Hirsutism is classified by excessive hair growth in women that resembles hair patterns typically found in males. Women who have this condition will likely see hair appear on their upper lip, neck, chin, cheeks, abdomen, chest, and lower back. Hirsutism is considered a fairly common condition among women; however, some women may present coarse, pigmented hair in these general areas but may not be considered hirsute. Hormones always play a role in hirsutism, however, this does not always mean that there is an abnormality in the glands. The hair follicle can also be the cause due to an overreaction to a normal level of androgens causing the excessive hair growth. Since hirsutism is a hormone disorder, aestheticians should be mindful that excessive hair growth will not necessarily be the only symptom that affects the client. Androgens can cause overproduction of sebum that may lead to acne. Clients with this condition can be prescribed medication by their medical doctor that will aid in the reduction of androgens produced and help to reduce the amount of unwanted, pigmented hair. While a prescription can reduce the growth of the hair, hirsutism is not a curable condition and can only be suppressed through medication or alleviated with hair removal methods. Possible conditions that may cause hirsutism include:
- Adrenal gland dysfunction – also known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a genetic condition that can cause an increase in male hormones in women. While this condition is fairly uncommon, it can be caused by an abnormality in hormone production that begins at birth or later in life. Clients with adrenal gland dysfunction can also suffer from acne and/or hair loss on the scalp.
- Cushings syndrome – when your body is exposed to stress, it produces the hormone cortisol that is made in the body’s adrenal glands. Cushings syndrome arises when the body is consistently exposed to high levels of cortisol, either due to stress, a dysfunction, or from taking cortisol like medication. Sex hormones, like androgens, are disrupted by the high levels of cortisol and cause excess hair growth.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - occurs due to an overproduction of androgens in a woman’s ovaries. Unfortunately, PCOS is a commonly diagnosed ovarian problem that can lead to infertility, problems with ovulation, ovarian cysts, weight gain, and excessive hair growth.
- Tumors – if a client has a sudden onset of excessive hair growth or has an extreme case of unwanted hair, it is possible (but rare) that the client has a tumor in her ovaries, adrenal or pituitary gland that is causing an increase in male hormones.