Getting Rid of Facial Fuzz

Where’s the justice? After 40, you lose hair on your head, only to sprout it on your face, thanks to pesky hormonal changes. Maybe you’re finding whiskers on your upper lip and chin — or perhaps even denser cheek fuzz. But whatever the provocation,

By the editors
Photograph: Photo by Jamie Chung

Simple Solutions
Zap ‘em.
"Hormone-related hair growth is typically coarser than the soft peach fuzz you had in your 20s and 30s," says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare, a chain of hair removal spas in New York and Florida. To get it off (and keep it off ), lasering is your best bet: "The laser destroys the hair follicle, preventing future growth," she says. Expect to endure around six treatments (at $400 to $450 a pop). Two caveats: "Laser hair removal only works on light brown and darker hair. If your facial hair is blonde or gray, lasering’s probably not an option for you," says Jeanine Downie, a dermatologist in Montclair, New Jersey. If you do go the laser route, skip any prescription-strength tretinoin product (such as Retin-A or Renova) for at least 10 days prior to prevent possible burns.
Shock yourself.
Like lasering, electrolysis seeks to destroy an individual hair at the site of its growth: the follicle. But whereas a laser uses heat to zap the hair, electrolysis employs an electrical charge, delivered via a tiny metal probe inserted into the hair shaft. Because electrolysis can blast only one follicle at a time, the process can take significantly longer than a laser treatment, which hits up to 500 follicles simultaneously. Electrolysis is, however, the only hair removal process that has been deemed permanent by the FDA. Prices range widely, from $25 to $100 per session (usually one hour long), and you will typically need four to 12 sessions. "Electrolysis is best for women who are seeking permanent hair removal but aren’t able to undergo a laser treatment because their hair color is too light," says Lydia Tivichi, an aesthetician at the Kimara Ahnert Salon, in New York City.
Let ‘er rip.
If lasering and electrolysis are out because you don’t want to invest the time or money, waxing is your next best option, Barshop says. Although it isn’t permanent, regular waxing does cause regrowth to become less coarse over time, probably because of the mild trauma it inflicts on your hair follicles, Tivichi says. Most pros suggest that you ask for a lower temperature wax (to prevent burns) and that you make sure your face is squeaky clean and moisturizer free. "Moisturizers can cause the wax to slip, preventing it from really grabbing hold of the hair and pulling it out at the root. If the hair just breaks off, you’ll see regrowth within about a week," Tivichi says.
Just stop it!
Vaniqa, a prescription-strength cream, helps slow facial hair growth by inhibiting the production of the enzyme that creates hair in the first place, says Linda Ciraldo, a dermatologist in Miami. Used daily underneath your moisturizer, this topical prescription helps extend the time between waxing and makes the hairs that do grow in softer and thinner than what preceded them. One tube will run you about $60 and should last for three months.
Don’t be such a drip.
"I have seen reports of increased facial hair in women who use products such as Rogaine to promote hair growth on their scalps," Ciraldo says. She says this is likely the result of what she calls a trickle-down effect. To be on the safe side, make like a professional colorist and wrap your hairline with cotton while applying a product that promotes hair growth. Remove once the scalp is dry.
Got milk?
Anything that causes hormone levels to fluctuate can trigger facial hair growth, Downie says. This includes excess hormones found in ordinary foods like chicken and most dairy products. She also says high levels of stress and weight gain, which trigger the production of cortisol and the male hormone androgen, may play roles as well." These are somewhat controversial theories," Downie admits, "but I’ve seen patients remove milk from their diets or lose weight, and their facial hair diminishes within weeks."

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