According to a report published by market research company Mintel, more than half of all women are concerned about excess body hair. It’s estimated that one in ten of us suffers from excess facial and body hair. But what causes it?
Dr Rina Davison, an endocrinologist from Whipps Cross University Hospital, London, with a special interest in excess hair says that eating large amounts of sugary, refined carbohydrates, such as biscuits and cakes, may trigger excess hair.
These foods have a high glycaemic index, which means they release their energy quickly and can cause insulin resistance, explains Dr Davison.
Insulin is the hormone that controls blood sugar level; ‘resistance’ means the hormone becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar, so the body has to produce more of it to get the job done.
“The problem is that a raised insulin level may trigger growth factors which make the ovaries produce too much of the ‘male’ hormone testosterone, which can lead to excess hair,” the dailymail.co.uk quoted Marilyn Glenville, a women’s health expert and nutritionist, as saying.
“Being overweight can also cause insulin resistance.”
But there are other factors — from commonly prescribed drugs to poor diet and certain ailments — that could be to blame.
Polycystic Ovaries is also another cause of excess hair in women. All women produce androgens. However, sometimes women produce higher levels, or they may have normal levels, but their hair follicles are more sensitive to androgens.
“If excess hair is due to a hormonal imbalance, then it tends to occur in areas such as the chin, upper lip, sideburns, chest and inner thighs,” says Dr Davison.
“Patients with skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis can also develop excess hair,” add Dr Davison. People suffering from anorexia have lanugo hair — an excess of fine, downy hair that covers the body. In this case, the excess hair is unlikely to help the person’s already negative image of their body.
Corticosteroids, used to reduce inflammation in the body and are prescribed to treat conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, contain a synthetic version of the hormone cortisol and levels can build up in the body over time.
The problem is that if the drugs are taken for more than four to six months, this can cause a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. Symptoms include weight gain, a red, puffy face and excess hair growth all over the body.
Menopause is another condition that accelerates the growth of facial hair in women. "As the hormone oestrogen declines at the menopause, testosterone (the ‘male’ hormone) can become more dominant,” explains Marilyn Glenville.
“You don’t have more testosterone, but the ratio of oestrogen to testosterone has changed, making women prone to symptoms of male pattern baldness or other male characteristics such as facial hair and acne,” adds Glenville.
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