Causes of excess hair growth

There are a number of causes of excess hair growth. Often there is no underlying abnormality causing the hair growth. Some people simply have more hair growth than others and may have inherited it from their parents. For example, Northern Europeans generally have less hair than people from India and Southern Mediterranean countries. Orientals have comparatively very little hair.

Hirsuitism is the medical term for excessive hair growth in the male pattern, i.e. on the face, neck, chest and abdomen. Hair growth is driven by hormonal balance and hormonal changes.

  • The three normal hormonal changes that cause hair growth in a female’s life are:

Puberty

At puberty the gonads and adrenal cortex secrete steroid hormones which produce the male and female hair patterns.


Pregnancy

During pregnancy androgen production is increased which may cause increased hair growth on the face. However, after pregnancy these hairs usually disappear.

Menopause

Reduction in the production of oestrogen and progesterone means that androgens become dominant, stimulating hair growth.

  • Hormonal imbalances may disturb the normal hair growth pattern. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a fairly common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. One feature of PCOS is excess androgen which causes excess hair growth in some sufferers.

Less common causes of hirsuitism include:

Less common causes of hirsuitism include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

  • Obesity

  • Acromegaly

  • Hair growth may also be topical. This is where hair growth is stimulated in response to an irritation to the skin. Any irritation that causes stimulation of the blood supply to that area may cause hair to grow deeper and coarser as a protective mechanism. This is why waxing and plucking will cause even further hair growth.

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