Caroline Manzo is right

Four times in the last 2 days I have been asked the question that I am asked so frequently; "How can I get rid of this hair on my face?"


Four times in the last 2 days I have been asked the question that I am asked so frequently; “How can I get rid of this hair on my face?”

Many women grow hair on their face. For some it is fine, light hair. For many it is fine light hair with a few darker, stiffer hairs sprinkled about. For a less lucky few, it is a beard. For all it is a problem, both from the looks of it and how it makes facial makeup look fuzzy, to the problems that occur when they try to get rid of it. For those unlucky few with a beard, it is a real cosmetic liability. The fine light hair, and the fine light hair with a sprinkling of dark hairs come with changes in hormones as we age. Those with a beard often have more significant hormonal issues or it is a familial, genetic, or racial characteristic. Some ethnic groups tend to grow more hair than others.

When I talk with these women, they have often been plucking the hairs out, or waxing. And just as often they get ingrown hairs, red bumps, that they pick at and trying to remove the regrowth. So they have chronic, red bumps on their face, all the time. Sometimes a disaster occurs, such as when they are using a retinoid (Retin-A, Renova, Refissa, Tazorac, Differin or OTC retinol products), then wax their face and the skin comes off with the wax. Not good.

When I tell those with the fine light hair, or fine light hair with a few darker ones to shave, I get the look of horror that Caroline Manzo, of New Housewives of New Jersey fame, got when she stated that she shaves every day. Although Caroline shaves daily to exfoliate, and states that she doesn’t really grow hair, the freak out is the same. “But it will make the hair grow thicker!” “It will make the hair grow darker!” “It will make the hair grow faster!” “It will make more hair grow!” No, No, No and No.

Shaving the hair at the surface of the skin does not affect the hair follicles under the skin. Hair is formed in the hair follicles under the skin and grows out. The hairstylists who tell you that trimming your hair will make it grow faster are wrong. It simply can’t change the thickness, color, rate of growth or number of hair follicles. Think about it, if shaving the few remaining hairs that likely grow on their heads could make hair grow, then Sean Connery and Bruce Willis would have full heads of hair—although I like them both better bald. Ummmm. But, I digress. And your favorite man, who shaves daily, would look like a Chia pet. And so would your legs.

Now plucking and waxing are a different story. Plucking and waxing rip the hair out of the follicle by the root. That stimulates the hair follicle. And over time can distort the angle of the follicle so that hairs are more likely to be ingrown. And then you pick at them, and on and on.

Depilitories (Nair and others) dissolve away hair, but they are often pretty irritating. Facial hair bleaches can be helpful to lighten the hair that is there, but they can be irritating also.

So for the fine, light hairs, go to the drugstore and buy a $5 tiny battery powered razor. They are in the shaving section and the head is about an inch long. Shave the hair off. When it grows back, shave it again. Just like you do your legs. That’s what I do. Yes, it will feel a little stubbly when it grows out, just like your legs.

If you have a sprinkling of darker, coarser hairs, either keep shaving them too, or consider facial IPL or laser hair removal for them. For the gray coarse hair, you will have to shave them. No IPL or laser hair removal gets rid of the light fine hair, or the gray hair no matter what anyone tells you. The IPL or laser light can’t “see” it.

You may want to consider also using Vaniqa along with your hair removal. It is prescription cream that you apply twice a day. It runs about $70 a tube. Insurance will not cover it. It will slow the growth of the hair. It will not remove hair, change the color, or make it stop growing. Sometimes it makes it a little finer. Some people get irritation from it, and sometimes acne.

If you have a more significant amount of darker hair, that is not familial or ethnic, and especially if you have acne, difficulty with weight gain, irregular menstrual periods, then you may have a hormonal disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO). If you do, talk to your Gynecologist. They will evaluate you, and discuss your treatment options, which are often birth control pills, or oral contraceptive pills (BCP’s or OCP’s) to reduce facial hair growth. I can’t tell you how many women come in for facial hair growth problems, who are growing a significant amount of dark hair, who have never been evaluated. For some it is a significant problem, they are women with beards. We will refer them to their Gynecologist for evaluation, and then treat the hair with IPL hair removal. So if you have a lot of dark facial hair, and feel like the bearded lady, treatment for you is Gynecologist evaluation, possible hormonal treatment, Vaniqa, and IPL or laser hair removal.

Ethnic facial hair growth is the hardest problem. It is most common in women of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or Southern European descent. It is genetic, and less often has a hormonal component. And it is often dark hair on skin with a lot of natural pigment which makes IPL or laser hair removal more difficult. Treatment is shaving, Vaniqa, and very careful laser hair removal. If there is also evidence of a hormonal component, then that needs evaluating also.

And please, quit picking at those hairs.