It's come up in conversation at the Well+Good office, and amongst my friends, and while we vary in the number of hairs that appear and how often they come, we all have them. After doing some digging, I learned what the elusive culprit typically is: always mysterious hormones (surprise!). Since this kind of hair is extremely complex and differs for everyone, not everyone will have the same chin hair woes. So, to find out about all of these variables, I sought out the expert advice of a dermatologist and a hormone expert. Keep scrolling for their insight.
Why unwanted chin hair happens
First of all, know this—so many people experience the hairy issue. "Having stray facial hairs is very common for women," says Arash Akhavan, MD, a New York City dermatologist with the Dermatology and Laser Group. "It's not uncommon for women in their mid to upper 20s to begin noticing stray hairs on their face." And usually, the number of hairs one finds tends to increase with age. "Due to hormonal changes, hair does increase with age," says Dr. Akhavan. "Even after undergoing permanent hair removal procedures such as laser hair removal and electrolysis, one must remember that periodic touch-up sessions will be needed since new hairs are always popping out."
That's because facial hair in women is frequently hormonally driven—which can stem from a number of conditions. "The top hormone for hair growth is testosterone," says Suzie Welsh, hormone expert, CEO, and founder of Binto, a personalized supplement brand. "This is a sex hormone that's naturally more predominant in men than women. When women have hormonal fluctuations, and more specifically, higher circulating testosterone levels, one of the side effects is unwanted hair growth—which is called hirsutism in the medical world."
"Having stray facial hairs is very common for women." —Arash Akhavan, MD
You could experience such fluctuations if you deal withpolycystic ovarian syndrom or PCOS, she explains. "This is one of the top reasons women have hormonal fluctuations and higher testosterone—women with PCOS have more [testosterone], which results in facial hair growth," says Welsh. Chin hair on women can also stem from hormonal imbalances. "These sorts of imbalance issues are often caused by some other adrenal disorder, which would be a complication or miscommunication of the glands that control your sex hormone feedback loop," says Welsh. And lastly, it can happen, and often does, when women enter menopause.
As for why some women get one or two strands while others get more populated facial hair, it's all about certain specificities: "The pattern depends on the hormonal fluctuation and the number of hair follicles you may have," she explains. "If you have a greater hormonal balance, your unwanted hair pattern will be more severe." Note that women experience serious hormonal changes (which can throw off your hormonal feedback loop) during adolescence and into adulthood, and then during menopause, adds Dr. Welsh.
Aside from hormones, another factor is genetics. "Genetics play a huge role, as does ethnicity," says Dr. Akhavan. "Sometimes facial hair in women can also be a sign of hormonal abnormalities, and I recommend to all my patients with facial hair to have a laboratory evaluation to assess for this possibility."
How to get rid of unwanted facial hairs
Once you get the all-clear from a doc to determine nothing more serious is at play, you might want to think about how to get chin hair off for good. Dr. Akhavan says that the best method is laser hair removal. "We now recommend the new Motus AX laser, a highly effective laser appropriate for all skin tones that has zero pain associated with it," he says. If you're going the more DIY route, however, he notes that you can wax, thread, pluck, or shave the area, but as a reminder, hormonal hair often comes back quicker than that on the rest of the body.
If you have the fear that removing those hairs will result in even more springing up in their place, fear not: That's a giant lie. "There's no truth to the myth that you can grow extra hair by removing the hair that you have," says Dr. Akhavan. I can attest to this. As a bona fide plucker, I still only have one grow back in place of the one I always take out (bless).
Having other hair problems? Here's how to fill patchy eyebrows:
Originally posted November 1, 2019, updated March 5, 2021
- Mihailidis, John et al. “Endocrine evaluation of hirsutism.” International journal of women’s dermatology vol. 3,1 Suppl S6-S10. 16 Feb. 2017, doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.02.007
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