Female facial hair - Medical information

Causes of female facial hair

Hirsutism (including excessive facial hair) can be normal, running in families and may appear at puberty, at the same time as underarm and pubic hair.

Women and men both have both male and female hormones, however their balance is different, whether a woman, or a man. Female facial hair is usually caused by either an increase of male hormones (androgens), or the hair producing follicles being more sensitive to the male hormone.

It is more often found in women of South Asian and Southern European ethnicity. Other causes of female facial hair include Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common medical condition in which some women have increased facial hair associated with weight problems, acne, and irregular periods. Female facial hair can also be due to the hormonal changes which take place around the menopause. Some prescription medicines and older type contraceptive pills can cause an increase in facial hair. Less commonly other hormone abnormalities can be linked with the problem.

It is important that women who are considering using Vaniqa for facial hair have consulted with their own GP, to exclude any serious medical cause. An underlying medical condition is more likely if:

  • the hirsutism has developed quickly over the previous 1 to 2 years,
  • there are also menstrual problems,
  • there are other male hormone effects such as thinning hair over the scalp or balding or deepening of the voice,
  • there is associated obesity or diabetes.

Vaniqa cream

Vaniqa cream can be used by most women over 18. It should only be used on the face and chin.

If you have severe kidney or liver disease there are no documented problems. However, the manufacturers recommend that you discuss with your doctor before using Vaniqa.

Vaniqa is not known to interact with any other prescription medication.

Vaniqa cream (eflornithine 11.5%) is applied to areas of facial hair growth twice daily.

Studies show 7 out of 10 women improve with Vaniqa treatment.

There is no other UK licensed non-hormone cream to treat female facial hair.

How does Vaniqa work?

Vaniqa contains the active ingredient eflornithine, which penetrates to the base of hair follicles. It affects an enzyme which plays a part in hair growth, reducing new hair growth. Vaniqa can be used with hair removal products and procedures. Other prescribed medicines and tablets to reduce hair growth can also be taken at the same time.

Vaniqa is used in the area of the top lip and around the chin. One 60gm tube will normally last two months.

How to use Vaniqa

Vaniqa is applied twice daily. A small amount is rubbed-in to areas of increased hair growth, usually the top lip and under the chin. Vaniqa is not for use on other parts of the body, where it is unlikely to be effective.

It can take 4-8 weeks for changes to be noticeable, i.e. less need for hair removal by plucking, waxing, shaving, etc. Unfortunately Vaniqa does not work for everyone and the cream should be stopped if there is no improvement after 4 months.

Vaniqa slows down the growth of new hair. It is not a hair remover and does not cause hair to fall out. For this reason, hair removal techniques and products should be continued at the same time.

Vaniqa is only effective if its use is continued. After Vaniqa cream is stopped, its effects wear off after about 8 weeks.

Vaniqa does not replace other prescription medicines and tablets, and these should NOT be stopped without talking to a doctor.

Vaniqa is not more effective if it is used more frequently than recommended. If an application is missed, catch-up extra applications are not required.

Vaniqa side effects

Most women do not experience side effects when using Vaniqa cream. Stinging of the skin, tingling, soreness, and redness can occasionally occur. It is unusual for treatment to be discontinued because of side effects.

Further information about possible side-effects of Vaniqa and other aspects of treatment can be found in the manufacturer's patient information leaflet.

Vaniqa and pregnancy or breastfeeding

Vaniqa is not known to harm pregnancies, however as a precaution, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should not use Vaniqa. Similarly women who are breastfeeding are advised not to use Vaniqa at the same time, although there is no proven risk.

Other treatments for unwanted female facial hair

As female facial hair is usually linked with excess male hormone (androgen), most other treatments work by reducing the amount of androgen activity in the body.

The simplest way to do this, is to take the combined contraceptive pill, and before the menopause, that is often a good choice. Vaniqa can be used at the same time.

Two more specific anti-androgen combined contraceptive pills - Dianette containing cyproterone acetate, or Yasmin containing drospirinone - can be used, but they have a greater risk of thrombosis (blood clots) than other combined hormonal contraceptives. In extreme cases, endocrinologists may prescribe androgen blockers.

In obese women, significant weight loss will reduce the levels of androgens and can therefore help to reduce unwanted facial hair.

How else to manage facial hair:

  • Shaving.
  • Waxing.
  • Depilatory cream which dissolves the hair shaft.
  • Bleaching.

Permanent hair removal

Electrolysis, laser, and Intense pulsed light (IPL) are all methods of permanently destroying the hair follicle so stopping hair growth. They are not usually provided on the NHS. It is important to use a professionally registered practitioner. Potential side effects can include scarring.

Depression and stress

Some women who are troubled by excess facial hair find it embarrassing and even depressing. Women who feel this way are not alone and should not suffer in silence. It is important that low mood and anxiety are discussed with a doctor.