How to Win The Battle Against Unwanted Body Hair

Photo: Courtesy of DERMAdoctor.
Sometimes, being a woman really sucks. In addition to mind-numbing cramps and the pressure to look and feel perpetually pretty, we have to grapple with our bodies changing in some wild and random ways as we age. If the Hormone Fairy hasn't come to visit you yet, let us be the first to warn you that unwanted facial and body hair may be en route, and it's a wild, wild ride.
We're not talking the usual pubic-brows-top-of-hair situation that we all know, love and manage on a daily basis. Oh no, we're talking about excessive hair growth of the jawline, random nipple, chest, neck, and chinny-chin-chin variety. As a matter of fact, excessive and unwelcome hair can pop up ANYWHERE. What the hell causes all that drama and, most importantly, how do you get rid of it ASAP? Plucking, shaving, waxing, lasers — oh my!
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We called on Dr. Audrey Kunin, board-certified dermatologist and president of Dermadoctor and Dr. Meghan O’Brien, consulting dermatologist for Physicians Formula, to give up the goods on handling unwanted body hair. From how it happens to how you can put a stop to it, here's how to win the battle against the not-so-sexy strands.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sephora.
Hormones are hands down the major cause of unwanted hair growth. Dr. Kunin explains, "DHT, a metabolite of testosterone, sends the message to facial hair follicles to grow hair. It can be a genetic issue for some women, while others have excessive hormonal levels associated with health concerns."

Other causes? "Ethnicity and hereditary factors play a role in unwanted facial hair," says Dr. O'Brien, who also cites hormone changes due to life changes such as pregnancy, menopause, and aging as factors." In addition, thyroid disease and excess androgenic hormones can lead to facial hair. A relatively common condition, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is characterized by elevated androgenic hormones that can lead to excess facial hair, among other issues."
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You know the rundown of removal methods: shaving, trimming, plucking, waxing, depilatory creams, laser hair removal, and electrolysis. All are relatively safe, including laser and electrolysis, which tend to get a bad rap. "Both laser hair removal and electrolysis are safe," explains Dr. O'Brien. "Electrolysis works by using a small needle to send an electric current to the hair follicle, destroying it. This requires treatment of each individual follicle.

The advantage of laser hair removal is that a larger area can be treated with each laser pulse, thus treatments are faster and usually less painful. However, laser treatments don't work as well on fine hair and lighter/blonde hair, which may respond better to electrolysis." Gillette Venus & Olay Razor, $10.99 at pgestore.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of Shobha.
While none of those methods are considered unsafe, precautions should be taken if you have certain skin conditions.

"If you've been using retinoids, wait at least 10 days before you wax," cautions Dr. Kunin. "Vitamin A creams make the skin more prone to tearing." Also, what about the myth that gals with darker skin can have issues with hyperpigmentation from lasers. "Lasers have the potential for irritation, which is more prominent on those with darker skin," explains Dr. Kunin. Those with darker skin should consult an expert before using lasers for hair removal to discuss options.

Dr. O'Brien still recommends discussing laser hair removal if you have darker skin. "For women with darker skin types, a laser with a longer wavelength, typically a Nd:Yag 1064 laser, can be used." Discuss how strong the laser will be before they begin, no matter what your skin tone. "With any skin type, the risk of discoloration is a potential side effect with higher energy settings. The overlying skin can get injured."

Also, those with tattoos? Listen up. "Laser hair-removal treatments should not be done over tattooed areas," warns Dr. O'Brien. "The most common side effect is injury to the skin or a laser burn which can lead to discoloration that takes time to resolve." Save your body art, use other methods. Shobha Home Sugaring Kit, $34.25, at Soap.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of WalMart.
You know the whole myth that if you pluck a hair, two more will grow back in its place? Yeah, total myth. The other one involves shaving. "Shaving, does not make hair growth thicker or cause it to be more noticeable," says Dr. Kunin. Nair Shower Power Max Remover Cream, $9.59, at Drugstore.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of Sephora.
Looking for a solution to get rid of body hair permanently? Lasers and electrolysis are your best bet for long-lasting results, especially if you combine the two. "Laser treatments along with electrolysis will effect the longest lasting results," Dr. O'Brien says. "Although, I usually warn my patients that laser hair removal should be considered 'semi-permanent reduction,' as follow-up treatments may be required after a few years."
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Photo: Courtesy of DermaDoctor.
While you can't cause your hair to quit growing in completely, you can definitely help the situation. "You can practice hair-growth prevention with topical prescriptions like Vaniqa, or improve the appearance of visible hair with with a hair-minimizing facial moisturizer," suggests Dr. Kunin. "Hair already present will fall out during its natural growth cycle (eight to 12 weeks) and new growth will appear less visible." Dermadoctor Gorilla Warfare Hair Minimizing Facial Moisturizer, $53, at Ulta.
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Photo: Courtesy of Target.
So, when is hair growth not just annoying, but possibly an indicator of something more serious? Dr. Kunin advises looking for changes that ring more masculine. "More noticeable and heavier growth paired with other masculinizing symptoms, like acne in a beard-like distribution and male-pattern hair loss on the scalp, are cause for concern," she advises.

Dr. O'Brien adds, "Other signs of hormone dysfunction include hair growth on the chest as well as chin and beard area, cystic acne, and irregular menstrual periods." But, both doctors agree: Concern over excessive hair growth is enough of a reason to make an appointment to see your physician.
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