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The Relationship Between PCOS and Unwanted Hair

written by: fionayb • edited by: BStone • updated: 3/16/2011

Suffering from PCOS and now unwanted hair has made an appearance? Read on for advice on how to deal with the embarrassing problem of unwanted hair, and learn why it is so common in women diagnosed with PCOS.

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    Dealing with PCOS can be hard enough — weight gain, irregular periods, infertility — and then you have to deal with one rather embarrassing problem: unwanted hair.

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    Causes of Unwanted Hair

    Polycystic ovarian syndrome is typically caused by an imbalance in hormone production. It can lead to ovarian cysts, infertility, insulin imbalances, weight gain, acne and other physical symptoms. Excessive androgens and sensitivity to testosterone, both factors in PCOS, can cause excessive, unwanted hair growth. Genetics will also play a role: if you are of European descent (particularly Mediterranean), your odds of developing the problem of hirsutism (excess hair) increase, whereas if you are of Asian or African descent, unwanted hair is less likely to be a problem.

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    Methods of Treating Unwanted Hair

    If you suffer from PCOS, and unwanted hair is one of the side effects, you can either deal with hair removal or deal with trying to balance the androgen imbalance causing the excessive growth.

    1. Hair removal can be a hassle for most women, but when that unwanted hair is on your face, arms and other awkward spots, depilation can be stressful, expensive and time consuming. Shaving can cause irritation and ingrown hairs, not to mention the fact that the results are short-lived. Creams can be messy, smelly and often ineffectual. Epilation (pulling the hairs out by the roots) is downright painful, and tweezing is fine for a few extra hairs, but impractical for larger areas. Electrolysis and laser treatment have permanent results but they are time consuming and expensive. They also may not work if you have very dark hair.
    2. Trying to deal with the root cause of the unwanted hair growth can be a part of your overall PCOS treatment plan. There are three main types of drugs your doctor may prescribe to combat unwanted hair caused by PCOS. They may be prescribed on their own, or in combination with the birth control pill (which are androgen-suppressors). Metformin can act as an androgen suppressor; drugs like Eulexin act as androgen receptor blockers; and thirdly, products such as Vaniqa and Proscar act as 5 alpha-reductase inhibitors (slowing the impact of androgens).

    In addition to medication and ongoing hair removal methods, diet can play a part in controlling PCOS and unwanted hair growth. Green tea has been shown to play a part in reducing testosterone. Losing weight can help in losing the hair; many women with PCOS benefit from a low glycemic index diet.

    Although unwanted hair can be an embarrassing problem, one that feels too embarrassing to even mention to your doctor, there are ways of dealing with it. However, as is often the case with PCOS, you may need to try a variety of treatments and methods before you find the one(s) that work best for you.