It's a fact that along with causing a poochy belly and sleep disturbances, menopause can flat-out make our faces hairier. As we gaze in that 10x magnifying mirror on our bathroom countertop, we're sure to spot rampant peach fuzz all over, along with at least one stubborn chin whisker.
Fun? Not exactly. But increased facial hair is totally natural and happens to many of us making the journey through menopause.
As with most midlife female body "challenges," an uptick in facial hair is driven by shifting hormones. According to the North American Menopause Society, while estrogen and progesterone decline, levels of a chief "male" hormone - testosterone - remain steady. Without estrogen and progesterone to take it down a notch, testosterone can trigger the production of facial hair.
By the way, the opposite is true for the hair on our head. For scalp strands, an increase in testosterone can manifest as not only thinning, but even hair loss in some cases.
But back to the topic at hand, and how to handle it.
Happily, there's good news on this front, in the form of several really solid, dependable ways to deal with menopause-related facial hair. Below, we outline our "Sexy Six" routes to a flawless, hair-free complexion: laser removal; salon / spa dermaplaning; DIY dermaplaning; prescription Vanilla; chemical depilatories and old-school wet shaving. Yes, shaving. Don't be scared. It's cheap, easy and more and more women are doing it.
1. Laser Removal
How It Works: According to plasticsurgery.org, the official website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), this non-invasive treatment uses a highly concentrated light to penetrate hair follicles. Once that laser light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair shaft, the heat it generates damages the follicle to such a degree that it inhibits future hair growth. (To view an easy-to-understand animation of the laser hair removal process, click here.)
Best For: The perfect candidate for laser hair removal is fair-skinned with dark hair. Because the light has to be absorbed by pigment to work its magic, anyone with gray facial hair is not a candidate. In other words, if you think you'd like to try it, do it now, before the silver starts.
Timeline: Hair grows in cycles, so you'll need several sessions to ensure you're getting every hair. Typically, it takes at least three to four to achieve significant reduction in hair growth. The sessions themselves are short - under 20 minutes, in most cases.
Cost: Per the ASPS, the average cost of laser hair removal was $285 in 2018, the last year for which data is available. Bear in mind that this is per session. Although it's not covered by insurance. you may be able to work out a payment plan with your plastic surgeon, dermatologist or other licensed service provider.
Risks / Cons: While the list of negative possible side effects is small, laser hair removal could generate temporary irritation that could lead to blisters, scars and changes in skin texture; mild swelling; redness and pigment changes, particularly for anyone with darker skin. As mentioned, laser removal is not an option for anyone whose hair has started to turn white. And given that the average age of menopause is 51 in the United States, white hair is hardly a rarity. Again, because it can require several sessions, the total cost could be a beauty budget-breaker for some. And finally, even after you've wrapped-up your treatments, periodic maintenance is a possibility. When it comes to hair removal, "permanent" doesn't really exist.
Pros: In the right hands (e.g., a board-certified doc or licensed esthetician only) laser hair removal is fast, efficient and can produce a significant reduction in hair growth that can last up to a year.
2. Professional Dermaplaning
Also known as "scalpel facials," dermaplaning is basically face-shaving by a trained professional, be it a dermatologist or licensed esthetician. (Note: because it's considered an invasive procedure, some states - including California - do not allow estheticians to perform this procedure.)
How It Works: Using a medical-grade, single-blade, typically 10-gauge scalpel, the pro scrapes upward across the skin at a 45-degree angle, removing vellus hair, aka peach fuzz. Notoriously fine, vellus hair is not always successfully removed by other methods, such as waxing and threading.
Best For: As long as your skin isn't hypersensitive, or prone to acne or rosacea, you're a candidate for dermaplaning.
Timeline: The procedure takes about 30 minutes, and needs to be repeated every three to six weeks, depending on your own personal regrowth rate.
Cost: According to realself.com, the average cost of a single session is $100. Obviously this can shift higher and lower, from $75 to $250, depending on where, or to whom, you go.
Risks / Cons: Unfortunately cutting - and subsequent scarring - is a possibility with dermaplaning. All the more reason to select a * highly * qualified practitioner. Additionally, at $100 a pop, dermaplaning can get pricey. But here's an alleged risk that's a complete myth: the idea that hair grows back thicker or darker after dermaplaning. It may feel a little more "present" because all of the hairs have been blunt-cut to a uniform length, but rest assured it isn't growing at a faster rate or darkening in hue.
Pros: Done well, dermaplaning not only removes peach fuzz, it also lifts off dead, flaky skin. This provides an instant brightening effect and also sets the stage for deeper penetration of skincare products. Additionally, it can generate an almost "airbrushed" makeup effect.
3. DIY Dermaplaning
Deploying a single-blade - but not pro level - razor or consumer-friendly device like a Dermaflash, Stacked Skin or Finishing Touch, DIYers remove vellus hair as well as exfoliate off a superficial layer of dead, flaky skin. Although it doesn't "get in there" like a professional dermaplaning sesh, complexions are noticeably smoother.
How It Works: Unlike classic shaving, DIY dermaplaning is done on dry skin. After cleansing and drying the face, skin is pulled taut to prevent nicks, and the dermaplane device is positioned at the same 45-degree angle mentioned above. Using short flicks, the tool captures peach fuzz and loose skin cells along the jawline and cheeks. This is tissued-off before moving on to the next designated area.
Best For: As with the pro version of this procedure, DIY dermaplaning is well-suited to anyone who doesn't suffer from acne, rosacea or excess skin sensitivity.
Timeline: This method works best when it's tapped on a monthly basis at most. (Preferably six weeks.) Done more frequently, it can result in irritation.
Cost: While Dermaflash starts at $140, the Stacked Skin Dermaplaning Exfoliation Tool is $75 and the Finishing Touch Flawless Dermaplane Glo is only $19.99. Still, with each of these tools, you'll need to make an ongoing investment in the blades, which can add up. If you'd prefer to go the low-tech route, single-blade razors by Tinkle, Shiseido and Sephora Collection cost just a few dollars apiece. Since you'll be tossing them after only one use, cheap is good.
Risks / Cons: As long as you're using a new blade each time, pulling your skin taut and going over the same area over and over, the risk of nicking yourself is small. Just don't overdo it in terms of frequency and irritation shouldn't be an issue.
Pros: At-home dermaplaning confers similar benefits to the pro version - i.e., skincare sinks in better and makeup goes on more smoothly - at a fraction of the cost.
The brand name for the generic drug eflornithine hydrochloride, Vaniqa is the only FDA-approved prescription medicine available for the purpose of inhibiting unwanted facial hair growth in women.
How It Works: According to drugs.com, Vaniqa acts by interfering with a chemical in the hair follicles under the skin, which slows growth where the topical medication is applied. It works during the growth cycle and is used in conjunction with other methods of hair removal, such as tweezing or shaving. It is not a permanent method of hair removal, nor is it a depilatory. (We'll cover those next...)
Best For: Specifically created for women, Vaniqa is ideal for anyone who's bothered by facial hair and wants to reduce it by slowing the growth.
Timeline: Besides the trip to the dermatologist or ob / gyn to obtain a prescription, Vaniqa doesn't require much in the way of a time commitment. It's applied twice daily to clean skin, with a recommended eight-hour gap between applications.
Cost: A Vaniqa Rx ranges in price from $150 to $210 for a 45-gram tube, and is not covered by medical insurance.
Risks / Cons: Most side effects are dermatological in nature and not considered serious. Up to 21 percent of users experience acne, and another 16 percent are inflicted with pseudofolliculitis barbae, or skin bumps. Other common side effects include stinging and burning. It can also take up to four weeks to see any results at all, eight weeks for optimal results and must be preceded by another method of hair removal.
Pros: For anyone coping with a lot of facial hair, Vaniqa can provide peace of mind.
5. Chemical Depilatories
How They Work: Classic drugstore depilatories like Nair and Veet are crafted with alkaline-based chemicals such as sodium thioglycolate and strontium sulfide, which break down keratin, weakening the hair to a jelly-like state so it can be easily wiped away once the recommended time has elapsed. Typically formulated as a cream, depilatories are also available in aerosol, gel and lotion formulas.
Best For: Anyone who doesn't have especially sensitive skin, and is in search of an inexpensive, DIY method of hair removal, will want to at least give depilatories a shot.
Timeline: Chemical depilatories work in 5 to 10 minutes. The thicker the hair, the longer it takes to break down keratin.
Cost: Definitely one of the least costly methods of hair removal, depilatories start at under $5 and max-out at about $15.
Risks / Cons: Not surprisingly, depilatories can cause skin irritation - burns, blisters, rashes, peeling. Patch-testing 24 hours in advance is crucial. This potential for irritation is the reason most depilatories are packaged with skin-soothing, post-treatment moisturizers.
Pros: Depilatories are fast, easy and cheap.
How It Works: Wet the skin, apply a water-activated shave-prep gel or cream, hold razor at a 45-degree angle to the face and gently scrape-off hair. Done.
Best For: For women in search of one of the fastest, cheapest, most effective ways to remove peach fuzz, shaving is the ticket. However, anyone with hormonal acne, rashes or cuts should steer clear to avoid infection.
Timeline: No matter how carefully, slowly and painstakingly you shave, it takes all of about five minutes to whisk away whiskers.
Cost: You could spend a bundle on a fancy razor, but the one most recommended by several top facialists - the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo Men's Razor - can be had for under $20.
Risks / Cons: Irritation, razor burn and ingrown hairs are all possible. (To sidestep all of these issues, read these tips from Gillette.) But thankfully, as with dermaplaning, your fear that shaved hair will grow back thicker or darker is completely unfounded.
Pros: In addition to the ease of use and low cost, face-shaving can deliver tangible, visible beauty benefits. While it doesn't yield the same level of skin exfoliation as dermaplaning, many wet shavers swear that their makeup goes on more evenly and smoothly.