What is as certain as death and taxes? Menopause. If you’re a woman over 40, it’s either creeping up on you or it’s already arrived. Along with it you’ve likely experienced symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal and bladder problems, bone density loss and mood swings which can last months or even years. One of the more common, slightly less bothersome, but certainly unflattering symptoms of menopause, facial hair. In fact, one study found that 40% of women over 45 experience unwanted facial hair, especially on the chin.
But there’s hope, no matter what hairs have popped up, from added peach fuzz and chin strays to the dreaded menopause mustache. Read on for the easy ways to remove them all.
What causes menopause facial hair?
According to the National Institute of Aging, over a million women experience menopause annually, typically between the ages of 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as double that. Hot flashes are the most common symptom experienced by 75% of women due to rapidly decreasing estrogen levels.
And while those changing hormone levels can cause many women to experience thinning hair on the head, it can also cause an increase in hair in other body parts, like the face.
“Hirsutism describes excess hair in areas of a woman’s body in a male-like pattern, like on the face, usually due to excess sex hormones like testosterone. Androgens usually cause fine, thin hairs in these areas to grow and become coarser and thicker,” explains Kseniya Kobets, MD, Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at Montefiore-Einstein Advanced Care in New York.
“During perimenopause and menopause, women start to have reduced female hormones like estrogen, which used to balance out the male hormones like testosterone; the latter is not reduced in menopause,” Dr. Kobets adds.
Even worse? “The hormonal imbalance can cause new hair to grow, or it can influence already existing thinner hairs to become darker and thicker on the face, chest, back and abdomen,” says Ryan Turner, MD, a dermatologist practicing in New York City.
That means we’re not just dealing with peach fuzz but with dark, coarse hairs that stand out. The most common areas for these hairs to crop up are the upper lip and the chin, and they can even go as far as to mimic a beard and a mustache. This menopause facial hair can be extremely embarrassing and make us self-conscious in our daily life. (Click through to learn how spearmint tea can get rid of facial hair caused by PCOS.)
The best methods to remove menopause facial hair
Now that we know why it happens, what can we do about it? Dermatologists say several methods exist to keep you fuzz-free safely.
The best method for removing strays
If you’re like us, you waste precious time in front of the mirror trying to pluck that one stubble of hair that you know will be 6 inches long tomorrow if you don’t get it out today!
But all that picking and pulling can leave behind red marks and scabs, says Dr. Kobets. And odds are, there are more of those pesky strands waiting to pop out next. Waxing is one alternative—but ouch! Instead, opt for a method that easily targets individual hairs without ripping at or scratching your skin.
What can work: Sugaring. A natural wax-like paste made of sugar, lemon juice and water gently extracts hairs at the root. Unlike plucking or waxing, which can pull on and inflame skin, the sugar paste only latches on to hairs — not sensitive skin, says hair-removal expert Shobha Tummala, of Shobha salons.
To do: In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of sugar, ¼ cup of lemon juice and ¼ cup of water to a boil. Let cool for 20 minutes, then pour into a glass jar. Use a clean Popsicle stick to apply the paste to areas prone to strays, spreading it in the opposite direction of growth. Let it harden, then quickly lift away in the direction of growth.
Watch this video for a more in-depth how to:
Another option: An electric facial hair removal device like Flawless, (Buy from Amazon, $19.99). It’s painless, portable (the size of a lipstick) and its head is perfectly sized for navigating the small areas of the face, although it may not be powerful enough to combat super thick or coarse hairs.
The best method for removing upper lip hair
Through the years, we’ve tried harsh bleaches, waxing (ouch!) and even shaving to rid our upper lip of that masculine patch of hair. The problem? The older we get, the more sensitive skin becomes, and these methods end up replacing all that hair with a mustache of red, bumpy inflamed skin instead.
An easy at home option to removing this kind of menopause facial hair? Easy-to-apply and fast-acting creams use chemicals (like calcium thioglycolate) that work quickly to dissolve proteins in the hair so you can swipe both cream and hair right off less than 10 minutes after applying. And the newest options like Completely Bare ctrl+hair+DEL Facial Hair Removal Cream (Buy from Completely Bare, $11) come infused with ingredients like soothing aloe vera, moisturizing shea butter and protective vitamin E to counteract any of the inflammation that used to be common with depilatories and leave skin feeling smooth.
The best method for removing peach fuzz
“Dermaplaning is a good option for the temporary treatment of facial hair, as it uses a scalpel or razor blade to remove hair and exfoliate the skin, which in turn helps smooth skin and reduce dullness. However, since a scalpel or razor blade is involved, there are some things to consider and be cognizant of,” advises Dr. Turner.
There are two different methods of dermaplaning. The first is done in a licensed aesthetician or doctor’s office. “Wet dermaplaning is done using a surgical steel razor blade and is usually only performed by professionals. This method involves adding oil (like jojoba oil) to the skin to help the blade glide over the skin and is better for coarser hair,” explains Bankson. Professional dermaplaning can cost anywhere from $75 to $200, depending on where you live. The other method is doing it yourself at home using devices such as Dermaflash (Buy from Dermaflash, $199), which an aesthetician developed tool or the less expensive Venus’ facial razor (Buy from Amazon, $15.79).
“When it comes to dermaplaning at home, proceed with caution — and a deft hand — as it may cause skin irritation and possibly infection as tiny breaks in the skin may occur,” advises Dr. Turner. “It’s essential to use a new sterile blade for each treatment. Also, be careful around the eyebrows and crevices of the nose – navigating those areas with this tool can be difficult,” he adds.
- Hold the device at a 45-degree angle and hold the skin taut with the other hand and gently glide the device across the cheek in short, feathery strokes to remove dead skin cells, debris, and other peach fuzz quickly and effectively. Continue until all hair is removed.
- Apply a soothing serum, face oil, balm, or cream to nourish or hydrate the skin immediately after dermaplaning.
Click through to learn all about how to dermaplane at home.
Don’t want to remove menopause facial hair? Lighten them instead
At-home bleaching kits like those from Sally Hansen (Buy from Walgreens, $5.49) allow you to lighten the hairs instead of removing them, which can be a good option if you don’t mind the hairs staying there but being less visible.
Like with depilatory creams, you could get a reaction from the bleach mixture and should do a patch test first to be safe.
Looking for more ways to combat the annoying symptoms of menopause?
Jené Luciani Sena is a veteran journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author of The Bra Book: An Intimate Guide to Finding the Right Bra, Shapewear, Swimsuit, and More! and Get It!: A Beauty, Style, and Wellness Guide to Getting Your “It” Together. She’s also a style, bra and beauty expert regularly seen on shows like Access Hollywood and NBC’s Today.
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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