Hirsutism causes excess hair growth in women, such as on the face and chest. An expert explains the causes or hirsutism, treatments such as hair-removal and cosmetic techniques, and where to go for help if you're worried about excess hair growth.

Media last reviewed: 28/01/2013

Next review due: 28/01/2015

Hirsutism is when a woman has excessive hair growth.

The hair is normally thick and dark and grows on the:

  • face – for example, the upper lip and chin
  • chest
  • lower back
  • buttocks

Read more about the symptoms of hirsutism.

Hirsutism is caused by an excess of male sex hormones called androgens or an increased sensitivity to androgens. In most cases, this is caused by polycystic ovary syndrome.

Read more about the causes of hirsutism.

Who is affected?

Hirsutism may affect one to three women in every 20 who have not yet started the menopause (when a woman’s periods stop).

After the menopause, the change in the balance of hormones can make excess hair more common. Up to three quarters of older women may have slightly increased facial hair. Hirsutism in post-menopausal women is also known as ovarian hyperthecosis.

Are there any treatments for hirsutism?

There is no cure for hirsutism, but there are treatments to manage the condition.

There are a number of hair-removal methods that may help, such as shaving, waxing or bleaching, although these can sometimes lead to irritated skin or inflamed hair follicles (folliculitis).  

In some cases (in women who have not yet started the menopause), taking a contraceptive pill may control hirsutism.

There are also a number of unlicensed medications (medicines that have not been specifically tested for this purpose) known to be effective.

As the life cycle of hair is around six months, treatment can take this long to work so it is important to start treatment as soon as possible.

Read more about treating hirsutism.

Hirsutism can have a significant psychological effect on the person. If the excess hair is on the face, this can cause embarrassment and affect quality of life.

Page last reviewed: 26/06/2012

Next review due: 26/06/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

whatshername said on 23 September 2013

im wondering if anyone knows, would a contraceptive implant help with this as well? rather than the contraceptive pill, as i always forget to take the pills. is it the same hormones?

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