Treatment

Treatment for hirsutism often involves a combination of treating the underlying disorder, if there is one, self-care methods, hair-removal therapies and medications.

Medications

Medications taken for hirsutism usually take up to six months, the average life cycle of a hair follicle, before you see a significant difference in hair growth. Medications include:

  • Oral contraceptives. Birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives, which contain estrogen and progestin, treat hirsutism caused by androgen production. 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. They're sometimes prescribed after six months on oral contraceptives if the oral contraceptives aren't effective enough.

    The most commonly used anti-androgen for treating hirsutism is spironolactone (Aldactone). Because these drugs can cause birth defects, it's important to use 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. It can be used with laser therapy to enhance the response.

Procedures

To remove unwanted hair permanently, options include:

  • Electrolysis. This treatment involves inserting a tiny needle into each hair follicle. The needle emits a pulse of electric current to damage and eventually destroy the follicle. You might need multiple treatments.

    Electrolysis is effective but can be painful. A numbing cream spread on your skin before treatment might reduce discomfort.

  • Laser therapy. A beam of highly concentrated light (laser) is passed over your skin to damage hair follicles and prevent hair from growing. You might need multiple treatments.

    You might develop skin redness and swelling after laser therapy. Laser therapy for hair removal is expensive and carries a risk of burns and skin discoloration, especially in people with tanned or dark skin.