My Hairy Beginnings
I remember countless moons ago, being an active, smart-mouth 11 year old living with my mom and older sister in sunny southern Virginia. My dad was stationed right on the water so you would think I’d have the life, playing in sand and enjoying my inner tube in the Atlantic Ocean.
You would think I would love going out side, dangling off of monkey bars and walking with friends to the military exchange to purchase every single unhealthy item in the store.
You would think this would have been my life…
I woke up one morning and washed my face with some generic Noxzema and in finishing up, I felt something stringy on my jaw. I figure it was lent, but as I tugged on it, it did not go anywhere.
Upon gazing in the mirror at my newfound fur, I thought nothing of it. I took someone’s used razor on the bathroom sink, ran it across my face, and went on with 11-year-old business.
Little did I know that that one piece of new-formed fur would be the start of my torture.
Several minutes later, I wake up to find myself as a full-blown teenager, with a menstrual cycle and a lady beard.
It was not just a few chin hairs either. These were “taking 1-3 hours tweezing nonsense to get a smooth face” hairs.
What made it worse was the fact that my natural hair texture is super thick and curly, as was the hair on my face.
Dealing with hirsutism, the medical condition that details a woman developing hair growth that would typically be seen on a man, at such a young age, killed my youth. Hirsutism affects nearly 10% of women in the U.S. and even more when compared to other nations; just imagine the countless teenage girls across the world waking up to this condition. Most of the girls in my school were on birth control for the obvious reason. I was on birth control in hopes of convincing my hormones to stop producing hair. It didn’t.
I was entirely too young to be more self-conscious than the usual teenager. I was not supposed to be worrying about wax jobs and electrolysis and laser hair removal. It just wasn’t my bag, baby!
But that was my life for the next 15 years plus. Needless to say, I hated high school. I tried so hard to keep a snotty attitude so no one would talk to me or approach me, even if it meant having a notorious reputation. Kids are cruel and I knew this back in middle school. I knew the kids in high school were loud, raunchy-mouthed and had no issues bullying the first weirdo they spotted.
I felt like complete and utter horse dung. Like an animal that needed to kept in a zoo. Like another type of human. I felt abnormal. I felt ugly. I felt no man would want a woman that looked like me. I had already doomed all hell on my future marriage by the time I was 16 because I just hated life and the idea of romance.
I did not want to be the prettiest girl in school. I just wanted to be a normal girl. I wanted to be a girl who could smile and actually mean it without the fear of someone noticing the horrific ingrown hairs under my chin, covered up with cheap foundation, clearly applied by an amateur. I did not want to be popular. Even as a child, I understood the concept of not having a lot of people in my damn business. But I did want friends. The idea of people noticing my lady beard mummified me to a dark void.
Of the few friends I managed to keep, none of them knew why I hardly ever hung out after school. They would never know, even to this day as a 30 something woman, the hours I spent slaving over my unwanted facial hair. They would never understand the sadness, the confusion, and the unanswered questions as to why am I the only woman in my family with a beard thicker than some of my male cousins.
They would never understand the countless nights I fell asleep, praying for normal skin. I did not want Esquire magazine quality skin. I just wanted to wake up and be facial hair free.
I worked my little fast food job to afford every single last gimmick that simply did not work. My grandma even ordered some terribly painful epilator from QVC that took my mom and I no time to realize that the thing belonged deep down in the dark depths of file 13…. never to show it’s ineffective, cheaply designed face again.
So, what did I do?
Honestly, I spent the majority of my life hiding from the world.
The older I got, the more the hair wanted to spread to my neck, chest, navel area and terribly overgrown bikini line. I dreaded wearing bikinis. Between the highly darkened ingrown hair scars on my bikini line, resembling itty, bitty bullet holes, and the fact that my pubic hair stretched far down my leg, there was nothing sexy about summer time for me.
Now, you are probably wondering if my life really was all doom and gloom. Well, I mean…it kind of was according to my insecure little brain. What woman prays to wake up a shave as often as a man does?
But I did experience some amazing moments. School dances, making out with boys (when my facial hair was actually kept at bay long enough) movies, assemblies and all that other teenage crap.
Hirsute In College
By college, I managed to give less of a damn since I was one of those lame commuting students while much of my other high school classmates experienced the true college experience in dorms. But this actually worked out very well for my beard since no one who knew me saw me often.
During college, I was secretly practicing free love like the hippies of the flower generation, not giving much of a damn about relationships and commitment because I convinced myself years back that love did not love hairy women. During this phase, I tried out several types of birth control; none of them doing next to nothing for my hirsutism. Calm down; I didn’t practice this behavior for long though. I quickly found that adding notches to my sex partner belt was mentally mutilating.
But it was all because I simply did not believe no man would want me if he ever knew my breast sprouted a few hairs or my goatee looked better than his. I could not bear the rejection and possible insult.
As I entered adulthood with my adult job, I went into adult debt getting laser hair removal. The experience was one I rather not relive. Imagine concentrated heat at a high temperature zapping you in your jaw (or back or chest or leg or pubic area) for 10 minutes. Oh and the ratchet smell of burnt skin and hair. Not sexy. Not sexy at all.
To my utter surprised, after a few months of getting fried, my facial was decreasing! It did work!! I was finally able to enjoy womanism at it’s true entirety! I was able to feel normal, as I had prayed for years back in middle and high school!
I felt like the black Queen Elizabeth (because..well, I’m a black woman)! I felt on top of the world! I felt like every man would desire me now! I felt like throwing a “cleaning my bathroom of those pesky ingrown hairs all over the faucet” party and claiming the day as mine! I am facial hair free woman! Hear me roar!!!
And roar I did…until several months later. I was washing my face and once again, I felt a stringy thing, some type of lent in (I kid you not) the same damn place I discovered eons ago as a kid.
I just kind of sat there, reliving my childhood and lost teenagehood and my reserved college years. I sat there thinking about the ridiculous debt I put myself in paying for this service just for the hair to grow back?!
In due time, I had a lady beard again. I was sad again. I hated the world again. I hated that I now had $1500 I had to pay back. The black Queen Elizabeth was beheaded.
As we all may know by now, laser hair removal is probably the top hair removal craze to date. It’s fast and very effective…. temporarily.
My college-educated self did not read the fine print stating that long term touch up treatments would be required to remain hair free. I was now hairy AND broke.
Back to the drawing board…
Love, Pregnancy and Razors
I managed to have some type of unsuccessful and rather embarrassing relationship-thing where I produced two gorgeous little girls. They were the only happy things that came from that 3-4 year period of some kind of bad romance.
My hormones didn’t fluctuate too much during my pregnancies. I stayed hairy, but I did not grow any more hair. The hair on my head fell out like leaves escaping to the ground when fall comes for the year.
Two toddlers, heart aches, and many, many, many used razors, tweezers, waxing products, depilatory creams later, I decided to do something I simply never did in detail before. Between being blown off by loved ones, saying it will go away, to a few people teasing me (some them my own family), I told myself I don’t need to live like this anymore. I know this nonsense is not normal. I need to find out exactly why this happens to women. And with me having daughters, I dread the idea that they may have to experience this too. I needed to get cracking!
Between a very unsupportive partner who did not want to be bothered with spending money on anything that was not appealing to him and feeling like I was alone in a relationship, it did not take long for my engagement to this man to end miserably. He asked me one day about my facial hair and I told him I was not sure why it was there and I just try to deal with it and manage it the best I can. He claps back with the following:
“I know for a fact there are guys out there that would never deal with you because of that.”
Well, screw you and your guys, moron. His words burned like a hot wax stuck to your eyelids. I knew one thing for sure was I couldn’t live with a person who was not supportive of me trying to fix this condition. My daughters and me have been better off ever since.
Being Proactive with Hirsutism
Countless hours of independent research that I neglected to do for years because I was too ashamed to spend any time on productive activity with my hirsutism outside of the thousands of hours I spent tweezing the life out of me, and several doctor visits and blood tests later, I knew what the culprit finally was: idiopathic hirsutism.
This form of hirsutism comes from the notion that the extra hair on a woman’s body has no medical cause. Her hormonal levels are normal and she has no other signs of reproductive or hormonal distress. Women with this condition have sensitivity to androgen and testosterone in their blood, making their hair follicles extra receptive to hair growth in unwanted areas.
I was excited to know I was healthy but pretty bummed that I had something that could not be cured. I was hoping a simple surgery or medication would correct my years of feeling like a yeti. I did appreciate finally having an answer to my madness though.
Either way, the news was ultimately music to my ears! I just felt like I at least had an answer to my abnormity. I was so happy to finally have an answer, I became what I thought to be the bravest woman in the world and started a very active blog about this condition called The Hirsutism Hub. I use this blog to document anything and everything related to hirsutism that I come across.
In all actuality, I am rather lucky. Hirsutism is often associated with more serious conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition can disturb a woman’s reproductive health by altering her fertility, creating diabetic concerns and unexplained causes for not losing weight even after proper dieting and exercise.
Fortunately, I was never diagnosed with PCOS. I truly do feel for women who have to deal with that laundry list of symptoms, on top of hirsutism. Makes me feel like my whining and moaning all these years was child’s play compared to a woman being told her body is not fit for child rearing for whatever reason.
With a new leaf on my hairy life, I discussed with doctors, especially an endocrinologist, what I can do with my hirsutism? How do I reverse it? How do I zap it into oblivion without going into thousands of dollars in debt again? How do I get my life back?!
This optimistically attractive and youthful endocrinologist in particular knew within seconds what my issue was after observing my skin. She gave me a prescription to Spironolactone (brand name is Aldactone), a common drug used for women with hirsutism in the U.S. and around the world. It is a diuretic, commonly known as a “water pill” because it makes the user often have to urinate more than usual. Spironolactone is useful for many conditions including hypertension and conditions of the liver, kidneys and heart. If you ever discuss this with your endocrinologist, as with any new medicine, discuss any risks that may be involved with taking Spironolactone.
She also discussed Vaniqa (Eflornithine Hydrochoride cream) with me, the first FDA approved cream that gradually slows facial hair growth. This tiny tube, which can fit in your hand, is to be applied 2-3 times a day on the face after your desired method of hair removal technique to reduce hair growth. In due time, you use the cream less often. Even with a prescription, the cream ran me about $100 a bottle! But it did what it was advertised to do so I was thrilled. Eventually, $100 a bottle started to get a little steep on my single parent salary. There is a generic cream floating around on the Internet for a third of the price…for those who dare purchase medical drugs on line. I will shamefully raise my hand in admittance that I purchased the generic version of Vaniqa, called Eflora, online. And when it arrived from somewhere in India wrapped in some type of Hindi newspaper, I was scared. Fortunately, the bottle itself did not appear to be tampered with. I tested it for a few days on my arm for any bad reactions. After all was clear, I tried it out for a few weeks and to my utter surprise, my facial hair was taking a long time to grow back than usual! A rare case of the knock off version actually working!
Now, at nearly 30 years old, armed with a prescription to Spironolactone and Vaniqa cream, I can say that after a year of using both these, both have proven to be effective medications for me. What was thick, coarse, curly hair on my face are now thin, fine hairs. I still have some stubborn hairs that decide occasionally to grow like a thick weed, but for the most part, the facial hair has greatly reduced in texture and appearance. My body hairs on my pelvic area and chest have greatly reduced too. I don’t have pubic hair growing to my kneecaps no more! (Did I just admit that?!)
I even braved electrolysis, the only FDA approved technique for permanent hair removal, for 10 sessions and I can announce that I finally have most of my sideburn skin back! What few hairs that do grow back are very fine and thin in texture and appearance. And I believe this is only because I had to stop treatments for financial reasons. I truly believe if I continue my treatments for the long term, I will have success. I will likely start up with my electrolysis treatments again as it has been the only method that actually does slay the facial hair dragon. It may sound Jurassic with the new craze of laser hair removal which takes half the time to be effective as electrolysis but what is more important to you? Permanent reduction (the hair will be somewhat reduced for the long haul) or permanent removal (the hair will never come back with continued treatments and you will eventually be able to stop treatments)?
How To Make Dealing With Hirsutism Easier
So, despite years of dealing with the self loathe and shame of hairy girl problems, the many years I spent in isolation, scared to show my face to friends, boyfriends and even some family members, despite fear of rejection and ridicule for looking like a fur ball, despite crying about this for more than a decade, I can finally say I know how to manage my unwanted facial and body hair.
First of all, for all women and girls dealing with some form of hirsutism, I cannot stress enough the importance of talking to a doctor. You need to know if your unwanted body hair is simply weird genetics or something much more serious.
Secondly, talk to a doctor that gives a damn about helping you even if it means seeking a second, third or fourth opinion. Having normal blood tests does mean that there is likely nothing medically wrong with you, but that does not mean that your body hair is “normal.” Often, I hear about doctors blowing off women like me because they determined it was too risky for them to be bothered with our condition when nothing is “wrong.” I have a special finger I’d like to extend to those doctors, but I spent the finer years of my life being angry. Seeking a second or third or fourth opinion would be far more effective. Once you meet the right doctor, he or she should have no issues discussing medications with you. My biggest regret with this condition is not approaching the right doctor about it much sooner.
Third, you need patience. That was my biggest mistake. Instead of looking for methods that worked, I sought out those that worked the fastest, which turned out to be only part-time effective. Laser hair removal and electrolysis will both require patience like no other. These methods require hair follicles to be dead in order to work. That will not happen over night. You spent this long slaving over hair removal techniques that don’t work; just use that same dedication on something that does! Even Spironolactone took a good 6-9 months for me to see good results.
Fourth, and most important, please try to love yourself, flaws and all. Everyone has imperfections. That “perfect” girl in high school may have been bipolar. She may have been the biggest slut in three neighboring high schools. She may have been secretly cutting herself in the bathroom. She may have been experimenting with drugs. Hate to be so graphic but it’s only true. You simply do not know what people are going through. Everyone has something that they do not like about themselves. Everyone. If they say they don’t, they are lying through their teeth. And there is nothing exciting about “being perfect” anyway. Nothing. Embrace your flaws.
Screw the Fur! Get Your Life Back!
When you compare your hirsutism to the ills of the world, you will be very surprised to realize if that’s all you are worried about, you have a good life! Those very models on magazine with “flawless” skin are often known to have beauty enhancement procedures done, including laser hair removal. And that’s just one procedure! We won’t even explore the vast options of cosmetic surgery in the beautification world.
While you’re spending so much time in isolation, do something productive. I exercise with a smile on my face now. I found belly dancing to be a fascinating dance that works the core like no other! I enjoy taking more walks now. I appreciate social settings a lot more. I recently invited sorority sisters and friends to a kiddy Halloween party at my place and everyone had a blast! Most importantly, I found that The Hirsutism Hub was a voice I always had but was too scared of sharing with anyone. I now have a confidence that was buried beneath the fear and insecurities. I have had women from the U.K. France, Indonesia, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico and Australia contact me to share their hirsutism stories as well. I am so happy I created this blog for women like me. I had no idea how large the packs were that hirsute women run in!
Now, I just shave or epilate and go. I am not scared of what people think about my hair anymore. I know it will take time to get rid of the hair forever. I know it will take time to heal the scarred up ingrown hair marks and hyperpigmentation and I am fine and dandy with that. People stare at me now, I just turn and smile with content.
My journey is not over. I have a ways to go to be truly hair free. The medication only slows the hair growth; it does not stop it. That is acceptable to me but I at least know how to stop it too. Knowing is the first step, right?!
I’m not scared to date anymore! I mean, I do take extra time to make sure my hair is null and void when I go on dates but it does not stop me from getting out and mingling. Though I am still single, I’ve met some great guys by not allowing my hirsutism to run my life anymore.
I also appreciate my beauty. I’ve always been a fairly nice looking girl but I never really appreciated it. I always dressed in the worst manner to get the worst type of attention. Attention that caused me plenty of heartbreak and disappointment. I allowed men to take advantage of me. I allowed myself to get into verbally abusive relationships. I allowed myself to be only good for sex and nothing else. I don’t do that any more. I dress the way I want to because, dammit, I feel like it! And it feels great! I carry myself like a gorgeous woman and mother with daughters who mimic my every move. I carry myself like a woman who has been through some mess in life and will not allow just any person with part time interest to invade our lives.
Bottom line: your unwanted hair can make you or break you. I convinced myself for a very long time it would break me, that I was doomed with male features forever. That no one would want me for a wife. No it is not normal and yes, it is quite the expectation to be in your feelings about it. But don’t let your life suffer from it. Things will take time to work and it may require a little money being spent but you now know some means to managing it. Explore your options because they are out there, plenty of them.
So stop tweezing and start living!