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Excessive hair growth (hirsutism)

Hirsutism is where women have thick, dark hair on their face, neck, chest, tummy, lower back, buttocks or thighs. See a GP if it's a problem for you. It might be caused by a medical condition that can be treated.

Information:

Most women get more hair on their face and body as they get older, particularly after the menopause. But this is finer hair and it's not the same as hirsutism.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you're a woman and you have thick, dark hair on your face, neck, chest, tummy, lower back, buttocks or thighs

The GP will check what's causing the hair growth.

You may have a blood test to measure your hormone levels. A change in your hormone levels is a common cause of hirsutism.

Treatments for hirsutism

Your GP may suggest:

  • losing weight if you're overweight – this can help control hormone levels
  • things you can do at home to remove or lighten the hair – such as shaving, waxing, plucking, hair removal creams or bleaching
  • a prescription cream to slow hair growth on your face (eflornithine cream)
  • taking a contraceptive pill – this can help control hormone levels

If these have not helped after 6 months, your GP may refer you to a specialist. They may recommend other medicines to control your hormone levels.

Longer-lasting hair removal methods

There are treatments that can get rid of unwanted hair for longer than the things you can do at home. But they're not usually permanent.

They're also not usually available on the NHS and can be expensive.

The 2 main treatments are:

  • electrolysis – where an electric current is used to stop your hair growing
  • laser hair removal

Make sure you research these treatments before trying them. They both have risks and the results are not the same for everyone.

Causes of hirsutism

Hirsutism is caused by an increase in hormones called androgens, your body being more sensitive to them, or both.

The most common cause is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Sometimes there's no obvious cause.

Rarely, hirsutism can be caused by:

Page last reviewed: 9 July 2019
Next review due: 9 July 2022