So, it’s not enough that women have to endure hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and crashing fatigue during perimenopause. Or that we start to pack on the pounds around the mid-section so that what was once a waistline or perhaps even a flat stomach, has morphed into a bono-fide estrogen blown flotation device.
Or that we have to endure crazy, erratic menstrual cycles, vaginal dryness and oh yes, let’s not forget loss of libido. But, you can also add black, coarse, man hair growing above our carefully lined lips and beneath our now sagging chins to the list.
While most of us expect a few hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings when we enter perimenopause, I don’t know any among us who signed up for excess facial hair, particularly when it can sometimes be so heavy and so dark, that we are now in competition with our spouses for the best five o’clock shadow.
So, what causes that “man hair” growth above our upper lip and across our jaw line during perimenopause and more importantly, what can we do about it?
Increase of Androgen (testosterone) Causes Facial Hair Growth
As is always the case when talking about perimenopause the devil is in the hormones and in particular, the hormone imbalance. In the case of unwanted facial hair, the devil is in the androgens.
Androgens are a group of male hormones, which include, among others, testosterone. Androgens produce the typical male traits such as, larger muscle groups, deeper voices and coarse, facial hair growth, for example. Though men produce larger amounts of androgens in their body than women, women also produce androgens as well.
The androgens that are present in a woman’s body are produced by the ovaries, the adrenal glands and fat cells. During puberty, androgens stimulate pubic and underarm hair growth in both men and women and for adult women they are also converted into estrogen.
Prior to perimenopause, androgens in women and specifically, the testosterone are suppressed by the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. But, when the balance of estrogen and progesterone is disrupted, such as what occurs during perimenopause, the testosterone is not suppressed, resulting in an excess of androgens, which in turn can cause the unwanted facial hair growth.
Ex Tweeze Me?
Depending on the severity of the growth, simple plucking, tweezing or even waxing is sufficient to remove the hair. If you can afford it, electrolysis, a procedure that permanently removes hair by destroying the hair follicle and keeps the hair from growing back, is also an option.
There are also a variety of depilatory creams and gel hair removers on the market as well. Or, if you prefer prescription strength, there is a new cream hair removal product on the market called, Vaniqa®, which has been recently approved by the FDA and can be prescribed by a dermatologist.
Hormone therapy to balance the estrogen and progesterone in your body will certainly help as well. But, this can be a tricky proposition when many perimenopause symptoms are caused by estrogen dominance in the first place. So simply adding estrogen into the body in an effort to suppress androgen, could potentially cause other symptoms to worsen.
If you do choose to seek hormone therapy seek the care of an experienced physician. Bio-identical hormones are also a better choice than synthetic hormones because they are safer and much healthier. Plus, unlike traditional hormone replacement therapy, bio-identical hormones can be tailored to your specific hormone needs.
Eating for Hormone Health
When most women think of balancing their hormones, they automatically think of hormone therapy, not realizing that dietary habits and food choices have a huge impact on our hormone health as well.
For example, insulin and blood sugar problems can cause an imbalance in our hormones and in particular, androgen, which is why obese people and diabetics often have issues with unwanted facial hair.
Incorporating low-glycemic index foods such as complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, for example, is an excellent choice to help steady and stabilize blood glucose levels and aid in balancing hormones.
Treat the Whole Person
When managing the many symptoms and issues that hormone imbalance can cause, it is rarely a cut and dry issue. A variety of factors can contribute to the imbalance and it’s important that you understand there are never quick fixes and that you may need to do several things in tandem.
A hormone healthy diet and seeking the help of a physician with hormone replacement therapy are two things you can do to help balance our hormones, manage symptoms and hopefully rid ourselves of that unwanted hair growth. But, if all else fails ladies – tweeze.
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The Perimenopause Blog