Unwanted hair – hirsutism


Laser and IPL (pulsed light) treatments are now well established as the best means to clear unwanted dark hair. Treatments are cheaper than ever. For best success ensure your clinic has a powerful laser or IPL, and that preferably a doctor is responsible for the treatment. That’s how it is at Peach.

Hirsutism is defined as condition in which women grow hair in a form and distribution normally found only in men. So, if a woman has a lot of coarse hair on her chin, coarse hair across her chest or over her abdomen, in a form and distribution usually seen in men, then she is said to be “hirsute” and to suffer from hirsutism.

Hirsutism can arise in puberty or can arise at any time during a woman’s lifetime. Women commonly become more hirsute as they get older and as hormone levels change with time.

When hirsutism arises in the teens or 20s then a medical assessment is warranted. In particular, around 10-12% of women in Australia have a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) that may cause hirsutism. If someone has a severe case of PCOS then there will be marked acne, considerable hirsutism, obesity, insulin resistence possibly leading to diabetes, and infrequent menses (“periods”). However, many patients with PCOS do not have all these symptoms. Many women with PCOS do not know they have the condition.
Here at Peach whenever someone comes to us for assessment prior to proceeding with laser or IPL hair removal, we are careful to consider PCOS by having patients complete a medical questionnaire covering relevent symptoms and by examination with Dr Mahony.

For more information on PCOS go to the website of the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association of Australia

When hirsutism suddenly arises in later life then medical assessment is again warranted. Your doctor then has to consider whether your body is suddenly making a lot more male hormone, and from where such hormone may be arising. Very rarely, a tumour may be responsible, but this situation is so unusual that we haven’t diagnosed such a case through this practice.

The vast majority of older women who develop hirsutism do so fairly gradually (although we have all had the experience of one day noticing a hair or wrinkle that we swear wasn’t there yesterday!). Changes in hormone levels, changesin the ratios between hormones, and changes in the sensitivity of hormone receptors in certain hair follicles all conspire to put hair on chins that were previously smooth and hair-free.

Whenever an underlying medical cause for hirsutism, such as PCOS, is found, the treatment can include strategies to influence hormone levels. Many authorities still primarily use oral medications to influence hormone levels to treat hirsutism. However, such treatments can require a couple of years to show their full effects, and more often than not are disappointing.

Our leading treatment modality today for hirsutism is laser or IPL hair removal.