You have a hormone imbalance
Up to 10 percent of women have hirsutism, which is hair growth in a typical male pattern, according to the Mass General Research Institute. This means you can get hair where you don’t want it, like your face, belly, thighs, or butt. According to Mount Sinai Medical Center, about half of cases are caused by high levels of male sex hormones or “androgens,” like testosterone. A frequent culprit is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). “Women with PCOS usually have excessive growth of facial or body hair because the condition produces excessive amounts of androgens,” says Ghasak Amer Mahmood, MD, an endocrinologist at PIH Health in Whittier, California. So how to get rid of body hair? “This commonly improves with treatment, which includes medications to help regulate the function of the ovaries and reduce the amount of androgens they secrete,” Dr. Mahmood says. The first line of treatment is usually the birth control pill; if that doesn’t work, other anti-androgen medications are available—although you shouldn’t take them if you are trying to get pregnant, as they can cause birth defects. These are the other clear signs you have a hormonal imbalance.
You’re entering menopause
Even if your hormones are normally balanced, it won’t last forever. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), when estrogen levels decrease in menopause, androgens that had previously been held in check can cause unwanted side effects, like excess hair. “As many as half of women during menopause experience changes in hair growth, with scalp hair loss and unwanted body hair, especially on the upper lip or chin,” says Clara Ward, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at McGovern Medical School at UT Health and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. “Hair growth can be a few hairs or heavy and beard-like, and can be soft like peach fuzz or dark, thick, and wiry.” Estrogen replacement may help women with facial hair during menopause—but discuss with your doctor whether it’s right for you. And if you choose to shave to remove unwanted hair, find out the 10 proven ways to prevent razor burn.