What Do Chin Hairs, Acne and Belly Fat Have in Common?

Oh, those darn chin hairs! How frustrating and un-sexy, but did you know that they could be a sign of a more dangerous issue?

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects up to 10% of women in the US. Individuals with PCOS commonly suffer from acne, excess facial hair, weight gain (especially in the belly area), heavy periods, and hyperpigmentation.

While the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, it is associated with genetics, environmental factors (diet and exercise), and the presence of ovarian cysts. These cysts develop when the ovaries are stimulated to produce too much testosterone. Testosterone production is stimulated when there are high levels of circulating insulin. In addition, adipose (fat) tissue contains a hormone that increases estrogen (estradiol) levels.

All in all, weight gain creates an environment where there is too much estrogen and too much testosterone. Fluctuating estrogen levels can also cause mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

50% of women with PCOS also have metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Leaving PCOS untreated may lead to other health problems, usually progressing in this order: Belly fat, then diabetes which naturally pushes you towards heart disease.

Since I’ve learned about PCOS, when someone schedules a chin wax I can’t help but look for the other symptoms. Since I’m an Esthetician and not a doctor, I can only gently encourage my client to schedule an appointment with their primary care or gynecologist.

Request a pelvic exam or ultrasound to look for abnormalities. Additionally, ask your doctor to order a blood test to measure hormone levels. These tests typically look at testosterone levels, serum cortisol, and other endocrine hormones.

love-973904_1280.jpgFortunately, treatment for PCOS is readily available and is focused on improving diet and exercise. Medications for controlling insulin resistance, estrogen levels, and facial hair growth are also available.  

To reduce excessive hair growth, your doctor might recommend:

  • Birth control pills. These pills decrease androgen production that can cause excessive hair growth.
  • Spironolactone (Aldactone). This medication blocks the effects of androgen on the skin. Spironolactone can cause birth defects, so effective contraception is required while taking this medication. 
  • Eflornithine (Vaniqa). This cream can slow facial hair growth in women.
  • Electrolysis. A tiny needle is inserted into each hair follicle. The needle emits a pulse of electric current to damage and eventually destroy the follicle. You might need multiple treatments.
  • Laser. Laser treatments involve using a focused beam of light to permanently affect the surface of the skin. You can read more about this from my previous post.

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