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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

If a specific cause of hirsutism is diagnosed, your doctor may suggest appropriate treatment for that cause. For women who are overweight, losing weight may reduce androgen levels and improve hirsutism. For all women with hirsutism, cosmetic treatments and medical treatments that decrease the levels of androgens or their impact on hair follicles can be helpful:

  • Plucking, shaving, waxing, chemical hair softeners (depilatory creams) While these are all effective treatments for mild hirsutism, they can irritate the skin, and must be repeated for continued success. Waxing need be done every four to six weeks. The other treatments more frequently.

  • Laser hair-removal techniques Laser techniques use light to generate heat inside hair follicles, which destroys the ability of hair to grow from the follicle. Laser treatment is more effective in some skin types than in others, and it does not prevent new hair follicles from forming. Because the light used targets pigment in hairs, this technique works better on dark hairs than on light hairs. It is expensive, time-consuming and requires the professional services of a dermatologist, plastic surgeon or private spa. However, it lasts longer than the techniques described above.

  • Electrolysis This also destroys the ability of the follicles to grow hair by using electricity to generate heat within the hair follicles. Electrolysis has become less popular than laser treatment because it is more likely to leave small areas of scarring.

  • Estrogen containing medicines Several medicines can alter the impact of androgen hormones on the body and skin. Combination birth control pills (containing both estrogen and progesterone) can counterbalance the masculine effects of androgen hormones and decrease the production of testosterone by the ovary. Hirsutism may improve after 6 to 12 months of consistent use of birth control pills.

  • Anti-androgen medicines These can work alone or in combination with birth-control pills. The most commonly used medicine is spironolactone (Aldactone), although others are available. It is unsafe to take anti-androgen medicines during pregnancy.

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