Sometimes while I am working at my computer, I will stop and lightly rub over my chin with my finger as I continue to stare at the screen. It may appear to be a habit of someone deep in thought, pondering perplexing issues, but actually I am feeling for chin hairs! Unlike the light, downy soft fuzz that we women have all over our face, some aberrant hair will spring forth on my chin like a quill from a feather! It feels like a huge, prickly quill! Immediately I must go to my desk drawer and pull out my little magnifying mirror compact and precision tweezers.
There are many reasons why women get facial hair. Some are related to rare conditions such as an adrenal or ovarian tumor, Cushing’s syndrome, or the more common condition of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Sometimes it is related to one’s ethnicity or family genetics. Other times it may be a side effect to a drug.
Women produce both estrogen (think bestrogen) and androgen (think mandrogen). During the reproductive years, estrogen is present in greater amounts than androgen. With the onset of peri-menopause and the passage through menopause, that hormone balance can begin to shift causing many changes. Hence, the downy fuzz may start to turn into quills. Some women may get just a few hairs here and there. Other women get a lot of hair on their chin or above their lip. This can be most distressing!
There is no cure but there are things that can be done. My choice for the few hairs I sprout is to vengefully pluck them. To paraphrase Shakespeare: “Out, out damn hair!” Others wax, shave, or use chemical hair removers. Contrary to what many of us have been told, plucking or shaving will not cause the hair to grow back thicker, coarser or darker. Bleaches will lighten dark facial hair and make it less obvious against fair skin. Be careful with chemicals as they may be very irritating to the skin. More expensive permanent hair removers are laser treatments or electrolysis which zaps the hair root and kills it. How satisfying that must be. There is also a prescription cream, Vaniqa, which slows the hair growth. For younger women, oral contraceptives may help.
I remember reading a passage in the book, Pull of the Moon, by Elizabeth Berg. In it she describes a woman who finds a chin hair: “A woman a bit older than me told me she recently found a hair under her chin and it so terrified her that she got in her car and drove for 50 miles—nowhere, just around in circles. It was a black hair, she said, stiff as a whisk broom. When she came home she locked the bathroom door and got out her tweezers and pulled the thing out. She said she looked at it a long time, and then she flushed it down the toilet—flushed it twice…..It’s so humiliating, she told me. It’s like you are being punished for something and you’ve no idea what you’ve done wrong except age. She didn’t really hear what she said, she didn’t hear the natural acceptance in her voice of the idea that aging is a crime. But I did. And when I heard it in her, I saw it in me.”
At the time I first read this I was much younger. I thought it very amusing. Now I see it in me and it is not so funny anymore.
Why do a few hairs horrify women? Does aging mean she is less feminine, less attractive or less valuable? She is just a beautiful rose showing a few thorns. The rose is actually a tough plant and not to be messed with. Just like a real woman! So pluck those nasty hairs and carry your chin high!
Heidi Eve-Cahoon MSN, CNP
Breast Care Coordinator
Jean and Milton Cooper Cancer Center
Summa Health System
Check out my other blogs:
- Mission Possible: Finding the Perfect Bra
- Lessons Learned from the Breast Cancer Ladies
- Breast Cancer in Men
- A Very Pink October
Berg, Elizabeth. Pull of the Moon. Random House, New York. Copyright 1996. Pp.103-104.