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The Vine: June 12, 2013

Submitted by on June 12, 2013 – 12:33 PM49 Comments

vine

I've got an embarrassing problem that I'm really hoping that you and the readers may be able to advise on. 

I'm a woman in my late twenties, and for years I have had a very noticeable problemswith facial hair on my chin, neck, side of face and lower cheeks (upper lip isn't a problem as I get it waxed off regularly and am not hung up about that. Also, I have unusually hairy arms etc., but I can hide that more easily so it's not such a big problem). Two years ago I went to the doctor to be checked for PCOS, but apparently don't have that.

I did a stupid thing and shaved the hair on my face off — and kept shaving it for a long time, so now when it grows back it's stubbly and feels/looks awful. I grew the hair out over the Christmas break and tried to get it waxed so it would come back finer and get rid of the stubbly look, but it didn't take – the beautician ended up plucking individual hairs out of my face for about half an hour and then had another appointment so I left in tears with a ton of hair still visible and went back to shaving it off again. 

My problem is twofold: firstly I'm not sure what to do about getting rid of this unwanted hair — everyone says don't shave it off, but what do I do when I've already been shaving for so long and created the whole stubble problem? How can I keep on top of it and stop it from being visible? I am so paranoid of other people noticing this, and hate seeing signs of the hair when I'm in bright settings. 

The second problem is the way I feel about the facial hair. I feel ugly and manly and freakish. I look at every woman I see and examine her face for signs of hair, and feel such jealousy for the smooth faces I see around me. I find it hard to imagine being in a relationship with a man — I feel repulsive and I worry that nobody will find me attractive with this problem, and if I did have a relationship, I wouldn't want the person I was with to touch my face and am not sure how I could avoid that. I can't let anybody touch my face because as soon as they feel the stubble they'll know. I can't spend the night with anybody because they'll see signs of the hair in the morning when I wake up. There's a man I like at the moment but when we talk I'm very self-conscious that he will notice the facial hair and I pull away from social situations when I'm feeling especially bad about my looks.

Realistically I know that not everybody is going to be examining my face for signs of hair and that nobody is going to care about my face as much as I do, but I still feel completely awful about the facial hair. And then I feel bad about feeling so awful because obviously there are worse problems that people can have, but at the moment this is hard and I'm struggling with it a lot. I don't know how to feel less bad about my facial hair, how to feel attractive when dealing with this, and what to do when navigating physical touch in personal relationships. 

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read this,

C

Dear C,

First of all, give yourself a break for obsessing over it. Not from obsessing over it, although that too, because it's exhausting, but for it. Embracing your physical quirks proudly is a great goal, but nobody hits that every day no matter what they say. Today, my plural chins will isolate me, rightly and forever, from joy. You're human and you want to be perfectly pretty. That's just normal, irrational human-being business.

Now, to the business of depilation. PCOS isn't the only reason lady hair can go rogue (in either direction — it is possible for women to have male pattern baldness thanks to slightly elevated testosterone). It's sometimes easier to address a cosmetic problem if you know for sure what is (or is not) causing it medically, so go back to the GYN and also to an endocrinologist, make it clear why you're visiting, and if either/any doctor is making you feel bad for feeling bad about the hair, go to someone else who's on the team. Life is too short to pay a doctor who judges you for not wanting a beard.

Once you've cleared everything biologically, I think you'll feel better about the hair, not having it but feeling like you have some agency in it, and that will probably help a little bit with your self-consciousness. It won't eliminate it, but just keep reminding yourself, I am working on this, and also nobody notices these things as much as I do, and also also some guys dig a little wisp action, and it's going to be okay.

If you define "okay" as "no hair no how," I don't have a ton of experience with that. (Yet. The genetic tendency towards a billy-goat in the later years is probably waiting for me. Sigh.) You may want to visit a dermatologist or a laser clinic and have a consultation about permanent removal, or maybe your GYN will think you should go on the pill and that will thin things out, or maybe you want to try a chemical depilatory like Nair for a while and see if that's a more elegant solution than shaving. (Would threading help with this at all? I'm asking.) In the short term, stick with whatever has worked for you while you research other options.

Short form: don't feel bad about feeling bad; don't stay at the mercy of the problem, but take action, which will make you feel less bad; remember that the boy of your desiring has a third nipple, or thinks his ears are hideous, or something, because everyone does; remember also that straight boys just plain do not notice a lot of shit and also God invented low lighting because S/He loves us; and let's see what the readers can suggest about fuzz control that might work for you.

Nothing wrong with going natural with that, readers, if that's your thing, but today we're looking for that clean, close (non-)shave. Hit it.

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49 Comments »

  • Sarah says:

    I echo going to a new doc. There might be something medical going on, and don't let some mean doc bully you.

    I don't have this problem, but several of my friends have found laser hair removal effective. And here in DFW, the places offer groupons all the time. $100-$120 buys you six sessions on a "small" area, and the list of small areas is long. So that might be a more affordable option than you might think.

    I do have one friend I can think of off the top of my head who has her upper lip threaded. I only get my eyebrows done, but that might also be a short or long term option.

    I'm certain you're a beautiful person and you're the only person who notices this though!

  • Teri says:

    Oh girl. I feel you. It wasn't fun being the most pale person around with dark, dark hair. Back in college everything seemed to go slightly nuts for me facial-hair-wise; I stuck to the Nair cream for face. It worked fine, but was a little irritating to my skin. I went on the pill (first Seasonale, then Ortho, now have been on Yaz for about five years) after college/during law school, and while I may have just stopped caring due to lack of time to obsess, I'm crediting that with a major abatement in facial hair.

    I currently keep it in check with a steady (and frequent) tweezing habit when it's needed, but if it were to get bad again I wouldn't hesitate to go back to facial hair-removal creams. Olay seems to have one that touts its non-irritative properties; I'd give it a shot if I were you just to see whether it removes it without irritating your face badly. Good luck – it isn't fun, but it can be manageable!

  • Lisa says:

    I have the same problem, and it drives me crazy. Nair and other depilatories left me with a red, painful beard-like shape where I'd used it, and I can't afford laser treatments. There is a prescription cream to lessen hair growth — a dermatologist could help with that — but my "fix" has been a cheap battery-operated shaver, which I run over my face every morning. I know it's not a non-shave option, but it's quick and works fine and doesn't irritate my skin. Following up with Paula's Choice Redness Relief helps, too.

  • c8h10n4o2 says:

    I have a couple of friends with excessive hair issues, and they've all sworn by Laser removal. There are lots of specials and Groupon-type things out there to help with cost, too, although I would make sure to go to someone with a decent track record.

  • ferretrick says:

    I know it's not cheap, though I don't know exactly how much it costs, but electrolysis? If the hair is causing you this much unhappiness, maybe the cost is worth it.

  • Jen B. says:

    This might make you feel better. This chick is awesome: http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/09/bearded-sikh-woman-teaches-reddit-a-lesson.html.

    I wonder if there's a reason why you haven't tried electrolysis?

  • Judy says:

    Dear C,

    Oh honey. I am right there with you. I've got the full face thing going on due to PCOS. I hate to tell you this, but once the hair starts, there's not a lot that'll stop it short of lasering or electrolysis. If you want to get rid of the stubbliness and waxing didn't work for you, I'd suggest trying threading. It's not going to be pleasant the first few times, but it DOES work. I've done it. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe a cream called Vaniqa that helps stem the growth. I would NOT recommend using Nair on your face.

    Currently, my budget doesn't allow for threading and so I shave daily. I've stopped being self conscious about it, but that's me. My boyfriend does not mind the hair, nor has any boyfriend I've had in the last several years, as long as I don't let it scratch them. I'm a little bit older than you- I'm in my late 30s- but guys seem to get that weird medical things happen as we get older and it's never really been an issue.

    Good luck.

  • Rachel says:

    1. Definitely talk to your doctor(s) and have them test everything possible, starting with your hormone levels.

    2. Nair/Sally Hansen chemical creams are great-ish. I use the Sally Hansen on my 'stache (which can get rather full and lush and dudes be jealous) and it works just fine. I do have to switch brands from time to time because they either change the formula (chemical burns, hooray) or my skin is just mad at it for the moment or whatever, but I have had great success with this goop.

    3. Be gentle with yourself. Bodies are weird, gross, beautiful, imperfect machines. They do strange things at all times.

    4. Know that you feel like there is a HUGE GLARING SPOTLIGHT on your face, but for the most part, people don't notice it that much. And if they do, most people have had enough Home Training to at least pretend they don't notice. Politeness and courtesy are sometimes more prevalent than we think. I have a lot of blemish scars on my face and I hate they way they look and I feel like they show up really vividly in photographs but either other people truly don't see them or they don't care and think I'm adorable (I am).

    5. You're okay. I promise.

    6. Talk with your insurance company and see if electrolysis or laser treatment is covered for you. You *might* be able to get your dermatologist to advocate for you, here. OR if you're in therapy, you might be able to get your therapist to go to bat for you as well, with the thinking that your hair issues are hindering your mental health. Might be a long shot, but you know… nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    7. If you know any drag queens, talk with them about makeup and coverup and the like. They will have tons of tips and tricks to suggest and you can have those in your arsenal for times when you're really feeling wacky but still have to go out.

    8. I forget what 8 was for.

    9. With regards to amorous adventures: if you're at the point where you're spending the night with someone, you are probably past the point where you can say "hey, listen. This is weird, right?" Spin it as temporary if you must "I was sick last year and then THIS started happening but it won't last forever, hahaha bodies are weird!" I mean, make up a story, any story, but feeling like you can't get your swerve on because you sprout overnight? That sucks! Lie like a rug! Especially if it's someone you're not going to have around long-term. Tell any story you like!

    10. You're okay. Again, that's a promise. :)

  • Silly says:

    C! You are my people! Your hair pattern sounds an awful lot like mine. Yay for us?

    I think Sars's advice about feeling okay about feeling bad is great advice. It's not fun. Allow yourself to not have fun with it.

    But also, let's talk hair removal! Proactivity is good.

    Probably wise to check out all the medical avenues, though it may or may not be related; in my case, it's apparently just my genetic legacy rearing its fuzzy head. Just for funsies, my endocrinologist put me on the pill (which I don't think has helped the hair situation, but is nice for dermatologic/cycle-regulation purposes) and on spironolactone (which hasn't been a total life-changer, but does slow the growth a bit, especially on my arms). I've been on both for maybe ten years now, and it's fine.

    I used Veet, a depilatory cream, two or three days a week for years; it was okay, but the chemical-burn element isn't great (they really mean that not-more-than-every-48-hours thing!), and you have to plan ahead if there's something you want to be stubble-free for.

    But! You know what are amazing? Lasers. After fifteen years of feeling crappy about all this, I bit the bullet and did a course of laser on my neck and chin, and it's been 100% worth it–even the early treatments made a huge difference, both in my hairiness quotient and in my mental/emotional state about it. I'm nearly done, and not having to THINK about it all the time has been really freeing.

    YMMV, of course. But: you are not alone! Maybe we should all meet up in the razor aisle of Target some day.

  • Roo says:

    Ugh, I have the same problem – I wax all that at home, which works fine hairwise, but then those areas break out like crazy. I have horrible skin anyway, but waxing makes it a million times worse. (I waxed my underchin/neck ONCE, months ago, and it's like a warzone of zits that will not go away for anything, despite being the one area that never broke out before. Good job, me.) Anybody have ideas for OP here that isn't too hard on sensitive skin either?

    Also, OP, I can tell you from a whole family of lovely hirsute ladies that this is no big deal. My husband, who rightfully thinks I'm hot and obviously gets very close, had no clue I waxed every inch of my face until I told him so. I also didn't realize he shaves his unibrow. Everybody has their thing.

  • Jill TX says:

    This is not an unfamiliar issue in my genetic lineup, either, and while I don't have quite the same extent of the problem, I understand why it bugs you, C. While it's true that other people don't notice our flaws as much as we do, it's also true that this is something people do tend to notice, and some of them are real jerks about it.

    I concur that there may be another medical issue here, and the endocrinologist trip is a good idea. This is an area where second and third opinions can make a big difference. Some doctors consider a much wider range of hormone levels to be "normal," while others may interpret a level that is "normal" for some people as not necessarily okay for you. Then again, it could be just a genetic fluke.

    In the mean time, you might have more luck with a depilatory cream that's formulated for faces (Nair for legs is kind of harsh). Sally Hansen makes one that's been around forever and gets pretty good reviews: http://tinyurl.com/k953okf. And like Sarah said, laser treatment may be more accessible than you think. Best of luck!

  • avis says:

    I did facial depilatories on my upper lip for a while and eventually the hair actually started thinning out. Try different brands and spot test each time and make sure you have recovery time scheduled in in case this is the time the cream decides to leave you with a red, beard-shaped rash.

    The nice thing about depilatories is you shouldn't have stubble growing back so you may be able to wait long enough to get the wax next time.

    If you have the money though I would definitely go for the laser. Considering the creams are about $10 a bottle abd they need to be replenished it may be cheaper in the long run to grab a Groupon and have it dealt with.

    I thread my eyebrows and it is great but I wouldn't want to thread a beard or moustache. Waxing is perfect for small areas that need great precision. It is a long, slow, and painful process for larger areas.

  • KTB says:

    Plus two, three and four for laser. A friend of mine has the exact same issue (which, for the record, I never noticed until she said something about it) and has been very successful with laser treatments. She's much happier with the whole thing.

    And definitely look for Groupons–I did the laser thing with my bikini line and never looked back. Best $100 I have ever spent.

  • Lis says:

    Rachel do I detect a Femmes reference?

    OP Sorry I'm not more help but I'm chiming in with the choir of voices saying that you notice it more than anyone else. I have a very crooked jacked up nose, and I recently had surgery to correct something in my septum which made my nose like 40% less jacked up and even when I SHOW my close friends how it was before and now they proclaim that they never noticed it was crooked… and these people look at me all day. My husband didn't even notice until after we were married and I made a joke about it, and again, we've been together for over 10 years… dudes just don't pay that close attention often.

  • Beth says:

    It's not a problem I have, but I used to work in the same department as a woman who had a moustache. A full-on moustache.

    The very first time I met her, I did a double take, because it was so far out of my experience to see a woman with a moustache. But… it was just her. A from Department X at the uni had a moustache. It was just the way she was. And because she was totally OK with it, everyone else was totally fine with it too.

    She was awesome.

    So if you want to get rid of it forever, that's fine. But if you decide that you're just gonna throw up your hands and say 'I have facial hair, like it or lump it' then that's OK too. The more OK you are with it, the more OK everyone else will be too.

    Good luck either way. I hope one of the answers here is the right one for you :)

  • Katie L. says:

    This is barely question-adjacent, but:

    @Rachel: I love the Violent Femmes reference.

    Book-loving fellow TNers: I HIGHLY recommend Castle Waiting, a feminist episodic graphic novel with several chapters on an order of kickass bearded nuns. You read me right.

  • LMR says:

    Oh, honey, I could have written this letter myself, I'm going through the exact same problem (though, I'm more than a few years older).

    I've done depilatory (crazy red irritation), waxing (red bruising), threading, electrolysis (ouch), laser. Laser, if it works, is probably the best, but here's what they don't tell you… genetically, your body could react by growing MORE hair on the under the chin/neck area. (ask me how I know this…). And while they *claim* 6 – 8 sessions, I'm on my 16th. And it ain't going anywhere.

    Also, I don't know how it is in your area, but there's very little regulation and training in the realms of laser hair removal. Anyone can buy a machine. So, please do your research about which type of laser you're using, the qualifications and training of the technician doing the laser, and the possible side effects.

    I'm still persisting with the laser, but since I sprout hair faster than you can say five o'clock shadow, my in-between solution is a combination of battery-powered trimmer and then one of those smooth away pads, which is essentially a very-fine sandpaper (they're usually in the As Seen on TV section), that smooths things enough that it gives me enough confidence to leave the house.

  • snarkalupagus says:

    +1 kabillion on the laser.

    Really. I could have written your letter five years ago (fair-skinned, dark-haired sisters, UNITE) and finally I had enough. My dermatologist also has a derma-spa with lasers, and two treatments was enough. It's not cheap, but it takes the whole issue from "I am a FREAK who will never get laid" to complete non-issue.

    Words to the wise, though…I did have to go back to my derma for a laser touch-up just this year; I found myself finding dark hairs and tweezing/shaving again. A reputable doctor or clinic shouldn't charge you again for a full treatment, because it's considered a "touchup."

    It's five years later, I am five years older, and, as Sars says, now finding the occasional billy-goat. My friends in the same age bracket and I have a monitoring pact and carry tweezers for the just-in-case. *poink!* Done.

    You are not a freak. Not even close. It feels weird, it looks gross up close in the medicine-cabinet mirror, and it seems unusual, but as you can see, plenty of women have the exact same issue. You have options, from drugstore-cheap to a couple hundred bucks. Check on your health to make sure it's not a symptom of something, save the funds to pursue a treatment option, and don't look back.

    Good luck from the hirsute sistahood.

  • Krissa says:

    If you aren't up for paying for the laser removal…

    Threading! Easier on your skin than waxing, and can be done basically as soon as there is any hair above the skin – you don't have to wait like you do with waxing.

    Since you started on the endless cycle of shaving, it would probably help to, say, not shave over a weekend and go get it threaded on a Monday. This will get a large majority of the hair out at once.

    I had my whole face threaded, back when I lived in a city where such services were offered, and it was fast, minimally painful (nothing at all compared to waxing, for me), and lasted about the same amount of time as a wax.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Agree with all the advice above. Also, check in with your dermatologist once you pick a course of action for advice on easing the irritations to your skin. A course of prednisone or other steroid can help sooth the inflammation (ONLY under your doctor's care! Steroids are nothing to fool around with.)

  • CJ says:

    Laser removal is the answer. Not everyone you see with that smooth skin came by it from genes alone! It hurts (oh God does it hurt) but it works. (I had my whole hairline altered and it took only two sessions, not the recommended five.)

  • Kim says:

    Another fist-bump @Rachel for number 8, there.

    Everyone else has offered excellent advice, so I'll just hope to comfort/commiserate with my own Bodies Be Trippin' anecdote: since rounding the bend of 40, I've noticed a stubborn bit of beardiness myself…BUT ONLY ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY CHIN. Seriously. A few random hairs hither and thither, but then I could grow and groom a little tiny off-center black soul patch on the left. What the actual eff, face? I'm on tweezer patrol daily.

  • Maria says:

    Well I have PCOS, and these problems you have. You probably have elevated testosterone, and once it acts on hair follicles there is no going back to how they were. Laser is great, but something else you can do to PREVENT new hairs is go on Aldactone (Spironolactone). It's a medication used for blood pressure in some people, but it will BLOCK the action of testosterone on your tissues and not let new follicles become affected. It may also slow down unwanted hair growth enough that just waxing may be enough for you. You would have to try it and see. A dermatologist can give it to you. The only real issue with it is you should not use it if you are trying to conceive, because it can cause birth defects in a baby boy by blocking the action of testosterone on his developing body. So birth control would be a must. I used this med to deal with my issues for a long time and was very happy with it. Then I went off to go on other meds to conceive and have just never gone back…but now that I'm menopausal I am thinking about it.

    Acceptance is a beautiful thing, but sometimes it's easier once you know you have tried all there is. I guarantee you that you care about this more than anybody else does, and I hope you will go see a doc about a prescription and/or try some laser. I think it would be a great life investment, and I really wish you ALL the best in feeling better very soon. ((((hugs))))

  • Wehaf says:

    I have similar hairiness issues. I've had good luck with Nad's hair removal (it's a sugaring system, and you can get specific applicators for the face), and also electrolysis. For the latter, I went through my dermatologist's office. I wasn't on a treatment schedule, so I could schedule additional appointments as I could afford them.

    As some others have mentioned, spiranolactone may help; you should talk to your OB-GYN or PCP about it.

  • lemon says:

    My aunt had a beard that she shaved and her face was all prickly in the mornings/later in the afternoons, and she somehow managed to convince my uncle to love her anyway. ;)
    Her insurance eventually paid for laser removal (I think because she had a hormonal imbalance and a therapist) and she has seen really good results. I think that works best if your hairs are darker, though.
    If I were you, I would use the sandpaper-y hair removal type things (or actual super-fine sandpaper) because they will leave you with less scratchy regrowth and, bonus!, make your skin really smooth. Every time you have to buy those, or razors, or whatever, put aside that amount for future lasering. It's pretty worth it, from what I hear from my aunt and other beardy ladies.

    Don't worry about it too much, though. We have a lot of mean girls at my job and they don't make fun of the bearded ladies. Maybe because they're afraid if they point it out, people will notice they have chin hairs too. Most girls do, to some extent or another.

  • tria says:

    There is also the REM spring, which I really love:

    http://www.amazon.com/R-E-M-Spring-Facial-Hair-Remover/dp/B001FXUTUM.

    It's basically like threading that you can do on your own. I know it looks dinky, but it really does work. I'm serious! Look at the reviews. I use it for the sides of my face and 'stache, and I only need to touch up about once a week.

    Also, for those with sensitive skin, I only get slight redness afterward, no breakouts or allergic reactions. Yay!

  • ark says:

    A 100000% in agreement with everyone on laser hair removal. I am fair skinned, dark haired, and laser removal was literal life changing. I cannot recommend it enough. It was somewhat expensive (maybe 3k overall for me) but I had face, arms, legs, underarms, and bikini line all done for that price and because it has to be done over 4-6 visits 6 weeks apart I could at least spread the cost out a bit. I am a teacher and don't make that much but in retrospect I would have paid probably 5x that for the results I got. Super levels of hairiness before and now (5 years after the fact) I literally don't have to shave my legs, much less deal with facial stuff. Look into finding someone who has good reviews (huge range of skill/results between different drs/techs) but seriously, it is so worth it.

  • Kara says:

    My grandmother is 82 and has "whiskers," as she calls them, on her chin. (She's the opposite of you: dark-chocolate-brown skin, white hair.) She shaves. Should that be my fate, I'm laser-ing pronto. Ain't no shame in it. I use a skin care product with retinol so I can't wax, and I don't like threading (I tweeze my brows), so laser it is, should the need arise.

  • Katherine says:

    Electrolysis really did change my life. For some reason it's harder to find than laser — I THINK because laser gets results quicker, but then, electrolysis results will last longer. The price is absolutely worth it if the hair is bothering you enough to interfere with your life. I've realized that all my fancy lady appointments are just as good as therapy, which helps me justify the cost. Good luck!

  • JT says:

    As others have suggested, you may want to look into laser hair removal and groupon/living social always have deals for it. I've gotten 6 treatments for $130 for small area and $299 for a large. (If you think how much waxing or even razor blades cost, thats not too bad.) I highly recommend it. If you do want to do laser hair removal, you can't tweeze, wax or use depilatories for (I think) 8 weeks before your treatment, since it takes the hair out from the follicle. You will actually have to shave prior to treatments, so now may be a good time for you to look into it.

  • Claire says:

    Seconding threading. If there is an area near you with a large Indian or Middle Eastern community, that's where you will find excellent threaders. They are usually super cheap. A lot of women have their entire faces threaded so it won't be an unusual request.

  • Lizard says:

    Like others, I definitely empathize on the obsessive feelings and feeling freakish. And like other posters, I've always heard laser removal works very well on pale skin and dark hair. I've had beard tendencies for most of my adult life and had electrolysis for a few years in my twenties. (I'm pale with blond facial hair.) I'm not convinced that it's a cheaper alternative, since the more often you do it the thinner the hair gets. But you do have to have it done at least weekly or more. They also don't guarantee it against hormonal changes and so on. Has it worked now that I'm in my later thirties? It's thinner than it might have been, but these days I, er, just shave it or get waxed when I can afford it.

    I can't speak to relationships – I struggle with the same thing, but I do know that what others think of me is vastly, vastly more positive than what I think of myself, physically and otherwise. The two are thoroughly different universes and often my negative thoughts have no connection to reality.

  • SarahBeth says:

    I legit could have written this letter myself.

    You are not alone, as you can see here. I have the exact same problem, and have had it since high school (all through high school too, you can imagine how much fun that was)- I shave too. I've tried waxing, laser, creams, etc. Nothing has worked, so…I shave. I'm engaged and my fiance doesn't care and loves me anyway. I finally got diagnosed with PCOS about 5 years ago and my doctor put me on spirolactone and that's at least slowed the growth some.

  • Catherine says:

    Nobody has suggested epilation yet. I don't know how painful it would be on your face but I've used it for a long time on my legs/armpits/pubic bone region and it's now not painful at all. Also, you seemed to be into having the hairs plucked? This would be a way to do that (relatively) quickly and at home. Epilators vary enormously in price but I've found the cheaper end of the price range to be perfectly good for the job.

    Good luck!

  • Kathryn says:

    I'll make another vote for a trip to a dermatologist (isolate the issue AND find the right treatment; a good dermatologist will do both) and add to the chorus of voices stating that nobody notices this as much as you do. I had a mole on my face that I'd been self-conscious about since I was a teenager, and finally had it removed.(In retrospect I wish I'd done it years ago, but I was mostly worried about the cost. Which wasn't bad.) When people asked about the bandage beside my nose and I told them about getting a mole removed, I got the same reaction from EVERYBODY: "…you had a mole?"

  • Clobbered says:

    To address a point in the original letter – shaving does NOT make hair grow thicker, it's a myth. Eg.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hair-removal/an00638

    If your hair got thicker over time it was probably associated with another reason (eg. hormones) so if shaving actually works for you, don't avoid it just because you think it is making your problem worse. (I shave upper lip hair and stray neck hairs using one of those lady facial hair pencil shaped battery shavers – you can get them at Target).

  • Tyliag says:

    Threading people, threading! Seconding Krissa by a million. First off its relatively cheap and some, if not most threading places offer reasonable packages for unlimited threading over a three month period. I get my eyebrows, lip, and chin done as often as I can go in for under a bucks for three months. Which means, the second you see that ungodly chin creeper, you go over, show it to the nice lady with the thread and she takes care of it and you can get on with your life.

    It's quicker and easier than tweezing and it actually makes the hair that does come in a lot thinner.

    My unsightly grandmotherly chin hairs have been a problem for years now and a threader moved in to the strip mall only a couple of blocks from my house and it has been awesome. I go in, I spend five minutes getting all the unsightly hair removed, and I leave.

  • Nikki says:

    I recommend getting an epilator. It's a giant mechanical set of 100+ tweezers that looks very similar to an electric shaver.

    It can certainly take the hair off your arms, and I use it on my face (upper lip, chin). You might need to wait a week so the hair is long enough for this to work but I think you'll be much happier with this solution than with shaving or waxing.

    Another potential idea is to get laser hair removal, which I did on my legs. Just find someone who specializes in facial hair because the hair on the face grows faster. You might also consider electrolysis, which removes 1 hair at a time. I did this on my eyebrows, but it's painful, can scar and takes a lot of sessions. It might end up being expensive. Laser and electrolysis are "permanent," though.

  • Nicole says:

    So I used to sell laser hair removal right out of college, and as others have posted, if you can afford it this could really work for you. Some things to keep in mind:

    * Make sure the hair isn't due to any medical conditions – I would have women come in who had excess hair due to a thyroid condition, and there isn't really anything we can do. I mean, we can treat the hair, but it will always grow back.

    * What type of hair is this? It sounds like from you post (and the way it's effecting your self esteem) that this is "regular" hair, aka the same kind of hair you could find on your arms & legs. Which, good news – is totally removable with laser! But if it's peach fuzz, laser can't really do anything.

    * laser won't completely get rid of all of the hair, but if you have the ideal skin/hair combo (and again, no medical conditions causing it) you should be able to get rid of 90% of it. The laser seeks out pigment, so the ideal combo is light skin/dark hair. Although people with light hair or dark skin can be treated too – the laser will just be less effective.

    *If you decide to go the laser route, shaving is the ONLY way you can remove hair while the treatments last (usually over a period of 2 years, or a treatment every 3 months). This is because you need the root of the hair to still be in the follicle to kill it off. So no plucking, depilatories, waxing, etc. This is honestly one of the hardest things for people to stomach.

    *You probably won't see results until after your third treatment. Maybe after your second, but definitely not after your first.

    * You might find this to be painful. It really varies – some people say the upper lip/face is super painful, others don't feel it. I honestly barely felt my upper lip, but some people cry. It all depends.

    One thing that I think is clear from this comment section that I want to reiterate is that this is something that a LOT of people suffer from, so you aren't alone.

    Good luck!!

  • Cat_slave says:

    @Jen B. Thanks for sharing that wonderful story.

  • Megster says:

    I wanted to pipe up here about getting hormone levels tested; for some special women (including me), it shows up "normal," but they still aren't. Hyperandrogenism can also occur as a result of what some docs call "poor receptor control," meaning that you could have clinically normal (or normal-ish) hormone levels, but still be exquisitely sensitive to them (low message transmit = HIGH message receive in some people). Another good reason to see an endocrinologist, preferably one who has experience and interest in treating HA (not all of them do).

    (In addition to facial hair (or head hair loss, as Sars mentioned), other signs of clinical HA can include centripetal fat distribution, acne, irregular or no menstrual cycle (or a menstrual cycle, but an anovulatory one), difficulty losing excess weight or a tendency towards excessive weight gain, insulin resistance, and elevated lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides).

  • misspiggy says:

    I don't think a man has ever touched my face in the 'fingertippy' way you would need to in order to perceive hair/stubble, unless I've done it first. A lot of men are really not into that kind of affection anyway, and if they do touch your face, it's not like most of them have a huge sample of female faces to touch – they probably won't know what it's 'supposed' to feel like. Also, it's likely that someone would stroke downwards on the top of the cheek, whereas you would usually only feel someone else's hair if you stroked upwards from the chin area.

    Sorry, I have probably overthunk this! – but TL:DR, a man is very unlikely to pick up on facial hair by touch.

  • Helenz says:

    C, lots of people have given advice on dealing with the hair, but I wanted to comment on the last line of your letter, specifically how to navigate physical touch in personal relationships.

    A straight male friend once gave me some advice that has stayed with me for 15 years, and was borne out in various relationships since. He was wondering why so many women seemed to be insecure/worried about what their breasts would look like, and what any potential boyfriends would think when they saw them. His answer was that any straight man, on seeing a pair of breasts for the first time (or the second or third or thirty-fifth time) is only thinking one thing – Yay! There they are!

    That advice has stood me in good stead over the years, and it seems to me that it can apply in your case as well. Basically, most straight men are only interested in two or three places tops on a woman's body, and if you don't like where his attention is, just re-direct it to one of those places, and everybody's happy. "Oh, no, he's staring at my face, what to do?" Take off your top. "Shit, he's going to touch my face." Take his hand and put it on your boob, or butt or wherever. I guarantee you; his attention will be well and truly diverted.

    In the long term, once you're in a relationship, you'll find that it really doesn't matter, and you'll be comfortable enough to let him see/touch you as you are, but for now, you have to get from here to there, and having a couple of strategies will hopefully lessen the stress from all the what-if, and I just can't, and let you allow someone close enough for you to discover that.

    Best of luck to you

  • IS says:

    If you want to handle it at home, the best solution I've found is the NoNo hair removal device. It's just as quick and easy as shaving, you don't have to wait for the hair to grow in long like you do with waxing, and what hair does grow back (not all of it does, but it doesn't all disappear permanently the first go either) is softer and lighter and gentler than what was there before.

  • SP says:

    @tria: Holy crap, THANK YOU for the REM Spring rec! I have fair skin and hair that is too light for lasering but not so light as to be unnoticeable (whee!!), and very sensitive skin that goes red and swollen for days when it's waxed (double-whee!!!). And Nair/etc. doesn't work well, and is sensitizing. So the upper-lip thing has been a thorn, is my point here. But I did check the reviews on the REM Spring, and I thought what the hell and ordered it and OH MY GOD. Love! It definitely hurts a bit, and there's some redness, but it fades in like 15 minutes, and it hurts much less than tweeting or waxing. And my upper lip is smoooooth! Thank you!

  • Sharon says:

    Hello! I want to add a yea to Maria's Aldactone/Spironolactone suggestion. I'm finding that a combination of it and Cyclen is even better. The pregnancy issue is an important one and I'd like to add that Spironolactone contains a notable amount of potassium which can be toxic at certain levels. I was told to go easy on the bananas, for the most part, but it's something to be mindful of if you went that route. Zip around PubMed for more information.

    Also, just given personal experience with PCOS diagnosis issues, have you had an ultrasound to detect any cysts? Do you have any other possible indicators, like irregular periods or weight gain fairly isolated to your midsection? (I realize that letter-writers can only put so much in their letters so I apologize if I'm in "um, YES" territory.)

  • Mediterranean says:

    While I don't have unwanted hair in unexpected places, I have unwanted hair in ALL the expected places. Thanks, Sicilian genes! I would like to add my voice to the chorus calling for lasers and threading, assuming that a new doctor doesn't come up with something medically-related first. I've had great success with the (so far) permanent removal on my upper lip and bikini line, and am currently in the processes of thinning out the fur on my arms. It does get expensive, but so far I've had terrific luck going through both Groupon and Living Social. Often, if you go into a laser clinic on a Groupon, they'll continue to give you the Groupon rates on subsequent services. Be sure to speak up and ask if they don't offer. In the mean time, I get my unibrow pruned down into two eyebrows twice a month at a threading salon.

  • meltina says:

    Echoing what HelenZ said.

    I have a bikini area problem, and it's not due to lack of upkeep. I just have high testosterone and borderline thyroid issues. I.e., not enough for an official diagnosis, but enough for concern from my OB (hormonal birth control helps in both cases, it turns out, but I had to quit taking it due to various unpleasant side effects *sigh*). Unless your testing showed that you're nowhere near the ballpark of a high thyroid or testosterone issues, get a second opinion.

    Anyway, the forest down there had me embarrassed for years, where I'd refuse any option to get past second base with guys (and even with second base? I'd have to check for stray hair to pluck out before baring it, FYI). But you know what? My husband could care less that I'm hairy, as he is too. I mean, he notices, but in more of a 'sometimes it tickles me' way than a 'OMG, you're freakishly hairy!" way. Besides, he came into the relationship with his own issues about his body (i.e., super mild strabismus. I thought it was cute. He didn't, so he eventually got surgery to correct it).

    For all you know, crushworthy dude also has hair sprouting from all sorts of places, but the difference is that he wasn't socialized to obsess about that quirk (hubby: "hey, should I wax my back?" me: "only if you feel a need to. I don't really care either way" hubby: "… I probably don't need to"). Instead he might be worried that he hangs too much to the left, or the right, or that he totally looks girlish with his shirt off, or that his feet look crooked, or a bazillion other things. Chances are, he'd be too busy thinking "OMG, she saw me naked and didn't giggle or run away screaming! This is the best day ever!" to even notice your own issues. Besides, if he does notice the hairiness and makes a point to make you feel bad about it, why would you want to hang out with a jerk like that anyway? You're better off knowing 'the worst' has happened and moving on, than fearing it and wondering it endlessly (at least that was my rationale for being naked with the husband the first time around).

  • CG says:

    I have the same problem and am looking into laser treatment but in the meantime I shave, too. I just wanted to go on record AGAINST threading. I had it done and it was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. From the first touch of the thread on the tender skin of my neck I started to sob (I couldn't help it) and didn't stop sobbing until an hour later after I got home. Also, Don't worry so much about dudes. I still managed to get married to a great, very good-looking guy and thanks to a razor and a professional makeup job my wedding pictures show nary an unwanted hair. :)

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