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Getting hairier by the minute

The girls and I got together the other night and at one point the conversation turned to facial hair

As women age, and particularly as oestrogen levels drop, the testosterone that's naturally in our bodies gets the upper hand and we can start developing hair patterns like men's. Than means our head hair can thin, which affects an astounding 40 per cent of women, but also our facial hair can get thicker.

I have to confess here that I'm not much troubled with body hair per se. Being from a family where everyone is blonde and as slick as a pear, I wouldn't even have to shave my legs now if I hadn't Immaced them to death when I was a teenager. "Pruning makes the plant grow stronger," wrote my father on my depilatory cream, but did I take any notice? Nah.

However, I do find this past few months that I have a single rogue facial hair, and so - it appears - do most of my friends (varying in age from 35 to not-telling-you-or-anyone-else). The position of our unwanted visitor varies - mine's growing out of a mole, so it can't be plucked, just has to be trimmed every now and then with sharp scissors. Those with theirs in a luckier position just get out the tweezers and a big magnifying mirror. "Tweezers are a girl's best friend," R said, waving a corkscrew about.

Dermatologists don't agree. For the odd hair, they say, you should razor the bugger off because the force of the pluck can irritate and leave a bump. The same applies to waxing, and depilatories - you can irritate your skin and cause actual damage. Oh great.

If the hair's more widespread - your facial down is getting thicker and more plentiful - whatever you do, you shouldn't shave it. If you do, the stubble, though no thicker than before, comes back rougher, which makes it more noticeable.

Nor is laser removal a perfect solution. It doesn't work on white hair, and on dark complexions can cause hyperpigmentation of your skin so that you look like you've got a moustache even though there's no hair left. Meanwhile, electrolysis will work on the odd hair, but you can't do large areas with it because each hair has to be killed individually and even then it can take several attempts.

My friend S, who was not at the party, uses a little gadget that I had never seen before till she emailed me a link. Kind of like a big multi-tweezer that plucks out multiple hairs via the 'threading' technique. The Epicare tool is, says S, both effective and slightly compulsive. She particularly recommends it for straggly hairs round the mouth and chin. I suppose, in essence, it's a many-pronged approach to plucking.

There's one final option. If facial hair is really becoming a problem for you, you could try Vaniqa cream, available on prescription, which inhibits the enzyme that hair follicles need in order to grow. You need to apply it twice a day at first, then if your hair stops growing within three months, gradually reduce the dosage to the minimum effective level.

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