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Women with beards: What you should know about hirsutism

Hirsutism is a medical condition characterized with unwanted, male-pattern hair growth in women: hair on the face, chest and back.

“Often, the sufferer has excess male hormones (androgens) and primarily testosterone,” says Dr. Kireki Omanwa, an obstetrician and gynecologist who doubles as a fertility expert.

Even so hirsutism could be a pointer to an underlying problem. It may be a sign that one suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or has tumours that produce male hormones.

Sometimes a woman gets hirsutism through genetics, in which case the condition rarely has medical implication – except for psychosocial problems.

“A woman with hirsutism should seek medical opinion to rule out the presence of a life-changing condition,” says Dr. Omanwa.

Treatments for hirsutism ranges from different medications to surgery – or a combination: depending on the underlying cause.

Treatment, says Dr. Omanwa, may be followed with cosmetic procedures like laser hair removal and electrolysis.

A session of electrolysis or laser treatment lasts between 20 minutes to one hour, says Peris Mbuthia, the medical aesthetician.

“Electrolysis involves inserting a tiny needle that emits a pulse of electric current into each hair follicle to destroy the follicle,” she says.

Laser treatment involves projection of laser light over affected skin – to destroy the follicles.

According to Peris a patient may need between 6 and 12 sessions of electrolysis and laser treatment over a 6 month period to permanently get rid of the hair.

“This is because the average life cycle of a hair follicle is six months,” she says.

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