even get a 5 o’clock shadow and everything). I am 26! Is this hormonal? Is it because I am Italian? Who do I go to? A dermatologist? My obgyn? I have dark, dark hair and fair skin so when it is bad, it is really bad (I didn’t shave it but I am also sporting a pretty nice ‘stash too). I also have eczema and bleaching and waxing always caused serious skin issues for me but at this point I would take red itchy patches over a beard any day. Do any of those “rub away the hair” products work?
Please any thing at all will help, at this point I shave it every morning because I don’t know what else to do!
Thanks–
The bearded lady

Facial hair! On the wimmins! Sooooo much more common than you’d think. Brows, lips, chins, sideburns…a lot of women deal with a bit of extra hair than they’d like to admit. For some, it’s due to ethnicity and genetics, for others, it’s from shifts in hormones. Childbirth, PCOS, menopause, fun stuff like that. It sounds like you’ve got both causes here, since the growth amped up so noticeably after your daughter was born. It’s POSSIBLE, if you’re still breastfeeding, that you’ll see an improvement once your daughter weans, but…maybe not. So it’s SOLUTION TIMEZ.
First up: shaving. Definitely not the recommended tactic. There’s a myth that shaving causes hair to grow in thicker, but it’s more about the blunt cut of a razor that makes it look that way. Either way, shaving produces stubble — and as you’ve noticed, the stubble can appear really quickly. Rough, noticeable, notgood. So back away from the razor. Here are the options, and as much as I know about them: (Which is admittedly limited — all my unwanted hair is blond and still tweezable, and I’m not prone to bad waxing reactions.)
Bleaching. If your facial hair is simply darker than you’d like but still on the thin side, bleaching is a painless way to make it practically invisible. I have friends who bleach their upper lips and I NEVER would have noticed if they hadn’t said anything. Pros: can be done at home and cheaply (kits are usually under $10), no ingrown hairs, no pain. Cons: can sometimes temporarily lighten darker skin, doesn’t work for all skin types, and (as you’ve learned) can irritate sensitive skin. Look for kits designed specifically for the face and TEST IT OUT on your leg hair first to check for allergies or other bad reactions. A little tingling and redness afterward is normal, but should fade within a few hours. Anything longer than that, toss it, it’s no good for you. (And never, ever bleach skin that’s actively have an eczema break-out or something.)

Depilatory creams.
Now, I haven’t used one of these since I bought a cheap-o bottle of Nair back in high school. (And I can’t even remember why I bought it. Legs? Bikini? Why was I fighting what was little more than peach fuzz?) Yes, they do work…kind of. They smell bad, they’re messy, they do not remove everything 100%, and only remove from the surface. They’re better for smaller areas, where you can go in afterward with tweezers and clean up what gets left behind. They’re also best for fine hair — if your chin sports really coarse hair, it’s unlikely that a cream will be all that effective. And while the creams formulated for the face do tend to be a bit gentler than ones for underarms and bikini lines…they can cause similar reactions to bleaching. So again, TEST ELSEWHERE FIRST. But! If you’re at a point where you don’t mind SOME tweezing but would like a bit of a shortcut to thin the herd first, perhaps a reader can recommend a specific brand to try.

Waxing.
Self-explanatory. The quickest way to get rid of everything right from the root, giving you entire blissful days and weeks of a hairless appearance. Along with possible rashes, ingrown hairs, red angry skin. If my years of writing this column have taught me anything, it’s that some women are just incompatible with waxing, no matter what after-product they try. (And there are about 1,409,292,290 after-products out there, all promising to solve our waxing woes.) If I were you, and had hair like you’re describing, I’d probably continue to try different waxing techniques (hot, cold, hard wax (no strips), sugar, etc.) with different after-care approaches (azulene, diaper cream, exfoliating lotions) to see if I couldn’t come up with something that works. I’d also shun the at-home kits and see a professional.
Prescription medications.. There is indeed a prescription-strength medication for women who suffer from extra hair (hirsutism). Vaniqa. I’ve heard very, very mixed things about it — it’s an extremely high-maintenance thing, since you use it twice a day, every day, and it can take up to two months before you see any different. After that, clinical trials report that only 58% of users saw improvement, and the hair will come back pretty much immediately if you ever stop using it. You can’t use it if you’re pregnant or nursing, insurance usually won’t pay for it, and I don’t really know just how hairy you need to be before a doctor will prescribe it.
Electrolysis & Laser Hair Removal. Also known as The Big Guns. The Big, Permanent, Expensive Guns. Electrolysis is cheaper per-treatment than lasering, but you’re all but guaranteed to need multiple treatments. Lasering off facial hair can often be done in a single visit, since it can wipe out a hundred hairs while electrolysis targets individual hairs one by one. (I don’t know how accurate this is, but here’s a general idea of average costs per laser treatment across the country, and here’s one for electrolysis. Since the latter requires a LOT more treatments, the higher price per treatment of lasering might not really be that scary.) Both approaches have a mixed track record: worked great from some, while other people report that their hair did eventually grow back. There are some at-home gadgets that promise similar results, but are NOT recommended for use on the face, so don’t even get tempted. Facial hair < facial scarring.
A lot of women eventually decide to go for laser hair removal despite originally thinking it was too expensive: even if you DO find an at-home regimen that works, or figure out how to survive a waxing with minimal irritation...do the math. Regular salon waxing, twice-weekly bleaching or depilatory creams, twice-daily prescriptions, all that time spent tweezing and yanking and coloring and fretting. For the rest of your life. It's one of those awesome "spend the money all at once" vs. "spend even more over time" conundrums. Maybe throw a few dollars in a jar every time you reach for the razor or wax, or redirect some of that discretionary money that never seems to buy anything of real value (lattes! impulse buys!). Keep it by the mirror and remind your reflection that you're worth it.


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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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28 Responses to “How to Get Rid of Unwanted Facial Hair”

  1. Beth Jan 15 at 2:29 pm Reply

    You might also want to go to your doctor and have your thyroid and hormone levels checked.

  2. Dawn Jan 15 at 2:58 pm Reply

    Oh my goodness! I could have written this letter myself! I’ve always had problems with sideburns and a few stray chin hairs but then I had a twin pregnancy and, ever since, my hormones have been completely out of whack. When I mentioned it to my doctor, she said that things would go back to normal within a few months after delivery. LIES! My babies are 16 months old now and I am still battling the full “Girl Beard”! I hate hate HATE it!
    My solution has been to use an at-home sugaring kit every 3-4 weeks, using azulene oil after each sugaring. I found that the body sugar was much gentler on my skin than wax and the hair seems to grow back much finer. It’s still there, but not as stubbly as it would be with shaving or tweezing. Maybe this is an option? (Although I WOULD suggest going to a professional if there is room for it in your budget!) Good luck!

  3. Erin Jan 15 at 3:10 pm Reply

    I’ve had a lot of success with Sally Hansen products for removing hair above my lip and around a mole that’s near my temple. It’s gentle, but does irriate me a bit afterwards (a bit of redness/tinglyness). I’ll use it before bed, though, and I’m fine by the next morning. My hair is pretty light colored, and I only really need to use it about once every 2 weeks, since it does get rid of the hair from a bit below the skin level.
    This is the one I’ve been using:
    http://www.sallyhansen.com/product.cfm?product=125

  4. Ms. Krieger Jan 15 at 3:49 pm Reply

    Another option to remove hair (in addition to all the others Amalah mentioned) is threading. The esthetician uses two fine pieces of thread to deftly pluck out individual hairs. Kinda like waxing, but it takes more time, is less irritating, and it’s a lot more precise. I first saw it done in Turkey, for exactly the purpose you need – women were threading away their lady beards. (People of both sexes in the middle east use it to define/remove facial hair instead of sugaring/waxing.)
    I’ve seen it done once or twice in the DC area, so I know you can find it in the US. Because it plucks the hairs out by the roots, you probably only need it done monthly or so. Good luck!

  5. Girl X Jan 15 at 3:55 pm Reply

    After years of trial and error, I’m in the bleaching camp 100%. As a teen I lived in Italy, and was silently awed by the number of older women who would wear “white moustaches” on any given weekend. Wnen I finally summoned the nerve to ask, I was told that it was hair bleach. I wondered why they didn’t just use Nair or something, but now I think I get it.
    Removing the hair completely seems great because you don’t have to look at it anymore. But for me, depilatories and shaving and that “Smooth Away” mitt-thing all caused way too much irritation. I now use razors and depilatories below the neck, only. An exception is my eyebrows, which get the wax ‘n tweeze in low doses every few weeks.
    Besides those scary, burly hairs of doom, our faces are covered with finer, barely visible fuzz. It protects the skin and plays an important role in moisture balance, and removal systems take that away. I guess, as circus-looking as it can get, we need it.
    Twenty years from now, I guess I’d rather have healthy skin with invisible blond fuzz than perfectly bald raisin skin. But that’s just me.

  6. Jen Jan 15 at 3:56 pm Reply

    Another route similar to waxing is threading, which I highly recommend. It is inexpensive, superfast, and less irritating than waxing. It looks strange when it is being done (the tech basically holds the end of a string of thread in her mouth and twists it across your face). I have very sensitive skin, and while I still get a little red after threading, it is nowhere near the bumps, redness, and occassional peeling that I experience with waxing. I had my eyebrows, upper lip and chin done at a local mall for $20, and it took about 10 minutes max.

  7. steph Jan 15 at 4:12 pm Reply

    threading! If you react badly to waxing threading is a great alternative.

  8. Jill Jan 15 at 4:24 pm Reply

    I like all of Amy’s advice, but I’d like to chime in with Beth here and suggest that you ask your doctor about this since it could very well be hormonal. (If it were me, I’d start with my obgyn.) A friend of mine in college had this problem and although I’m not sure what she was prescribed, she was prescribed something and it did end up taking care of the hair on her face.

  9. Mouse Jan 15 at 4:34 pm Reply

    I remember reading a summary of a study that found that some aspect of spearmint could help with hirsutism in women. I think the suggestion was 2 cups of tea per day, though I don’t know how long it would take to see results.
    For me, genetics (Eastern European Jew) seem to be the culprit, as none of my hormones are out of line. I pluck as much as I can and will be waiting to see if there are any more permanent changes after this next baby, when I will look for a more efficient solution.

  10. Amy Jan 15 at 4:42 pm Reply

    I was sitting here reading this letter thinking, “Did I write to Amalah about this? I don’t remember writing to Amalah about it… But this letter is 100% me…”
    I’m still honestly unable to figure out if I wrote this or not. So, girlfriend, assuming you’re not actually me, at least you know you’re not alone.
    The Sally Hansen stuff didn’t work on my neck – I tried it just two nights ago. I think I’m going to have to find a laser hair remover. *sigh* It works like a charm on my ‘stash, though.
    I’ve tried waxing, but it HURT LIKE HELL and didn’t work. If you can score a few days when you don’t have to see ANYONE, and you can let it grow out a little, that’s the best way to tweeze. Otherwise they’re just too short to grab. *sigh* I usually tweeze as much as I can at night, then tweeze again in the morning, and then shave in the shower whatever I wasn’t able to grab. My husband’s razor works a lot better than mine – I guess they figure we girls can’t handle real razors or something.
    POOR US!

  11. Melissa Jan 15 at 4:47 pm Reply

    Oh, my word. I understand. BOY oh BOY do I understand as I am currently 33 weeks pregnant and, uh, bearded.
    Here is my info – I am of eastern european descent. Pale skin, dark hair, stunningly long roots. (I sometimes pull eyebrow hairs that I am sure must be rooted in my brain).
    I had electrolysis done a few years ago. It was $22 for a 15 minute session. I went weekly the first month, then every other week the next two months, then every 3-4 weeks until I didn’t have a blessed thick hair on my chin (perhaps to about 18 months?) You cannot remove anything by the root between sessions (this means bleach or shave. I bleached)
    I think the most valuable advice I learned there was from the video they show you along with the initial consultation. It basically says that there are two types of hair growers. 1) The hair growers where the hair is pulled out by the root (waxing, threading, etc) and the root eventually dies and they waxing is needed less. 2) The hair growers where the hair is pulled out by the root and the body combats this by actually growing an additional capillary near the root to provide extra nutrition to keep the root healthy and strong and usually results in a thicker, darker (HEALTHIER) hair.
    If you are in category 1, wax, pluck, or thread away. Category 2? You are better off bleaching or using electrolysis.
    I’ll be honest – my skin was red and irritated for about an hour or two afterwards. I definitely wouldn’t meet friends for dinner that night. But otherwise? The clear and free beardlessness? Totally worth it to me. Took no more time than a salon appointment, got decreasingly frequent and showed actual results.
    I had no thick black beard hairs for over 3 years. NONE! With my hormones all crazy they have come back but not nearly as bad as they were before treatment.
    I’ll probably have them treated post pregnancy, but will wait to see how the hormones affect me.
    I hope my experience helps you. I know how frustrating it can be to have such a masculine feature at such a feminine time in your life (pregnancy, motherhood). It was a real source of shame for me. I don’t know if it is for you, but I thought I’d just put that out there and say that there are more of us bearded ladies than you’d think and it’s not so bad.
    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  12. Jay Jan 15 at 5:00 pm Reply

    Absolutely threading! I switched from waxing my eyebrows to having them threaded, and I would never go back. I have sensitive skin, and threading does not cause nearly the redness. It hurts less, costs the same ($10 for brows), and takes about the same amount of time.
    If you don’t live in a city or know where to go, ask a friend of South Asian descent. I’ve found that in some suburban communities, a woman will just do it out of her home.

  13. Hairygirl Jan 15 at 7:44 pm Reply

    I have dealt with this issue since my teens (major thick black hair on bikini line, beard, you name it). I chose electrolysis and I am pleased with the results. It does take a while (figure at least a year of treatment because of hair growth cycles), but it is permanent. Worth every penny. Laser is long term but not permanent: I have heard the hair will grow back lighter and finer, but I haven’t tried it yet. That will be my post-partum gift to myself – a laser session. I would love to hear from anyone else here who has done it.

  14. Caitlyn Jan 15 at 8:50 pm Reply

    I use Nair on my legs sometimes – quite a number of people say it never works for them, but I find it works beautifully as long as I use a plastic spoon to take it off, not just a washcloth. Not really face-related, but could be useful if you decide to try that route.

  15. Amy too Jan 15 at 10:15 pm Reply

    Something worth mentioning, electrolysis and lazering can cause skin lightening when done on the facial and neck areas.

  16. catherine Jan 16 at 6:52 am Reply

    My gyno reccomended vaniqua for my PCOS related facial hair woes, but it gave me *terrible* acne, so watch out. Also tried lasering, but it is fairly painful and a no-no if you have UVA sensitive skin.
    I currently resort to a good light and a sharp pair of tweezers, time consuming but it works.

  17. cagey Jan 16 at 10:03 am Reply

    Oh hi, there! I am big hairy beast thanks to PCOS. I have done everything that Amy mentioned and by far, had the best results with laser. However. What the nice laser people did NOT tell me is that when you get pregnant, all bets are off. So, after two pregnancies, 20 months apart, I am pretty much back to where I started, except for my upper lip – the laser was a miracle worker on that spot. Anyway. Now that I am done birthin’ babies, I want to do the laser AGAIN, but I am still pretty pissed that the nice laser folks did not warn me the hair could grow back after pregnancies. Til we can fit laser back into our budget, I am making non-deductible donations to a nearby salon for waxing. They love me there.
    To help with the ingrown hairs, I use a prescription strength gel called Ziana.
    While I am grateful I had my babies so easily, PCOS is a rotten bitch.

  18. Della Jan 16 at 10:09 pm Reply

    Ok so just chiming in on laser hair removal. I have wanted to do that ever since it became available, and when I was getting married I thought, well, now is as good a time as any to schedule my first treatment, right? So I went to two places for consultation, called several more.
    Here is the info I gleaned, condensed for you (as well as I can remember it now, 4 years later). It’s really long and I didn’t want to threadjack, so you’ll have to go to my site to read it – click my name above or go here:
    http://daily-della.blogspot.com/2010/01/laser-hair-removal.html

  19. Jasmine Jan 17 at 8:37 am Reply

    I have the same problem as the Bearded Lady — whilst many of you have peach fuzz, I have black fuzz. And I learnt the hard way that after having threaded all of it off, the pores look waaaay bigger (since it’s ripped off at the roots) and the parts where my hairline met my face only grew back with denser baby fuzz! Argh!
    There’s a cream bleach called Jolen that I’m thinking of trying but right now I’m growing out my facial fuzz. I tweeze my upper lip nearly every day.
    I’m not sure you have access to things like Intense Pulse Light? IPL apparently also removes ‘em permanently, or so I heard. I’m sorry I’m just throwing out suggestions here, they’re waaay out of my budget but maybe you’d consider it!

  20. Melanie Jan 17 at 5:38 pm Reply

    I totally agree on the threading! I recently switched from waxing my hairy-scary eyebrows and I couldn’t be happier. I will warn that the second time I went I tried a different spot that was closer to my house (the first time was with my mom as recommended by some of her friends and was close to her house)… anyway, the second lady I went to was not as gentle and I was more irritated. So you may ask around about who people like, or if you may try a couple different places. I also think, for eyebrows anyway, they give such a better shape. Good luck from another hairy girl!

  21. Meghan Jan 17 at 11:38 pm Reply

    So glad to see a bunch of other ladies recommending threading! My skin is super sensitive and I’ve always looked like a big blotchy freak after getting waxed. Threading has been a godsend for me, the lady I go to charges $14 total for eyebrows, upper lip and chin. She uses witch hazel on a cotton ball after to soothe the skin and reduce swelling, which I have found to be the ONLY after-product that doesn’t make my skin get red and ANGRY.

  22. jessica fantastica Jan 17 at 11:49 pm Reply

    I use laser treatments. My gyno has a laser tech in office and I get a discount since my need is from PCOS. My biggest issue with it is that they said I’d need 6-10 sessions. More like, the rest of my life, every 3 months. But at $50 a session (face and neck) it’s just a cheap as any other removal method, and I only have to worry about it every 3 months.

  23. Stephanie Jan 18 at 3:56 pm Reply

    I recommend sugar waxing. I have similar issues as the OP, and at some point in my young adult life, my skin decided it HATES to be waxed. MAJOR irritation always happens… unless I use a sugar paste instead of “normal” wax. The best part about sugaring is that if you make the paste at home, it is super-duper cheap. If you Google “sugaring,” you’ll find a recipe in no time, and it’s really easy to make. All you need is sugar, lemon juice and water. And the technique is the same as waxing. It’s just much gentler on the skin.

  24. Krista Jan 21 at 3:48 pm Reply

    I can’t wax (still have faint red rings around my eyebrows from the last time I waxed, over a year ago) and can’t afford laser/electrolysis. My solution is as seen on TV (but bought at Target) — the facial hair trimmer ($9.99) and the Emjoi Tweezey ($14.99). I felt ridiculous buying them, but they work. I use the trimmer on my upper lip — it cuts the hair off right next to the skin, but since it’s not shaving or pulling the hairs out by the root, there’s no coarse “regrowth.” The Tweezey is for chin hair — it’s not foolproof, but it catches about 90% of the hairs. Much quicker than tweezing (although I have to go back with a tweezer for touchups). A bit painful, but no worse than waxing. Plus you don’t have to keep buying stuff — after the initial investment, you just have to replace the batteries maybe once a year. (They are noisy, though, so if your husband is under the impression that you have no facial hair problems, you’ll have use these only when he’s out of the house.)

  25. Jenny Jan 24 at 10:25 am Reply

    I am Italian (like you) and Spanish with fair skin and dark hair. I’ve been bleaching/waxing my mustache and beard for 20+ years! At my dermatologist’s recommendation, I am waiting until our family is complete before getting laser hair removal. Hormonal changes from pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding can make new/old hair come back. Given that you have dark hair and fair skin, you will be an excellent candidate for laser hair removal when the time comes.
    In the meantime, for a large patch of dark, coarse hair like you describe, bleaching may only make your dark beard look blond, which may still bother you. You should try it though, I recommend Sally Hanson extra strength formula, and see if you like the results. If you still think the blond hair needs to go, I would professionally wax/thread the most problematic areas, and bleach in between treatments. Waxing will thin out the hair and bleaching in between treatments will help camoflage the new growth.
    Good luck!

  26. lisak Feb 08 at 1:58 pm Reply

    I have to chime in and say that Vaniqa cream has worked for me. I don’t have a huge facial hair problem, but have always had a faint mustache (as did my mother and my sisters)on my fair skin. I used to bleach it or use a mini epi-lady that hurt like hell. Now, I put on a teeny, tiny, smidge of Vaniqa every morning, usually not on weekends, and it is no longer remotely noticeable. The cream is ridiculously expensive, but I’m still working the first tube I ever bought more than a year and a half later. So cost per use is very reasonable. It did irritate my highly, highly sensitive skin at first, but doesn’t seem to anymore. That’s mostly why I use it only once a day and not on weekends. I don’t seem to need it more often. And it beats the heck out of waxing (0wie!!!) and the lovely scabby red rash I got the one time I tried a depilatory.

  27. Lolita Jun 08 at 12:32 pm Reply

    I can really relate to your problems – its a total pain. My sister tried laser hair removal and she has been left with lots of scars and is prone to getting spots in that area, however all hair was removed.I use waxing and its an excellent method. Once you get used to the slight pain its simple. I have waxed every 2-3 weeks for about 8 months and after about 6 months my upper lip hair really started to thin! Although its a bit time cosuming my sister said she wishes she had opted for waxing instead of lots of scars. Hope this helps!x

  28. coya Jun 10 at 1:27 am Reply

    I am in shock. I thought that something was really wrong with me. 2 years after I had my son I started to notice little bombs on my chin. After the bombs disappeared, hair started to sprout on both side of my chin towards my neck. I have tried everything except hair coloring an laser treatments. Am tired
    of being embarrassed and having to shave every
    day. All of you women have touched my heart tremendously. You all have given me hope and open opportunities. I wish us all the best of luck getting an being facial hair free. Thanks to you all.

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