December 29, 2009

Simple Shaving Cream Recipe

Survived another blood test--I was up and out of there immediately, which is impressive for me. I guess practice makes perfect. Or at least makes you less of a ninny. I was only half an hour late for work, too, so there were no problems, once the clinics reopened after the holidays.

If there is anything about the results I should know, I'll get a phone call. Otherwise, my potassium levels are normal and the high testosterone is not being caused by my adrenals. If the results are towards the higher end, I have to go for a specific test at the hospital, injecting me with things to see how my adrenals react. This could be important to know for family planning purposes; the endo said that if both I and my husband (whomever he may turn out to be) carry this propensity for adrenal dysfunction, it could be much much worse in our children.

So we'll see.

Here's something cool!

From Planet Green:
Here's what you'll need:
1/2 teaspoon of sunflower oil
1/4 cup of unscented glycerin soap
Double boiler
A cup or mug for the cream
See the full article post here.

I originally discovered the link through LifeHacker. (Check out links to more shaving tips there. Extending the life of your blades with mineral oil, for instance, is something I'm trying right now.)

Something that saves money, is good for the environment, and lacking all the unpronounceable chemicals whose functions are totally unclear to me? Sounds great to me.

After all, I know oil gives a nice shave and glycerin is a gentle lubricant that helps the skin gain moisture. What more could you need for a shave? I'm going to give this a try sometime!

Some other recipes:
I love homemade stuff...

December 26, 2009

My Dastardly Body

I can't be the only one who thinks my body knows what it's doing, especially when it comes to my cycle. And that it has malicious intent.

I'm meant to take my next blood test early in the morning within the first one to seven days of my cycle. So, my body decides Day One should be the eve of the 25th, making sure to be just in time for the laboratory holiday hours to take effect. (This also schedules it to align, if all remains regular, with my next vacation in February.) How does it know to do this?

I can't even make an appointment for any of the labs, even the ones across town that might be open now, because the appointment line doesn't take calls on weekends. At this rate, I'm going to have to get permission from my boss on Monday to let me come in late on Tuesday so I can get this thing over with. I don't want to save it 'til day six or seven and risk the test results getting muddled. You all know how I hate blood tests. I do not want to do this over again.

Ah, listen to me whine. By the time you hear from me again, this will hopefully all be over. And on the up side, at least my cycle was normal this time!

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday from work, school, and everything else, and enjoying their time with family, friends, pets, self, the tv... I sure am!

December 22, 2009

Previous Shaving Mediums

Another thing I've never really touched on before is the shaving media I used in the early days. There isn't much to say about that, though. In recollection, all products seemed to be the same.

When I first started shaving my face, I was on a trip, so I had afforded myself the luxury of a can of shaving gel simply for convenience. But, I couldn't always justify the expense when my glycerin soap foamed up so well. As a shaving medium, it's always been okay--better than other kinds of soaps, certainly. But I could tell from the stinging and drying that if I was going to stick with shaving my face, it would be better to splurge.

Body washes were the same, so it seemed at the time that my only choices were the fruity and flowery creams on the grocery store's shelf for women's shaving products. There was never much to choose from. Different flavors, same companies. At the time, I preferred Skintimate's scents, and often I had a coupon. Their "Signature Scents" were quite nice on the olfactory senses, and the results were no different than their sensitive formula.

When I didn't have a coupon, the store's brand worked just as well, and when Gillette had a sale on their Women's Satin Care line, I ended up with three cans to work through. In fact, I still have one I haven't completely used up yet. I've been busy straying to the men's shelves and other forms of shaving aids.

All I really have to say is that so far, most shaving gels seem to have the same results, regardless of intended gender, brand, scent, or special additives. Extended use just dries out my face, and one type doesn't protect against redness, irritation, or nicks better than another. That's why, while they are an improvement on plain ol' soap suds, I am still searching for something better.

You can see my thoughts on particular shaving mediums I've used since I started this blog:
More are waiting to be tested.

I do hear and see the recommendation to use hair conditioner often. I quite like it for my legs--it feels similar to using mineral oil both during and after, but leaves less residue in the shower. But I don't know if I'd use it on my face. It might cause other issues--I know acne authorities recommend making sure you wash any conditioner thoroughly off your back. I probably won't be experimenting with that one.

Any shavers out there have a favorite medium?

December 16, 2009

Where's the Potassium?

Refilled my prescription for spiro today. I honestly thought I'd have had my blood test by now to measure my adrenals (to eliminate them as a cause of the hair) and potassium levels (just in case). But thanks to the pills entering my body and going, "This'll be fun; let's invent an entirely new cycle for her!" I have to play the waiting game.

I got an odd cramp behind my right knee the other night. It felt different from any leg cramps I've had in the past. It could have been from an old injury I sustained when getting up awkwardly from a kneel with my college book bag--that knee has been weak ever since. Or it could have been from keeping my leg nervous and tense trying to drive in the piled up snow. But I remembered reading that muscle cramps were a sign of too much potassium in the body, and whether that is accurate or not, it was all I could think about. Such a drama queen.

But I had to put my mind at rest, so I applied myself to research. We all know bananas and potatoes are high in potassium. But what about other foods might we not even think about? All that yogurt I was having for breakfast, the skim milk I've been using to take my vitamin D, the bran I try to keep in my diet, the raw spinach salads I love... You might be surprised.

So here's a few links for the gals out there taking potassium-sparing diuretics. Many of the lists are a little conflicting, so when reading this information, temper it with smarts.

According to some sources, an adult needs to take in at least 2,000 - 4,000 mg of potassium a day. A person trying to keep their potassium intake lower should, apparently, be aiming at less than 2,000. That's still about four baked potatoes, so while it's good not to go overboard, there's no need to be obsessively avoiding it. After all, we still need some potassium for our hearts, muscles, and even our digestive systems.

As well, exercising and drinking lots of water can only help keep things moving so that the potassium the spiro is leaving behind finds its way out eventually.

So tired. Will look at comments soon...

December 10, 2009

Almost Forgot

Third week on spiro, and nothing much to report. My stomach is bothering me much less, which I think has more to do with emotionally adjusting to the idea of taking these pills than anything the pills might be doing to me. I'm still drinking a lot of water and taking many more potty breaks, but I'm fine with that. Anything that encourages me to drink more water can't be all bad.

The only time I don't appreciate the diuretic effects is in the morning, now that I'm taking the bus to work. No longer is it a twenty minute drive, but an hour-long journey in the cold with my nerves taut from the unfamiliar experience. Add diuretics on top of that and it is agony.

Another inconvenience to taking the bus is that my scarf chafes my chin, rubbing off all the carefully placed makeup and encouraging flaky skin. I have not the tools nor the lighting at work to fix this problem, and end up patting on more powder which hides the redness and shadow, but makes the flaking worse. And a scarf is not optional in weather that's thirty below in Celsius.

I've been so exhausted from both my new routine and the emotions revolving around it that I didn't even remember I had a blog until today, when my day off finally allowed my skin a rest. I was asked to come down to dinner with the family and couldn't. The difficult thing, besides missing out on "family time" such as it is in our house (not always much to be said for it, really, but it's still important) is that I'm trying to keep my hirsutism from becoming common knowledge in the house. It's vastly unappealing to sit directly under the light at the kitchen table in close proximity with people I either don't trust or simply feel uncomfortable telling.

Even if I warn my mother ahead of time that I haven't shaved and won't be going out anywhere or hanging around the family in well-lit parts of the house, she forgets. I guess once a person gets used to the idea of someone they know having a beard, the awareness fades from their mind. So she never expects me to refuse to come downstairs.

So she'll send someone else to tell me to come for dinner, and I have a hard time deciding how to say, "No thanks." So I acknowledge their announcement that dinner is ready, and then just... don't... go. And until I know they've figured out I'm not coming, I fidget in a puddle of anxiety and guilt. Are they all just sitting there waiting? How long before they get sick of the pattern? Do they think I just plain don't like them?

And then I remembered. There are people who know what it's like. Hello, people. It's just another one of those days.

December 5, 2009

Product: The Ghosts of Razors Past

Simple topic. Razors.

I was planning for something more profound and contemplative, but the only thing I can contemplate at present is the profound inconvenience of having to start busing to work when I already devote so much time to shaving and the application of make-up in the morning. Having to get up two hours earlier is only the newest addition to a list of unpleasant elements to an otherwise rewarding job. This is causing me to contemplate the profundity of resignation. And it's scaring me out of my pants.

But back to razors. Somehow in the past year and a bit, though I've talked a lot about shaving, I have never commented on the razors I've used. Picking the right razor has always been a concern for me, as a lady trying to decide what to use on her face. But after several years, I try to tell myself that if I can't find the kind I prefer at the store, trial and error really isn't so bad. At worst, I've spent a week or two living with a rough, irritated shave, and come out of it knowing I'd never try that blade again.

My first desperate swipes, taken in the cramped lavatory of a trailer on a summer trip, were with the Schick Personal Touch. Two blades and a moisturizing aloe strip. I had it because it was simply the one my mom bought for me when I began shaving my legs in junior high. And she had one because I believe it was one of the first refillable safety razors marketed to women. Because my face was new to shaving, the results were great. I used to keep one cartridge for my face and one for my legs, and just swap them back and forth because they used to last so long.

But then the refill cartridges gradually disappeared from all the stores, and I had no choice but to find something new. A little while ago my mother ran across some and gave me a packet, but I seem to have forgotten how to use a razor with an inflexible head on my face. Trying to get a close enough shave, I gave myself some of the worst nicks of my life before I gave up on this one. The blades are really hardy compared to disposables, but negotiating my chin is a nightmare.

I was still quite young, and Gillette's new three-blade razor was all the rage--all my friends seemed to have a Venus. But we were a single parent family. Spending so much on refill cartridges was out of the question. But we both agreed that skimping on razors was not a good idea, either, so my mom brought home a slightly less expensive three-bladed alternative, Schick's Xtreme 3 Comfort Plus disposables. Once I got used to the flexing, pivoting head, it gave me the closest, least irritating shave I've experienced. It dulls noticably after a week of daily shaves, and the shea moisturizing strip tends to disintegrate, but the results make it the razor I prefer. When I can't find the women's version, the men's works just as well.

And sometimes they were hard to find. Or we were looking for a cheaper alternative. That led to a few more experiments. Bic's Soleil disposables were attractive colors (yes, of course I take looks into consideration) but gave me such horrifying razor burn on my legs the first go-round that I didn't let them anywhere near my face.

Schick's Slim Twin was, as the name indicates, a two-bladed disposable, and had a cool little blade cleaning feature. You could push down on it and force debris out from between the blades. I found it too small and flimsy to use on my legs, but it was decent on my face. Not as easy to get a close shave with it was the Xtreme 3--but it came in a ten-pack, and I did not have trouble using them all.

Gillette Daisy, a two blade disposable, seemed to have very little lubrication (yes, even with a shaving medium, I still say I could tell) and was not great for the close shave I needed. I'd rank it between the Soleil and the Slim Twin. I shared these with everyone else in the house to get rid of them faster.

Right now I have a pack of Schick Slim Triples that I got on sale. It amuses me far too much that the brilliant pink color perfectly matches the bottle of shaving oil I'm also experimenting with. They also have a flexible rotating head, but the experience is still a little different from the Xtreme 3. I'm still trying to figure out why I don't like them as much. Perhaps it's because they, too, seem flimsier and dull quicker. Or perhaps it's all in my head. But I haven't stopped using them so they obviously aren't that bad.

You know, looking back, I've been shaving my face off and on since high school, and I haven't tried an awful lot of razors. Perhaps more experimentation is in order.

Do I think the number of blades makes a difference when it comes to shaving my face? No. I don't know how razors are made or how they differ in more subtle ways, so I can only talk about what I've experienced. The spin of it seems to be that the more blades you have, the closer the shave will be, but wouldn't two passes with a twin blade equal one pass with four blades and have the same risk for irritation and ingrowns? I'd rather have one hardy, quality blade than five crummy ones working simultaneously.

Would I try one of the more popular refillable brands? Yes. Unlike disposables, which are pretty interchangeable between men's and women's, a refillable man's razor is designed to shave a face. I'm very curious to know if they would make a difference in the irritation and dryness that never completely goes away. However it's simply not something I'm interested in spending a lot of money on right now.

Would I try a more traditional safety razor, or even a straight razor? Yes. It's certainly not a dead art, and if people are still picking it up, it must not only be better for the environment and your wallet, but the resulting shave must also be good. I'm just too darn frightened of something that sharp. I've seen Sweeney Todd.

November 30, 2009

Week Two on Spiro

I'm coming up on the second week. Still having moments of panic at imagined side effects. But my period finally came last night. I was worried it would come at work and I'd be so excited that I'd tell the first person I saw. I don't think I've been this glad to see it since it first appeared and I could count myself among the ranks of my "grown up" friends. I finished an ambitious personal challenge that same night, but I was more thrilled about this. I'm in pain that ibuprofen can only take the edge from, and I feel drained and unfocused, but that's normal for me when it comes, and I'm stupidly relieved. It bothered me this much when I was warned it would mess up my cycle, so I can't imagine how women feel when they don't know why they're late.

Thing is, who knows when my next one will come? Three weeks? Three months? I'll have to be on a constant watch, lest I be caught off-guard. That is one of my worst fears, up there with public bathrooms with no doors on the stalls. Except it's a fear I've survived: imagine an inexperienced teenager, a 10+ hour flight to Indonesia, and white jeans. Yeah, I've been there. Doesn't stop me from agonizing over it. It's going to be a fun few months.

I haven't noticed anything else. I had a dream last night that it was making me grow more hair, not less, and it was making a thick, healthy rug of my ribs. No sign of change either way.

I was introduced to a blog this week that totally blew me away. It's not about hirsutism or polycystic ovaries for once. 65RedRoses is written by a young woman with cystic fibrosis. I'm still reading through it, and it makes me feel incredibly grateful for what I have, and so humbled and inspired by her courage and determination. Please take a look; it's worth your attention. I'm hoping to be back later in the week to update again and talk about something other than medication.

November 26, 2009

About Spiro

I reported my perceived side effects to the endocrinologist, and relayed through the office staff she was unsurprised by the absence of my period. The stomach cramps, though, she said would not be caused by the medication, so it sounds like it's just me scaring myself. Just contacting the endo made me feel much better.

So, as promised, an entry about spironolactone for those who are just learning about it.

I'm just going to share what I heard from the endocrinologist and the pharmacist I spoke to for clarification. As always, none of this should be substituted for your own doctor's advice.

Spironolactone (aka Aldactone, Novo-Spiroton, Spirotone, spiro) was first developed to treat certain types of fluid retention and high blood pressure. Its androgen-blocking features were noticed later. It is a mild water pill, but is apparently still being prescribed for some kinds of hypertension, as well as androgen related issues like acne and hirsutism. How it works for those of us with hormone imbalances is it competes with the male hormones for binding to androgen receptors. If androgen receptors don't bind with those hormones, they can't cause male characteristics. This is not a cure for hirsutism, but it can reduce the amount of hair, it's texture, color, and rate of growth. It sounds like it's different with every woman. My endo also solidified what I've read that hair removal methods like laser can become more effective in conjunction with this treatment.

Because it's a diuretic, the endo said some women notice they're peeing more in the first couple of weeks. It doesn't flush out potassium like other diuretics do, so it can pull your electrolytes out of whack and should not be used if you already have an issue with that--which is apparently rare. The endo said I would not need to avoid potassium rich foods, but the pharmacy's papers on the drug recommended limiting the intake of things like potatoes and bananas, and not taking potassium supplements. I'd rather be safe than sorry. In any case, electrolytes need to be watched carefully via blood tests. (Yay.)

Although this is a water pill and sources say NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin) should be avoided, that is only because those types of pain killers raise your blood pressure. If you're not taking Spiro for high blood pressure, using NSAIDs should be fine (good news for me, I love my Advil). When in doubt, call your pharmacist like I did. The endo also said I shouldn't worry about any other drug interactions, and the pharmacy paper does list some obscure ones--nothing I recognize.

Also, because it's meant to lower blood pressure, some women have reported dizziness or fainting. The endo also said the rare woman has complained of tiredness. Upset stomach is another one, so taking it with food is supposed to help. And of course, there's the wonderful irregular cycles. If these sorts of things persist or get worse, that's when you're meant to call your doctor. That's why I'm waiting it out. The body needs time to adjust.

Of course, I've also heard of women who truly hated being on Spiro. I have read about some pretty wacky side effects on the Internet, but responses are so varied that it's hard to know if Spiro is right for you until you try it. The very best thing is to talk to your doctor.

Everything else I (think I) know about Spiro I learned from these sites:
  • Wikipedia - A better explanation of how Spiro works
  • HairTell Forums - Positive results and cautions here
  • - Info similar to what the pharmacy handed me
  • - An even more detailed version (and I like the organization better)
  • Forum - Acne related, but still interesting. Questions seem to be answered faster.
Some questions I could never seem to find answers to until I got the prescription, such as: "Is it expensive?" Mine was about $26 for a month's supply. And: "Will insurance cover it?" Provincial health care didn't, but my coverage through work took care of 80% of it. And the other thing I wondered: "How big are the pills?" I have trouble swallowing pills that are too large. I don't know if brands are different, but the 100 mg pills my pharmacy gave me are about a centimeter in diameter, chalky, and taste of mint. They are also perforated to be cut in half, so while they're fine for me to swallow, I could always make it easier for myself.

So, I hope that helps the curious. If anyone else has been on spiro and wants to add something, you're welcome to. Until next week.

November 24, 2009

Week One on Spiro

First week on spiro is coming to a close. Have I noticed anything?

Well, I'm late. My cycle usually ranges from 23 to 30 days with an average of 27, but I was expecting it the day after I started on spironolactone and it still hasn't come. 32 or more days is a little unusual. I'm not relishing being in a state of suspended PMS. I doubt spiro can work that fast but I'm such a hypochondriac that it's all I can think about. The endocrinologist warned me irregular cycles might be a symptom, and if it bothered me, I could go on birth control pills as well. A lot of what I've read says that irregular cycles more often manifest in more frequent menses, rather than absent ones. Either way, it bothers me. I hate not knowing what's going on inside my body.

I might very well drive myself crazy going on this stuff.

I'm also more thirsty. I'm drinking more water than I ever had the urge to before. (This is good, it's a diuretic, so I don't want to get dehydrated.) It's possible I'm peeing more, too, but that's also one of my own personal PMS symptoms so I can't be sure.

Another fun thing is I'm getting minor abdominal cramps that have nothing to do with feminine workings. They're more akin to the types of cramps I used to get when I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in college. The thing is, so much of that is caused by stress that I don't know if I'm just freaking myself out or if this is another side effect. Am I on a path to a whacked out digestive system again? I think I'd rather live with the hair.

The thing is, I know I do this to myself. I angst about my health, which makes things worse. After the eighth grade, I spent the summer lying on the couch, my stomach a mess, and I was afraid to go to sleep in case I didn't wake up again. I was tested for parasites and all sorts, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. So I don't trust my own reactions--I'm usually just being a big chicken.

Research doesn't help me. The medical sites provide information, but they're not meant to assure you the medication is right for you or that you shouldn't take it. That's why the side effects lists are so scary. A lot of people who post about spiro in forums have negative stories to share. I think that's making it worse for me.

I just need to relax, think positive, continue watching my body, and realize that I am doing this by choice. I can stop at any time, but I cannot be too afraid to give it a real try.

Anyway, I'd wanted to talk a bit about spiro in general, for the benefit of those who might be hearing about it for the first time. I think I'll do that in the next couple of days.

Now I'm going to enjoy the Monday night sit-coms and try to not think about this anymore. :)

November 17, 2009

First Visit to an Endocrinologist

Summary: No diagnosis yet. More tests, and I'm going on an androgen blocker.

And now for the long, detailed version, which I'm sure everybody loves. For those who haven't read my entire story, an endocrinologist is the farthest I have come in the nigh-decade since the hair began to grow. I was so excited and worried for this appointment. I was afraid to know what the cause was, and afraid there would be no answer. I was afraid the endo was going to be curt, disinterested, and rush me out of there. (By the way, don't believe everything you read on sites like RateMyMD.) I was afraid to get a prescription, and afraid there wouldn't be one. Needless to say, I was all over the place.

The closer I got to this appointment, the more emotional I became. I felt more strongly than ever that I wanted to tell everybody about this secret I keep, even though I figured this wouldn't benefit anyone. And as I ran through outcomes in my head, I started to cry. Often. The day before my appointment I was unsteady and flustered and could think of nothing else. I don't even remember what I did at work. After dinner I wrote down questions, previous tests, and anything else I wanted to remember for the appointment tomorrow. I didn't refer to them once in the consultation, but the act of writing them down cemented them in my head.

From the moment I put my boots on, to wandering through the maze of rooms on the medical floor of the building, to sitting in the waiting room of the clinic, my chest was tight, my heart hammering, and my hands and feet restless and damp like I was about to give a speech. One of the office staff measured my height and weight as soon as I checked in, and then I sat and read. I was there early--that's the only reason I waited. I watched the few women who came in and out in my periphery, wondering if anyone was here for the same reason. I couldn't tell. When they called me into an examining room, and I had barely the time to sit down and squint at a poster of the thyroid gland before the endo came in and shook my hand. She knew what I was there for, had my blood tests in her hand, and took notes as we went over my symptoms, my medical and family history. Then she did a brief physical exam, and we discussed where she wanted to go from here and let me ask some questions. She took the time to address every concern I had, and was happy to explain everything. And considering how often she must have to--she says hirsutism is one of the most common things she sees as an endocrinologist--I was extra impressed.

We talked about the likelihood of PCOS. She explained it was a diagnosis of elimination, and supported what I've read about not all the symptoms needing to be present. In my case, since I only have the hair as a symptom, an ultrasound won't be necessary. All I am needing to manage is the hormones. The endo still wants to eliminate the adrenal glands as the producers of the testosterone. So that means another blood test, which has to be done during the first two weeks of my cycle. I'll also have to get tested for potassium levels, since she wants to start me on the androgen blocker Spironolactone, which is a potassium-sparing diuretic. But assuming those tests come back normal, I shan't be hearing from the endo until our six month follow-up.

I went right to a pharmacy to fill the prescription. The pharmacist, a man, peered at it and said, "It's some kind of water pill?" It is, so I nodded, though that's not what I'm taking it for. The instructions advised me not to take it after 6 pm so I'm not getting up in the night to pee. So tomorrow will be the day I start. The medication will take a few months to start to work, if it works at all. But I will be sure to report on any changes that I notice. It's not a cure, but it should reduce the amount of hair and rapidity of its growth. I often expect the people who might read this to have already done some research on hirsutism's causes and treatments. Perhaps I should spend some time making entries on that sort of thing?

I'm feeling good, overall. Taking medication of any kind always frightens me, but after so many years, I think I owe it to myself to try it. It's all about making progress for me, and finding the best way to live with my hair. So here we go...

November 13, 2009

Why I Hide It At Home

Yesterday evening after work, Allerleirah was talking to her family about a difficult customer...

Allerleirah's step-sister: "Did she have a beard?"

Allerleirah: "What? What does that have to do with it?"

Allerleirah's step-sister: (Completely jovial, as if this is a great joke.) "Once [a coworker] and I had a woman come in with a beard, and we did rock paper scissors to see who would deal with her. [Coworker] lost."

Allerleirah: "Why? Was she unpleasant?"

Allerleirah's step-sister: (Gleefully.) "No."

Allerleirah: (Trying to hide growing offense, not very skillfully.) "So what does that have to do with it?"

Allerleirah's step-sister: "She was just ugly!

Allerleirah: "Don't you think that's a little bit prejudiced? She can't help it--"

Allerleirah's step-sister: "That doesn't mean you have to let yourself go just because you're old! She could shave!"

Allerleirah: (Through clenched teeth.) "Maybe she's tired of shaving."

Allerleirah's step-sister: "She could wax!"

Allerleirah: "Maybe she was waiting for the hair to grow long enough for her to wax."

Allerleirah's step-sister: "No, she was definitely growing it out."

...Soon I gave up trying to argue. She obviously wasn't going to feel bad about it, and I was afraid it was becoming obvious this was personal to me, when to her it was just a laugh. I was tempted to whip the rug out from under her with the truth, but in the end decided it wasn't worth it. The unnerving thing is, since she moved back in with us I've come so close to coming down to family dinners when I haven't shaved. I've been tired of hiding just because my skin needs a break. I was forgetting the very strong feelings I've always had that letting her know this thing about me will come back to bite me in the rear.

I simply don't trust her with it, and not just because she thinks a bearded lady is a good butt for a joke. That's pretty normal, pretty human. But the horrifying conversation was a piercing reminder of the shallowness and immaturity that make it so hard for people to accept what exists outside their comfort zone... and so hard for girls with hirsutism to be comfortable with themselves.

Maybe she thought bearded women are so rare that it's safe to mock them from a distance. They'll never touch her life. One day she's in for a surprise.

But for now, in my own home, I'll keep hiding it.

November 10, 2009

Soothing Morning Ritual?

Here's a different take on the morning shave.

Yes, it's written by a man, but it's the attitude that struck me, not the gender of the author. He takes a morning ablution and spins it into a positive element for the beginning of a day. Obviously it helps that he has products that work for him and are enjoyable to use.

It probably also helps that he is not one out of five-to-ten women who have to face stubbly reality with every sunrise. But still, why not try to think differently of the copious amounts of time spent removing hair from places society says it shouldn't be? Yes it's time better spent with family, friends, on hobbies or sleep. But what if, instead of glaring into the mirror and taking the reflection as a reminder that "I'm not normal," I looked beyond that and tried to see it as an opportunity for something more optimistic? A meditation, a pick-me-up, a chance to mentally prepare for a day. I have thought up many a blog post while scraping away, and often run through a checklist of things I need to accomplish at work. Or if it's a day off, I'll think about what I'd really like for breakfast... Mmmm, crepes.

On the other hand, if "a good shave can really set the tone," is any shave a good experience when you're a bearded lady? The only good shaves I ever have are when I've let the hair grow out until my skin has all healed, and then take to it with a brand new razor. This takes about a week, so the opportunities are indeed few. Sometimes there's so much anxiety in my gut about hiding my hair in the morning that it physically hurts. Not a good tone for the day. For me it's always been the part of the day I immediately block out of my mind when it's done.

But what if shaving could be made pleasant? What if us girls could approach it with a fresh attitude? What if there was a product that smelled lovely and worked so well that it made shaving... not a joy, but a surmountable part of the morning? It might go a long way to feeling better about ourselves as we live with hirsutism.

So first I have to find the perfect product...

I finally got the site updated to autumn colors. I miss the cyan and the cute little sink girl already, though. I've also added a section in the sidebar with links to product's I'm using right now. For instance, I'm trying a new disposable razor and a shaving oil. I was thinking it might help readers anticipate future reviews. And there's bigger news: My next Tuesday update will be about my first visit to an endocrinologist! Be sure to check back.

November 7, 2009

In Defense of Face Shaving, Part 2

As my ill-fated internet surfing session took me from beauty experts forbidding a woman from shaving her face to general lay-people's opinions about it, I was surprised to find a lot of women cringing from the thought of female face shaving. More often than men, they were saying that a woman should never put a blade to her face, that "it isn't okay."

It's very hard not to get a little up in arms. Hirsutism and hypertrichosis are somewhat rare--or perhaps just seen rarely--and I suppose it's understandable that some might think bearded women and "wolf people" are merely made up... even if TV and the Internet have made the world a much smaller place. Just because a person is aware of bearded ladies in the context of historical circus side shows doesn't mean they would consider the implications of a real-life girl or woman trying to make her way in today's world.

Without providing links to their sometimes frustrating thoughts on the subject of women shaving their faces, many people still say the act of cutting a hair makes it somehow morph into a thicker, darker version of itself. (See my argument about that in this post.) Then there's: "stubble's not feminine." Maybe it doesn't feel so nice, but who are these people to tell anyone else what's supposed to make them feel feminine, as if the sense of femininity were that fragile? Some try to sound knowledgeable by listing other hair removal options, completely missing the reality that every woman is different, the causes of excess body hair are multiple, and not everything will work for every situation. And then there was the young lady who ventured to ask readers if they could imagine sidling up to Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome and having him lean in and feel the stubble on their top lip.

Could I imagine that? Honey, I've lived it, as have many, many other women. Some of us have no choice, so we manage.

So I am very glad to see others out there coming to the defense of a woman's hair removal choices, whether she requires them or simply wants them (and that's not to say a woman who feels she "requires" them has to choose to use any of them, either). One woman's response brought tears to my eyes; she has PCOS, and despite sharing the difficult memory of having to hurriedly shave with her husband's razor while staying in the hospital for an emergency cesarean, she handled her rebuttle with class. Here is a link to her response to the issue of women shaving: "Why Ladies Shave Their Faces" ...But if you're not feeling thick-skinned today, try not to read the other opinions on the subject.

It's a shame those heroes seem to be either women who know what it's like to have no choice but to shave, and men. (I know, interesting!) Does that mean the average woman's world is just a little too small, fenced in perhaps by beauty advertisements and air brushed role models? I say that because that would have been me, had I not developed hirsutism in my teens. I might have said "eww" or made a joke to ease the discomfort of the concept of modern bearded ladies.

Would it take much to open up that world a little? I don't think so. I wish I could find more people out there trying to show others that, hey, some women are bearded, and that's okay. Sadly, most of them only show up to post a comment on a news bulletin or beauty editorial to set everyone straight, and disappear again. (The woman who wrote that heart rending piece does have a blog.) To all of you out there doing that, don't give up! I've always been heartened by your efforts. So thank you.

November 3, 2009

In Defense of Face Shaving, Part 1

I get this bizarre, masochistic sort of amusement whenever I see an article about the Esquire covers that have featured female models "shaving" their faces. There have been two such covers. The rationale of the art direction behind those covers was, apparently, to tap into the appeal of a woman flaunting a little masculine power. Kinda brave, I think. Still objectifying, maybe, but interesting. The concept has managed to keep people talking.

When I do the odd Google image search to see what artists and photographers are doing with the subject of bearded women--and for heaven's sake have your safe search on when you're doing this!--I'll inevitably see one of these covers, so I'll click to find out what people are saying about it.

And one day (this was months ago now) I came across a beauty news entry referencing an "Ask Ying" MSN Lifestyle article, which as much as I try I cannot get to load to see the entire answer to the question. The question was, "Do models shave their faces? Their skin always looks so smooth!" Marie Claire's Beauty Director answers:

"Absolutely not, and you shouldn’t either. Face shaving is such a masculine act that it can be psychologically confusing to do as a woman. If you feel like you have excess hair on your face, try waxing, plucking, using depilatories, or laser hair removal. You can also ask your doctor for Vaniqa, a prescription cream that slows hair growth in about four to six weeks. But you shouldn’t obsess over a little peach fuzz. I’ve definitely seen my share of it on models’ faces. The reason you haven’t is because facial hair is pretty much always retouched out of photos."

First of all, I want to cynically tip my hat to a world where blond, vellus, "normal" facial hair is retouched out of photos. Obviously it's causing girls without hirsutism to wonder if they should be shaving their faces, to be discontent with something that is completely normal. Good job.

And secondly, what I want to know is, has this beauty director tried it? Has she met a woman who needs to remove facial hair on a daily basis? I would say having a dark, coarse beard is the part that might cause some psychological turmoil. The method of removal, what a woman does have control over, should be the lady's choice. It is, to some, a method of survival, and I don't think anyone should discourage her from something that's not going to harm her.

I have used a few different methods in my time and have always found shaving to be the quickest, less invasive, and most effective method. On top of preferring this "masculine act," I actually have a beard. Yet that certainly doesn't make me confused about my gender. As much as I hate shaving, I try to get over that part of my day and get on with life as a full fledged female.

Of course, if I didn't need to shave, I wouldn't do it. My skin would certainly do better if I didn't. It doesn't make your hair grow back thicker and darker, but it does make it feel prickly because the hair shaft is now cut bluntly, and then you have redness, dryness and ingrown hairs to worry about. However, I was fascinated to find out (on a blog that no longer exists for me to credit it) that some women do elect to shave their face--their entire face except for eyebrows--as part of a beauty regimen. Apparently this is a traditional offering at some Japanese salons.

Shaving does remove dead skin cells as well as hair, so some people are doing it as a method of exfoliation (this is a four-year-old article on it). How's that for a twist?

My original rant got rather long so I've split it in two parts. Up next, what the average person seems to think about women who shave their faces, and I continue to get my knickers in a knot. ;P

October 27, 2009

Product: Nivea for Men Sensitive Shaving Gel

Sorry for missing last week's post. I got hit with the flu and was out for the week. Now I know what I look like with seven days growth of beard. After about four days, it actually stops feeling so prickly. It's bizarre.

As I've said before in this blog, I often wonder if it's more important to stick with what's made "for a woman's skin" when it's not really made for a woman's face. Hirsute women find themselves in a unique situation that way. There aren't really any shaving products made for a woman's face. However, women do use men's shave gels on their other sensitive areas and prefer them to those made specifically for their gender. It does happen. So what have we got to lose trying them where we need to?

Searching the web for what men found helpful with razor burn and sensitive skin when wet shaving, I found Nivea's shave gels mentioned and put it on my list of things to try.

Nivea for Men Sensitive Shaving Gel - 198 g

  • Water, palmitic acid, triethanolamine, oleth-20, isopentane, sorbitol, minderal oil, isobutane, gossypium herbaceum (cotton) seed oil, tocopheryl acetate, glycine soja (soybean) oil, chammomile recututa (matricaria) flower extract, bisabolol, PEG-90 glyceral isostearate, hydroxyethylcellulose, polyisobutene, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, PEG-14 M, laureth-2, methylparaben, DMDM hydantoin propylparaben, BHT, fragrance

Things I liked:
  • The dispensing top is made of plastic, so it doesn't crud up and get rusty like metal ones.
  • This stuff foams really well. I've been using it since July 1 for my face and chest, and long after I thought the can was empty, it kept giving me more.

Things I didn't like:
  • It smelled like a guy should smell. It doesn't linger after moisturizing, but it sure mans up the morning ritual.
  • At first the dispenser was not very sensitive, and would pump out more than I could possibly need. I wasted a lot this way.
  • There was no change to the redness or dryness of my skin.

Did it do what it promised?

It claims to use vitamins and chamomile to calm irritated skin while shaving. Whatever was in there wasn't enough to improve the look or feel of my skin, but it didn't make it any worse. Ladies, I'd skip this one just because of the scent. No need to make shaving your face feel more masculine than it already does. Though if this smell was on a man, yum!

See what others thought of this product:
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October 15, 2009

Possible Mislabel

I woke this morning--9:00 on my day off--to the sound of my cellphone vibrating. By the time I had untangled myself from the duvet and pulled it out of my bag pocket, I had missed the call, but the display stilled show it as the name of my GP's clinic--the same clinic I had been calling all day to get an appointment with, and had no luck. Still groggy, I redialed. The woman told me my doctor wanted me to come in to discuss the results of my latest blood work, and could I come in today?

I agreed, and of course as the stupor wore off, all sorts of dubious thought started running through my head. Why did they want to see me today? Had they seen something urgent in the results? What had they found that was so different from the one I'd taken almost four months ago? (For those of you who are just joining us or have the memory of a normal human being, this details my last follow-up. She wanted to monitor my thyroid which showed hyperactive before, and testosterone and free androgen on the side.) I figured it was the thyroid. All morning I agonized. Trying to prepare yourself for the worst and yet calm yourself down is no easy task.

To ease the drama of this post, I'll let you know now that my thyroid is back within normal levels and it seems they just had an opening and wanted to fit me into it. This time, I got in right away and only sat for a minute in that small room with the examination table and the biohazard box. Then my doctor came in and asked, "Remind me, what are we doing about the PCOS?"

I'm sure I must have gaped idiotically at her for a second or two. Since when did I have PCOS? My only symptom had been hirsutism for the past eight years. Wasn't I being sent to the endocrinologist so they could determine the cause? When I regained control over my vocal chords, I said that she had referred me to said endocrinologist. She asked me about my previous treatments, which were only for the hair, and then I finally managed to stammer out that no one had ever tried to figure out the cause before now, and I had never had someone call it PCOS.

My blood work, she said, was consistent with it. I think I asked her what was off except for the androgens--such as the glucose. But she said the androgens were enough of an indication, and took me back into the little closet computer room to show me. The results were consistent with the last test, and not shockingly high. She printed off a copy to take to the endrocinologist, and started telling me about what I might be prescribed, and that although she could be communicating with the specialist that I should keep her abreast of how I tolerate the medication and any concerns I might have. She was very sweet again, touching my arm in that way she has, but I only noticed her manner on the surface, because I was still thinking, "PCOS... PCOS... PCOS..."

I just have never had any symptom but the excess hair. My periods are painful but regular, I am not overweight, have no serious problems with acne or insulin--but I know not everyone will have all the symptoms, or present them at the same time. I've considered the possibility of having polycystic ovaries, but I wasn't prepared to hear that when I did. It's possible my GP was just calling it that, and the endocrinologist may find something different, but she's the doctor, not me.

To kill time while I waited for my ride, I went to the drugstore and looked at overpriced makeup. I couldn't wait until we got in the car before I started to tell her what had happened. I haven't told her much about PCOS because I haven't focused a lot of my energy on that eventuality, so I tried to explain what I knew. As I was trying to say that fertility can be an issue, I turned and saw I was standing next to the wedding and baby cards. I don't know if I want kids, or even if that will be a problem I will have to face, but hearing those words come out of my mouth, I just couldn't believe I was saying them. Living with the hair is one thing, but having this name with all these other meanings and possible dangers is something else. For a few moments, I couldn't control my tears.

But after that, I got a handle on myself, came home, had some tea and fresh bread with my family around me. Received some kind and generous words from a friend who had no idea what exactly I was worried about, but never for a moment allows me to demean myself. And I thought of all the strong women I know, or know of, who live successfully with their health problems. And I knew that I could work through this, whatever the results happen to be.

Only a month away, now, and I'll be even closer to knowing for sure. It will be better to know. It can't be treated properly until I know.

October 13, 2009

Irrational Wardrobes

Ah, autumn is here. There's been a delay with the seasonal change in look for the blog, but hopefully we'll get the technical difficulties straightened out before winter sets in.

This summer, I assigned myself the project of cleaning out my closet. That's always fun in a way, if you enjoy organization as much as me, or get a kick out of the things you used to wear that you kept in case they came into style again. (New poll idea: Will Al regret donating those synthetic plaid pants in 20 years or so? Yes or no?)

But it's a job that requires you to be honest with yourself. You're trying to make room in your drawers so that you can actually close them. You really don't have the space to keep every piece of clothing you like. And then, if you're like me, you start to feel guilty about all the nice things you had to have but are now getting rid of because you just don't wear them.

There are so many things I have donned only once because of the length of the shirt or the depth of the neckline, or even the amount of sleeve--you know those cute little cap sleeves that rub your freshly shaven armpits until they burn like the dickens? There are so many ways a piece of clothing can make me fall in love with it, and then prevent me from feeling even minutely confident or comfortable in it.

Unfolding and refolding things, stuffing them in a gigantic bag, I kept thinking, "What a waste." There go all those t-shirts with quirky graphics or slogans because it was too risky to wear them with the hair on my stomach, and all those elegant scoop-neck blouses in beautiful colors because it's so hard to feel good about my chest. And necklaces--necklaces were my favorite kind of jewelry back in the day. Now it seems counterproductive to draw any attention to the neck and collarbone.

The problem is that, practical and realistic as I try to be, my head still gets turned by a great color and a flirty neckline. I know that it's best to invest in a crew- or boat-neck since I won't have to plan my week around wearing it when I'm able to get a good result from my razor, but there are so many other more exciting shirts around! I just blindly think: "I bet I could look nice in that," and forget that the chances of wearing a shirt that shows so much skin more than once in a season are slim to none. So many pieces of clothing that I thought I couldn't live without hanging neglected and eventually given up for adoption; it's kind of a tragedy for a girl.

I have a confession, though. I've hung onto a few audacious articles out of pure optimism--and when I say "audacious" I mean anything offering more than a glimpse of the clavicle. One day, there might be a special enough occasion to coordinate trousers, shirt, and shaving my cleavage. And then I swear I'll look fantastic. ;P

Thankfully, shopping for autumn is a little bit easier, with the abundance of turtlenecks and the opportunity to layer practically any exciting sweater over the most boring crew-necks in innumerable combinations. And long pants are a necessity. And growing out one's fur is sound judgment for any mammal. Well... maybe that's needlessly cheeky to say. But I'm in a pleasant mood and wanted to talk about something flippant and stereotypically girly tonight.

Also, I am trying to get into the spirit of shopping for, of all things, another cocktail dress for a wedding reception. One of the most deliberately flirty examples of an outer garment one can buy. And clever me, I leave it to the last minute. I struck a bargain with myself that I would not be allowed to peek into a dress shop until I'd had my next blood test, so of course I put it off and put it off and put it off. There was no dizziness at all with this one, though. I wonder if I'm getting better?

October 6, 2009

Beard Pride?

I learn through the grapevine of the Internet, through the "average" person's horrified exclamations or a woman's own proud defiance, that there are women out there who are not hiding their beards. It could be feminist thing, or a cultural thing. Perhaps all removal methods have been exhausted, or maybe it's just simply an acceptance thing. I see it as an I'm-not-sorry-I'm-me thing. Regardless of the reason, they're out there, courageous.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone would count it against me that I shave my beard and try to help others select their hair removal methods, all the while trying to tell readers, bearded and unbearded, that it's okay to have facial hair. If I'm hiding it, doesn't that indicate shame?

Well, yeah. I'm embarrassed. I don't talk to people about it, outside of my mother, my doctor (and if it counts, the two friends I've mentioned it to once), and the similarly afflicted, determined and beautiful women I've met online. If I'm feeling down and I find that I can't hide my hair as well as I would like to, I'll call in sick, shut myself in the house and throw a glorious pity party. But considering the widely held standards of attractiveness, can any hirsute women be faulted for feeling ashamed?

My goal is not to advocate the way we should present our bodies. That's every person's individual choice. What I want is to share and explore, and make other women see that they're not alone. I hope that the more comfortable we become thinking about it and talking about it, the easier it will be to live with hirsutism--or for those who don't have it, the easier it will be to not even see the hirsutism. Whether a woman wants to hide it or show it, we all have no choice but to wear it, so accepting it is probably what we need to work on.

Am I the only one who's wondered what they'd look like if they grew out their beard, though? I'd need an extended leave from work to find out, because I certainly wouldn't be comfortable wearing it out in public. But you know, some people do that sort of thing as a marathon for charity, or to nurture solidarity--hockey playoffs, the final push to the end of a big project and soforth. I'm trying to see myself at full bushiness and it makes me giggle. It would have to be one heck of a project.

September 30, 2009

The Magic Ingredients

Self esteem. I wish someone would bottle and sell it. In this world it's really difficult to cultivate self esteem on your own. I wish there was some magical way of thinking, some fail-safe mantra that could protect a person from an attack on their confidence. Even those who somehow manage to have a strong sense of self worth can have the rug pulled out from under them. And those who are hanging on by a thread can have their last link to reality cut, and they give up.

It's tempting to blame any one thing in this world, but they all work together. Advertising, movies, thoughtless acts of others, the way society gets more and more distant in its human interaction. You can pass by hundreds of people in your day and not have a meaningful exchange with anyone. And you certainly don't have to have a 'socially unacceptable' disorder to be a victim. It can happen to anyone, any age, any attitude.

And to further complicate things, it's about more than just your looks. How do you explain how someone like me, a girl with male pattern hair growth, can keep going while someone else with flawless skin and elegant features can hate herself so much that she feels her own life is not worth fighting for? Self esteem is more than feeling good about your looks (though that certainly can help). Is it your abilities that you have to be proud of? Do you have to like your personality? Do you have to feel you are in balance with being a good friend and a good daughter/sister/mother, good wife/girlfriend and a good worker? What does it take to feel like you are worth it?

I wish I knew the recipe, so I could protect myself, and help others. No one should be feeling like they should just give up. No one should allow a careless lover to get them down, or the thoughtlessness of a friend, or one's own error at work, or the body they were born with. Yet they do. We're all fighting this constant battle to hang on to this mystical thing, but we don't know exactly how to keep it from escaping.

And for some, it is not melodramatic to say this is a life or death struggle.

I think one of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking someone else can give it to us--particularly in a romantic relationship. If you're not happy with yourself now, you're never going to be happy as part of a pair. Some family and some friends you can trust to build you up, but throwing that expectation onto a stranger is dangerous.

I think another big mistake is to allow yourself to get in the way of acheiving your dreams. Have the courage to go to that country you always wanted to visit, orget that higher education that will place you in the career you fantasize about. It's my observation that the people who don't really give something a wholehearted try are the ones who feel they fail at everything--and so they don't try. It's a vicious circle that keeps them in a place where they feel like a failure. Going after what you want is not as simple as it sounds, but that's why you have to give it your all, frightening as it may be.

But lack of confidence in one's self is usually what spurs us to make these mistakes. It is so hard to fight for yourself when your own self is pitched against you.

So what do you do? Obviously I have no answers, but I'm not giving up, and I don't want anyone else to, either. There are people who believe I'm worth it. And there are people who believe you're worth it, too. If you can't think of anyone right now, just use me.

September 24, 2009

Say "Ahh."

Here's something fun about being hirsute: going to the dentist. Another human being leaning over your face with a bright light and a mirror--how could a dental hygienist not notice?

It's something that always concerned me a little, and I would take extra care to shave (I would also trim my nose hair--hey, I expect the same courtesy of my dentist!) and moisturize so my make-up went on smoothly and didn't crack as my mouth was stretched in all possible directions. And I'd wonder, as she did so, if she ever took her eyes off my teeth long enough to see the shadow of stubble. But now that I've read of other bearded ladies feeling the same way, it's made it worse for me. Now I'm touching up my make-up on the way to the dentist, and wishing I could check it in the waiting room without people watching me and thinking I'm vain.

And I know I ought to get a hold of myself. They're doctors, even if they don't specialize in skin or hormonal disorders. They're not there to judge, they're there to clean and maintain the health of the tools in your mouth. Really, I have much more valid reasons to fear the dentist. ;)

And now that half an hour has passed since the fluoride wash, I can finally get a drink!

September 15, 2009

Still Here

I apologize for my silence here on the blog and other sites.

Someone who means a great deal to me tried to commit suicide last week, and yes, that is blunt and doesn't do her any favors, but neither does pretending it didn't happen. In addition, I've always tried to be straightforward in this blog, and it needs to be said. While she seems to be doing better now, I'm finding I still need to deal with the shock of it. We'll be okay, I think, but life is in too much turmoil right now and I have to look after myself and my family first.

Considering how often blogs peter out, though, I felt I owed everyone who reads this the assurance that I'm not going anywhere, and I hope to be back in a week or two and I will get to all comments or emails then. Until then, you are all more beautiful than you realize, giving up is never a solution, and you are stronger than you will hopefully ever need to know.

September 2, 2009

Wouldn't Give a Hair on my Head

I meant to write about a nightmare I had, now more than two weeks ago. Usually if I dream about my body hair, it's just there in the background as a simple fact about my body and something that prevents me. But this time, I dreamed about my hormones. I dreamed my androgen levels were so high that my scalp hair suddenly started falling out. Huge chunks of it just coming out on my head when I ran my fingers through it. Very I-Know-What-You-Did-Last-Summer.

Even though I knew that too much testosterone can be responsible for scalp hair loss, I was in such a panic, and I was alone. The people I trusted with my "condition" were out of town and the people who might have been available to help me were the people I wanted to hide from. And as I tried to think of who I could call, my hair just kept sliding over my shoulders onto the floor in clumps and I couldn't stop it.

The "It Could Be Worse" argument can be a little futile at times, but that dream was so vivid that I woke up covered in sweat and crying. The act of losing my hair was what frightened me, more than living with the loss of it afterward. In that purely emotional state, it was something I would not have traded to have the "average" amount of body hair.

Does it ever strike people as strange? Strange that one kind of hair is so valued when another is thought of as repugnant? If I thought about it rationally, about the time and pain and emotion I pour into dealing with my body hair every day, I know it would certainly be worth it to wear a wig for the rest of my days if I could trade in my scalp hair for a hirsutism-free life. But when it came right down to it, it was hard to argue with my gut feeling upon waking.

It may be useless to think of what we would physically give in return for "normal" bodies, but it does cross my mind sometimes.

August 25, 2009

Summer Attitudes

I'm back from my lake frolicking, and I'm sure some girls out there would ask me how a woman with so much hair could enjoy a sun-and-sand sort of holiday. Yes, there's the unfamiliar lighting situation in the bathroom and the constant need to keep body hair invisible, not allowing the delicate skin any rest at all. But I cheat. Stomach fuzz unsuccessfully removed? There are some fun one-piece swimsuits out there these days. Chest and armpits getting irritated? A crew neck t-shirt over a swimsuit top will hide it all and still look beachy. And who else is glad the bermuda-length short came back into style? Raise your hand! Long board shorts keep me from having to shave up past the knee if I don't feel like it, and so many people are wearing them in the water that you'd never stand out. There are ways to hide things without looking like you're hiding them, and if you feel that you don't look like you're hiding anything, you start to forget that you have anything to hide and just have yourself some fun. A girl can look cute on the beach without revealing all that skin.

Besides, there was less family at the lake this year, and less people to hide myself from. There was some relief in that. But some loneliness, too.

As I was thinking on my trip about the comfort of more modest beach attire, and the huge amount of relaxation awarded when you can skip a day or two of shaving and plucking at least one or two areas, I remembered a different holiday. The summer after I finished laser treatment, I didn't have to worry about shaving my face at all for a few months. On that holiday, the simple knowledge that the beard was not going to crop up (even though I checked religiously every morning) made me feel so comfortable with myself that I wasn't nearly as bothered about the rest of my body hair. I didn't stress about waking up early to get to the bathroom first. If I felt like leaving my legs a little prickly, I did. With only one single worry removed, I felt that much better about myself. I felt I was tackling nearly the same amount of hair as the average woman, and that gave me the courage to fudge it.

Will we ever be able to truly enjoy the same summer fun everyone else can enjoy? While we still struggle with hair removal, it will be hard to say. I don't know if a girl can rely primarily on a hair removal method or cute, covering swimwear to give her the power to overcome the feeling that it's a constant war to keep the hirsutism hidden. It may have to come from somewhere deeper.

August 12, 2009

The Sneak

Dulled by the ordinary events of every day--the usual morning ablutions, thankless customers, identical microwavable lunches--I find myself in the middle of my week without completely remembering how I got there. And as I get ready for bed at night, taking extra care to baby my poor, abused face, I study my reflection.

What the...? How long has that been there?

I brush a finger over it. Yep, it's attached. A single dark hair. Long. The one that got away.

Sometimes it's on your neck. Sometimes your collarbone. Maybe your cheek. But now and then, do you somehow manage to miss one?

Goodness knows where it hides when you're scraping that razor over your skin, but some way that hair evades decapitation for days, even a week without being noticed. Is the lighting to blame? The angle of your face in the mirror? Have we just stopped paying close attention as we go about our various hair removal methods?

And how many people have noticed it? How long was that thing pokin' out for all the world to see? If I didn't know it was there, and therefore acted like it wasn't there, what are the chances anyone else knew it was there?

Personally, I still don't like those odds. But there's no way to change the past, however long that sneaky hair's been growing on me. I can only shake my head, chuckle, and grab the tweezers.

I'm off on vacation this weekend, so there won't be an update next week and I won't be able to respond to any comments. Time again for swimsuits and unfamiliar bathroom lighting situations, but it's a lake and it's beautiful, and it's time off. See you all on the 26th!

August 5, 2009

Product: Nivea Summer Touch Smooth Legs

In the summer, I like to have a bit of the season's warm glow, especially to compliment certain clothing colors. So in May it was finally time to choose a tinted moisturizer. I had no loyalty to certain brand; so far they'd all worked fine but you could really smell the tinting chemical at work on me. So I did a bit of internet searching to see what my choices were this year.

And that's how I found Nivea's Summer Touch Smooth Legs self tanning lotion. Not only is it designed to gradually build color but also to make hair look and feel finer. And I thought, "Well that could be neat." Every little bit helps, right?

  • Water, glycerin, cyclomethicone, alcohol denat., cetearyl alcohol, dihydroxyacetone, tapioca starch, glyceryl stearate SE, chelidonium majus extract, butylene glycol, dimethicomol, fragrance, sodium cetearyl sulfate, xanthan gum, sodium citrate, citric acid, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, propylparaben.
Things I liked:
  • Color developed quickly, even though I was using the kind for light to medium skin tones.
  • The initial smell of the lotion was not unpleasant.
  • It makes a nice moisturizer.
Things I didn't like:
  • It left that usual self-tanner smell as the chemicals reacted with my skin. (But everyone's different in that regard.)
  • Either I was being more careless than usual or this one is more prone to streak.
  • It seemed like I lost more color than usual when shaving or exfoliating. And if I didn't exfoliate or shave for a few days, I could actually scrape off all the color build-up with my nails in the bath. That was kind of an icky discovery. Never had that happen before.
  • I still had to shave the same amount.
Did it do what it promised?

It's got the "natural summer glow" part down, though I found it was easy to loose it, even if I let it build up before a shave or scrub. As for the hair, it looked and felt the same as always a day after a shave. I didn't find that I could skip a shave at all. I tried it on my arms to see what it would do for lighter hair that wasn't shaven, and noticed no difference there either.

While it didn't physically affect my hair itself, a tan can lessen the contrast between your skin and hair and make it a little less noticeable. I don't think you need to be buying a lotion that says it has hair control though.

But now I'm curious what the active ingredient in softening the hairs might have been. I've seen other lotions (not neccessarily tanning ones) say they can soften body hair, too. There's got to be some science behind that. Maybe we'll see more products like that in the future.

July 30, 2009

Four months!

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that I got a call from my doctor's office yesterday. They left a message on my cell while I was at work. Luckily I remembered to check for messages at the end of my lunch hour, because it seemed that every male coworker under the age of thirty was having lunch at the same time, and I wouldn't have suffered them to see how teary-eyed I got when I heard that my GP had decided on a referral at last.

I could barely understand the name of the clinic in the message, but what I could make out sounded very generic. No clues as to whether it was a dermatologist or an endocrinologist. I tried to surreptitiously Google it at work, but as I feared, there were a ton of clinics in the city under that name. For all I could tell, it was a chiropractor.

But I was determined not to have to call the doctor's office back, or wait for the clinic to send me their mail-out to find out just what kind of clinic it was. So when I got home, I rolled up my sleeves and gave it another go, this time cross-referencing the clinic's phone number. Among the links that popped up was one for a paper on PCOS, and my eyes stung anew. Bless my GP! Not only was it a clinic for endocrinology, but it was possible they treated quite a few women with unwanted hair. I felt so grateful. I hadn't realized how much I did not want to see a dermatologist again.

So what's the bad news? My appointment is not until mid-November.

Yup. Another reason to be assertive about your health from the start: appointments are like a rare treasure. You have to quest for them and then guard them with your life.

July 27, 2009

You Can Always Be Kind

I assisted a woman and her friend at work the other day. Her friend I only mention because she stood there and watched the whole time, while the woman was... not the most pleasant person. And I could understand why, to a point. She had left her requirements to the last minute, and on top of which had taken no time to think about what she needed. Urgent and uninformed. Yay.

And to ice the tasty little cake she'd made for herself, I was the only one available to help her, and I have the ageless quality of Amanda Bynes (you know, she looks the same age from her tv show to her movies: twelve). Some people feel an innate distrust of receiving help from someone who looks too young to understand the importance of what they're selling.

Not that these are good enough reasons in my book to be so caustic to another person. If you're in such a rush, why ask for help and then not listen to the answer? If you don't understand your different options and want someone to hand it all to you, why growl and roll your eyes when they ask questions to make sure they'll be handing you the right thing? I felt like she wanted me to be deliberately withholding the best product from her in order to cheat her out of her money, perhaps so she had a real excuse to be nasty. Half an hour after the office had closed I was still trying to help her, enduring her looks of disdain and snapped responses, so she could go home with her mind at ease.... or at least go home.

Then in the last ten minutes of the transaction, I realized she was hirsute. Her skin was dark so it was not quite so stark and noticeable--and to be honest her sour mood made it intimidating to look her in the face very often anyway. The hairs were about half a centimeter long, but dark and coarse and all over her chin, and blunt like they had been trimmed or shaved several days ago. I don't think I'd ever seen another woman in person with obvious hair on her chin. I was all at once excited.

And then she shot me another burning look and my empathy all but evaporated. Hirsute or not, she was, first and only, a person in a very bitter mood who was treating me like the dirt she'd just trod into the office, and I couldn't wait to finish the transaction so she could go and be miserable somewhere else, and I could get home to my family. It was just an unexpected reminder that the person you are overpowers the way you look.

That was the last day I worked. I've been sick most of last week. You know when your joints ache and your skin gets hot and tight as a drum, so every bit of stubble on your body tortures you like a million tiny needles? Yeah, that was me. I now have about four days worth of growth on my face because I've been in bed for that long. I'm not used to it being this long and I keep stroking it like I'm hatching an evil scheme or something. But I'm on the mend. And the next time I shave is going to feel amazing.

July 21, 2009

Don't make me say it.

Allerleirah: "I think I'm going to start walking in the mornings. I'm tired of feeling like crap when I wake up."

Allerleirah's mother: "Oh, do you want some company?"

Allerleirah: "On the treadmill?"

Allerleirah's mother: (After some laughter) "...I thought we could walk outside."

Allerleirah: "I don't want to walk outside. I'd have to shave and I'd rather do that after I shower."

Allerleirah's mother: (Scrunching up her face) "I don't shave when I walk outside."

Allerleirah: (Always loathe to say "beard" out loud) "I don't. Want. To walk outside."

Allerleirah's mother: (Sighs like a kicked puppy)

Ugh. I guess I should feel glad that people who are familiar with me tend to forget my... limitations.

July 14, 2009

Hello again.

In my last poll, I was wondering if I was talking enough about myself and should be looking into making more practical posts that other girls could use. No one voted that way, however, which surprised me. The thing with making more personal posts, though, is that there's a point where anonymity is at risk. I can rant about how body hair shouldn't matter, but I'm still victim to the desire to be normal and I'm embarrassed about what I go through. So there are going to be things I can't disclose, obviously.

But to introduce myself again, this time without the hairy facts, I was born and raised in Canada. I was an only child in a single parent home for most of that time, until college when for a time I lived in a step-family situation. Though the oldest, I am now the only one still living at home. But then, I'm also the only one with student loans, and the only one working part time while I try to start my own business, so I defy the normal embarrassment of that fact.

Allerleirah Trivia
- I often describe myself as shy, but a better word would be reserved. When I get comfortable, I get downright annoyingly loud.
- I am, in the general sense, a hypochondriac.
- I used to know how to play the piano.
- I don't have a driver's license.
- I have been to ten different countries.
- I was really into drama in high school. Being in the spotlight like that never bothered me for some reason.
- When I grew up, I wanted to be (among other things) an actress or a model. I once tried out for a modeling gig and got a call back.
- I have an undergraduate art degree, a fact I am most proud of, because I've never worked harder for anything in my life.

Least favorite things
Spiders, public toilets, needles and anything else to do with medicine, angry customers or any other unwarranted hostility, long winters, early mornings, overly crowded spaces, watching the news.

Most favorite things
Chocolate, horseback riding, long drives through the countryside, traveling somewhere new, a freshly made bed with lots of pillows, Jane Austen movies, roller coasters, Rock Band, book stores, Big Bang Theory, homemade soaps, Disneyland!

So that's a little bit more about me, beyond the hair.

July 9, 2009

The Truth is Out There

I've been saving up my anger since last week when I stumbled upon a YouTube video where the oldest shaving myth in the book was once again quoted with absolute sincerity.

are some people perpetuating the myth that shaving makes your hair grow back thicker and darker?

It's becoming a rather intense pet peeve, especially when I find a so-called "professional" aesthetician touting their know-how or wares on the Internet and insist that shaving is the worst thing you can do because it somehow magically changes the color and consistency of your hair. When supposed experts are saying that with such an air of assurance, of course others are going to repeat it. Girls asking the Internet at large whether or not they should shave this or that, receive replies from hopefully well-meaning strangers in the form of a vehement "NO!" because they've probably read or heard that myth someplace that appeared to have some kind of authority. And what if shaving could have been the perfect solution for that girl?

I can't profess to have any kind of authority myself, except that I do shave my face and it has not made the hair grow back with different characteristics. Some quirk in my genes predetermined that my hair would eventually get darker, and it kept happening whether I shaved, plucked, bleached, or used depilatory cream.

The truth is that the multitude and darkness of your body hair is dependent on genetics. Genetics will dictate the number of hair follicles you have and the amount of melanin present in them. Even the hormones that sometimes affect the follicles and make hair darker or affect its growth are dependent on workings far below the surface of your skin where that razor is working.

Hair is a dead protein filament. If you cut it, you make it shorter. You make the end blunt. You can irritate the follicle that hair comes from, but you can't change genetics by doing it. It is impossible to so strongly affect that follicle by shaving. There are too many dermatological sources to quote from. Do an internet search for "shaving myths" and find all the scientific reassurance you need.

When I come to a site in the search for new ideas to improve the hair removal experience, and I see the author quote this shaving myth, it completely destroys the reliability of the content. I will look no further. That specialist has ruined their reputation and they should feel embarrassed. Do they still rub butter on their burns and believe cats steal air away from babies, for goodness sake?

I guess it is the Internet and anyone can put anything they want out there, but call me old fashioned for expecting people to have a little respect for accuracy and truth--heck, integrity-- when they're going to try to give others advice.

In lieu of that, I suppose we all just have to think carefully about what we read.