Help me get rid of my excess facial hair. Please.
July 5, 2010 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Hey you drag queens, male-to-female transitioning transpeople, and women with PCOS: How do you handle your facial hair?

I'm a woman with elevated male hormone levels. I've been tested for PCOS, and even though i have a similar hormone profile, i don't have that syndrome. I see an endocrinologist, and I'm on drugs that bring more hormone levels down to normal, but i still have a lot of thick black facial hair on my chin, jawline, and neck (its the texture and density of a man's beard.). I have hair that is finer, but but still dark, on my cheeks and upper lip.

Tweezing is insanely time consuming with this much hair, and leaves my skin mangled with ingrowns. Waxing gives me major ingrowns, and requires me to 'grow the hair out' a bit, which is totally untenable. . Depilatory creams aren't strong enough to get rid of the coarse hair. Shaving leaves my skin stubbly by later in the day. I tried laser hair removal a few years ago, but it didn't work. (I found out later that it doesn't work if hormones are causing the hair growth.) I'm out of ideas, and i want to feel pretty and feminine and not scared to have anyone touch my face or see me first thing in the morning. (So, basically, i can't have a sleepover with a guy i'm dating - because they'd wake up with a girl with the beginning of a beard.)

So, what haven't i thought of? What can i do? Please hope me.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Laser hair removal did it for me. I can't believe how long I suffered before doing it and it was the BEST decision I ever made.
posted by cecic at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2010

P.S. - I have PCOS and did it even with wonky hormones and it still worked. Maybe try again with a different type of laser?
posted by cecic at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2010

Is there a local salon that does threading? I don't know how well it would work with that type of hair, but there are only so many hair removal options and it might be worth a shot! I've also heard of "cold" waxing and sugaring which might give you less trouble with ingrowns? And there's always electrolysis.
posted by tetralix at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2010

I have PCOS and I've been waxing basically since puberty. As time has gone on and as I've been able to get my hormone levels in line, my facial hair has lessened. I tweeze any awful surprises I find between sessions.

My doctor warned me off laser hair removal for the reason you mention: it doesn't work.

There's a prescription cream called Vaniqa that will slow down hair growth. I never used it because my insurance didn't cover it and it was something like $70 a tube. I figured waxing was cheaper overall.

Good luck! I feel your pain. I'm sure there's a solution for you, plus if you can get your hormones regulated, you should see a decrease.
posted by sugarfish at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2010

My mom got electrolysis on her chin and is so, so happy with the results - she says it was completely worth the cost and discomfort. However, she does not have PCOS and never had as much hair as you do, so your results may vary.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2010

Spironolactone, absolutely no sugar or flour, and lots of water (basically a cross between Atkins and Low Glycemic eating). I lost a LOT of weight (50 lbs) and my periods are still a little wonky but kind of regular. The facial hair is a total bitch and I feel for you. I still have to tweeze occasionally. But after six months on the spironolactone/no sugar or flour regimen it was only 1/10th of what it was. It's been three years for me now and my quality of life is sooooo different. I never get heartburn anymore, I stopped losing the hair on my head, and my skin cleared up. I'm in my mid-thirties and my weight has been stable (give or take 5 lbs) for the first time in my whole life.

I really don't eat sugar or flour. Like NEVER. Not on birthdays, not on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and i never ate a single donut during my divorce last year. It's poison for PCOS.

And if you haven't read Living Well With PCOS I highly recommend it. It's a game changer.
posted by madred at 11:23 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

i don't have pcos but i do get my eyebrows threaded and highly recommend you give threading a shot—it hurts less than waxing, is more precise, and i've never gotten ingrown hairs.
posted by lia at 11:24 AM on July 5, 2010

crap, i just missed the "not PCOS" part. I'm so sorry! My PCOS wasn't formally diagnosed, BTW and my hair issue wasn't as intense, but I still stick by my advice.
posted by madred at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2010

This is me, too. Laser did it for me, but boy, do you have to be patient. Shop around - make sure the place doing the laser has certified people running the machine. Plan/budget on at least six to eight sessions, ask them for ice/numbing cream for your skin. Buy yourself some TendSkin for ingrowns.
posted by LN at 11:50 AM on July 5, 2010

Seconding insectasaurus: Try electrolysis. It will be time consuming but it should work in the long run. The little electric needle damages the hair follicles--some of them will be killed the first time 'round, but some of them will need to be zapped again.

If the hormones mean that the hairs that are fine now will turn more dark and coarse in time, then yes, you'll have to keep after those new ones, no matter what. So laser may not have worked for you previously because new hairs were getting dark/coarse in the area that had been treated. But if you've got dark hairs and fair skin, it ought to work--the principle is that the energy from the laser is absorbed by the dark hair and damages the follicle. Essentially the same as electrolysis, in terms of how the hair growth is stopped, only the delivery method is different.

Good luck!
posted by Sublimity at 2:40 PM on July 5, 2010

Threading on coarse/dense hair sounds terrifying, to be honest. It's one thing to have it done on eyebrows, which are relatively fine, but it might be a mess on beard-like growth. I mean, I've tried threading my legs before, and...yeah, not quite the best idea.

And yes, really do ask your doctor about spironolactone if you're not on it already. If you're on HBC, even switching to Yaz or Yasmin might help with your hirsuitism - the progestin that's in those two pills behaves like spironolactone.
posted by thisjax at 3:33 PM on July 5, 2010

have you tried an epilator? while you might get bumps the first week or two, your skin regulates and you end up just doing it every day as part of your routine and once you get used to it it doesn't hurt much - especially in the beard area!
posted by curiositykilledthelemur at 4:16 PM on July 5, 2010

I have PCOS. I only get 4-5 long dark hairs on each side of my chin, plus an occasional stray on my neck, so I just tweeze them.

For your upper lip, have you tried bleaching? I haven't, but a friend of mine swears by it.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:25 PM on July 5, 2010

Oh boy, this is my life. Laser works on existing hairs, but indeed, if you have the ongoing hormone problem new ones will just keep growing in. Possible solution: combine laser hair removal with ongoing hormone therapy (dexamethasone, spironolactone, metformin, hormonal birth control, something to block some of the excess androgens) to keep new hairs from growing in once the old ones are removed.
posted by Eshkol at 8:08 PM on July 5, 2010

I bleach my upper lip 'stache. However, the hair there tends to be somewhat fine. Not as fine as, say, the little tiny invisible hairs we all have on our faces, but not as coarse as the black hairs that have popped up on my lip and chin in the last couple of years. Those suckers are bleach-resistant and require plucking. SO HOT.

Anyway, bleach! I just use the generic drugstore brand. It's necessary once a week, and because I'm self-conscious, I pluck a little in between, too. But it definitely eliminates the junior-high-boy-stache look. And a large box will last 4-6 months.

I prefer this method to plucking, which would take forever; waxing, which I'd have to let them grow in for and would cost too much; and shaving--I know a girl who does this and it looks like 5 o'clock shadow. Plus, stubble is not conducive to smoochin'.

FYI, for ingrowns, Tend Skin has always helped me enormously on other sensitive areas of my body. It can be used on the face. It's totally worth the price.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:23 PM on July 5, 2010

Edit: Sorry, I reread your post and noticed you're already on the meds - I meant to say, you might want to try raising your meds a bit, if that doesn't solve the laser regrowth problem. That sort of fiddling makes a big difference with my PCOS.
posted by Eshkol at 5:50 AM on July 6, 2010

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