Blogs from the Doctors
Teenage years, although extremely fun, can be filled with drama. It is a time when fitting in socially is a very big deal.
There are a lot of things that could make fitting in difficult but more often than not it is something in our appearance. Anything that stands out, from weight to skin conditions, can cause a struggle to be accepted socially. Unwanted facial hair on teenage girls is one of those things.
Having unwanted facial hair during any age can be difficult, but when it comes to teenagers the feelings of inadequacy can increase exponentially. Which is why when we receive questions about facial hair on teenagers we like to be as clear as possible about the options available.
First of all, it is completely normal for girls to grow a little extra hair the first few years after their first period. It is one of the many times in a woman’s lives when her hormones are all over the place and body changes are not only natural, they are expected.
What happens during puberty
At puberty the ovaries start becoming active and pumping out huge volumes of the ‘feminine’ hormone oestrogen. This is when girls start developing breast tissue and more womanly curves. It is a beautiful time even if not the most comfortable.
It is made even more uncomfortable when at around the same time the body is also producing a lot of testosterone, which is a ‘male’ hormone (sometimes called an androgen). This is a natural process as the female body normally produces this hormone, although in smaller amounts when compared to men. However, during teenage years, while the body is still regulating it is possible to have a little extra.
If a girl has elevated levels of testosterone, or other androgens, in her body other signs may also be present such as acne and irregular periods. However, excess body and facial hair could be the only one to show up as studies show that skin cells and hair follicles are extremely sensitive even to the slightest increase in testosterone levels.
This is great news because it means that for the majority of teenagers it is just a temporary hormonal imbalance that will correct itself.
Other times, it could be one of many different factors:
Another big reason for noticeable facial hair in women could be genetics. Girls with gorgeous, thick, dark hair could have a genetic predisposition to facial hair. This is also common with women from some Mediterranean countries. In this case, hormonal imbalance could make it even more visible.
This phase of a girl’s life can be quite stressful when you factor in all of the changes in school, family and relationships. In these moments, the adrenal glands pump out ‘stress hormones’ to help the body keep up. Since the adrenal glands also make androgen hormones, increased stress can mean extra androgens circulating in the bloodstream.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
This is a less common cause for excess unwanted facial hair, but PCOS affects 6-10% of women and can start showing up on girls as young as 11 years old. To know for sure if it is the usual hormonal imbalance common in all teenagers or PCOS it is important to contact your GP. Some symptoms to watch out for can include, irregular periods, acne, oily hair, weight gain or loss and insulin resistance.
How to choose the best way to get rid of unwanted facial hair
Whatever the cause, unwanted facial hair in teenage girls doesn’t have to mean a hard time in school or in social groups. Most of the times it can be solved quite easily either by hair removal or bleaching.
Laser hair removal
Laser hair removal is the most permanent option. Over time, it turns out to be one of the cheaper options as well. However, it is extremely important to choose the clinic wisely. The professional should be able to advise you before your treatment because often there is not enough bulk to the hair follicle to get a really effective result. It is also important to mention that facial hair removal with laser is not permitted for people younger than 18 unless recommended by a dermatologist.
All lasers and IPL treatments work by targeting the mass of melanin (dark pigment) on the hair follicle that the intense light can interact with and heat up. This process destroys the root of the hair stopping it from growing again. When the hair is light in colour or very thin, the laser may not be effective.
The great news is there are many other options available.
This form of hair removal can be a great solution and can last for up to 3 weeks. It can be done professionally at a saloon or at home. If doing it at home, it is important to make sure to get waxing strips specific for the face because the skin there tends to be more delicate.
Tweezing can also be a great option if there isn’t a lot of hair and it can be done at home in under five minutes.
This ancient technique is now available in most salons and like waxing and tweezing it only needs to be done once in every 2-3 weeks.
For a pain free solution bleach that is made specifically for facial hair is great. Make sure to do a patch test first to make sure your skin won’t react badly.
It is an old wives tale that shaving makes the hairs stronger and coarser, it makes no difference to how your hair grows. However, as the hair grows out it could look thicker as it is growing from where it was cut. So if this is the option chosen it may need to be done more often.
Avoid depilatory creams as they often cause rashes.
Make it fun!
With 1 in 10 women reporting unwanted facial hair, it is important to keep in mind how common it is. If the cause is a hormonal imbalance caused by the changes that happen in puberty it is even more common.
Teenagers can benefit from talking to friends about it or going to get beauty treatments together. Often, friends will have similar worries or things they also feel strongly about. This can make the experience fun and positive. As it should be!
Focusing on the positive can ward off any feelings of inadequacy. Instead of feeling as if they are trying to conceal a problem, they can feel connected and like they are enhancing their beauty.
“Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic.” – Rosalind Russell