Your morning is going just fine and you are in a rush to head out and seize the day.
You head to your mirror and as you peer into it to check whether the stubborn pimple on your chin has grown any smaller. You realise, to your horror, that it has not and it is now, in fact, growing a hair!
Facial hair is associated with men and when a woman finds hair anywhere on her face (apart from her eyebrows), it can elicit feelings of surprise and shock.
“Women don’t like chin hair because society believes that it is a masculine feature that diminishes beauty,” says Charles Wagunda, a senior lecturer at Rongo University
“Unwanted chin hair carries a high psychological burden for women and represents a significant intrusion into their daily lives and sometimes, stigma in the society,” he says.
No matter your feelings about the phenomenon, experts confirm that it is normal for a woman to have a few hairs on their face and especially the chin and there are a few reasons behind it.
According to Dr Fredrick Kairithia, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, some women are likely to grow chin hair because of hirsutism which is excessive growth of unwanted hair on their body and face, especially the chin. He explains that hirsutism is caused by an excess of the male hormone androgens, keeping in mind all women naturally produce small amounts of it. High levels of this hormone can lead to the growth of chin hairs.
According to Elizabeth May, an expert from the private Skin Laser Clinic Cosmopolitan UK’s Health in England together with the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), some women grow chin hair because of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which is a condition that affects how ovaries work.
This condition occurs when the ovaries produce an excessive amount of hormones including testosterone and this results in symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain, and excessive hair growth, most significantly chin hairs.
This is another cause, according to Ms May. “This condition is far less common than PCOS affecting an estimated 1 in every 50,000 people but women are three times more likely to develop it. It’s a syndrome caused by high levels of hormones called cortisol which may happen because of being exposed to high levels of steroids for long periods as happens when many self-prescribe anti-allergy drugs prednisone or dexamethasone or use of steroid creams for skin lightening can cause the growth of chin hair in women,” she explains.
Dr Kairithia also says that when you are insulin resistant, your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, a hormone that helps turn sugar into energy so instead your blood sugar stays elevated which can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes. This raises the body’s levels of testosterone and hence the amount of chin hair.
Dr Kairithia says genetics plays a major role in the growth of chin hairs since most females have vellus hair on the face but some may have more terminal chin hair. This can be due to genetics in the sense that if maternal relatives like your grandmother, mother, aunts or sisters had chin hair at a certain age then you’re more likely to get it around the same time.
Although it is a common condition that is affecting 5-10 per cent of women globally, Kenya being no exception, women of Mediterranean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern heritage are more likely to develop this condition.
Certain medications can cause an increase in chin hair growth, according to Dr Joel L. Cohen a dermatologist and director of AboutSkin Dermatology and Derm Surgery in United States.
“Some chemotherapy drugs for cancer and some medicines for epilepsy plus anabolic steroids used illegally in sport and sold in some gyms may result in growth and increase of chin hairs if used by women. These are class C drugs and should only be used by pharmacists with a prescription. If you are using them without guidance, chin hair may be just one of a range of very serious side effects,” Dr Cohen says.
According to Dr Cohen, some women can grow chin hairs as they get closer to menopause. As women age, their bodies go through a lot of changes as the level of oestrogen decreases and the balance of hormones in their bodies shifts. Their bodies start producing more male-type hormones -- androgens -- which transform the kinds of hair follicles that women typically have on their faces. Even a slight increase in male hormones in a woman is likely to give a woman a few chins hairs.
He says waxing, tweezing, and threading, rather than shaving, or using depilatory creams, can reduce hair growth as hair follicles can get damaged by the removal process and stop producing hair. However, if you want to eliminate the hair permanently, you might consider laser hair removal or electrolysis, which works by damaging the hair follicles.