Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Treatment for hirsutism often involves a combination of self-care methods, hair-removal therapies and medications.
Hair-removal therapies include:
- Electrolysis. This type of therapy involves inserting a tiny needle into each hair follicle and emitting a pulse of electric current to damage and eventually destroy the follicle. Electrolysis results in permanent hair removal, but the procedure can be painful. Some numbing creams may be spread on your skin to reduce this discomfort. Side effects include lightening or darkening of the treated skin and rarely, scarring.
- Laser therapy. Laser therapy is a procedure in which a beam of highly concentrated light (laser) is passed over your skin to damage the hair follicles and prevent hair from growing. Individual sessions can last from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the size of the area being treated. You may have skin discomfort during laser hair removal. Afterwards, the treated area may remain red and swollen for awhile. Laser treatments are also expensive. After treatment, some people experience long periods without hair regrowth, while others may need occasional touch ups to remain hair-free.
Medical therapies to treat hirsutism include:
- Oral contraceptives. Birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives, which contain the hormones estrogen and progestin, treat hirsutism by inhibiting androgen production by your ovaries. Oral contraceptives are a common treatment for hirsutism in women who don't want to become pregnant. Possible side effects include dizziness, nausea, headache and stomach upset.
- Anti-androgens. These types of drugs block androgens from attaching to their receptors in your body. The most commonly used anti-androgen for treating hirsutism is spironolactone (Aldactone). Possible side effects include drowsiness, nausea, irregular menstrual periods, electrolyte disturbances and diarrhea. Because these drugs can cause birth defects, it's important to use good contraception while taking them.
- Topical cream. Eflornithine (Vaniqa) is a prescription cream specifically for excessive facial hair in women. It's applied directly to the affected area of your face and helps slow new hair growth, but doesn't get rid of existing hair. Eflornithine may take up to two months to work, and hair growth returns to pre-treatment levels within eight weeks of discontinuing the medication. Side effects may include stinging, tingling or a skin rash.
After beginning a medication for hirsutism, it usually takes a month before you notice a significant difference in hair growth. It's recommended that you continue taking the medication for six months before changing or adding medications or changing doses. If you and your doctor aren't able to find a medication that works well for you, he or she may recommend that you see a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist).
If you're taking medications for hirsutism and would like to have a baby, talk to your doctor. Women who are taking certain medications to treat hirsutism are advised not to become pregnant. If you have hirsutism and irregular periods, you may have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome, which can inhibit fertility.
- Evaluation and treatment of hirsutism in premenopausal women: An Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline. Chevy Chase, Md.: The Endocrine Society. http://www.endo-society.org/custom_apps/search.cfm?q=hirsutism. Accessed Oct. 29, 2010.
- Chang J, et al., eds. The Hormone Foundation's patient guide to the evaluation and treatment of hirsutism in premenopausal women. The Hormone Foundation. http://www.hormone.org/Resources/Patient_Guides/upload/Hirsutism_Patient_Guide.pdf. Accessed Oct. 29, 2010.
- Hirsutism. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch124/ch124c.html?qt=hirsutism&alt=sh#sec10-ch124-ch124c-989. Accessed Oct. 29, 2010.