December 19, 2012

Product: Styptic Pencil

I was browsing the hair removal section of a drugstore last month to see what new devices of torture were available, when I discovered something that has apparently been around for years.  The styptic pencil has apparently been a part of men’s grooming sets since the days of the straight razor, and it’s designed to stop nicks from bleeding. 

If you have a pet that needs its nails clipped, you might be familiar with the concept, as a powder form is often used to stop any bleeding if the animal’s nails get clipped too close to the quick.  This pencil usually comes in a clear plastic tube for storage, and feels a bit like chalk in your hand.  You wet the tip and apply it to your nicks, and the astringent in the pencil causes the bloodvessels to constrict.  (See how it works.)

Styptic Pencil (drugstore brand)

  • Medical Ingredient: Aluminum Sulfate Anhydrous 56%
  • Non-Medical Ingredients:  Titanium Dioxide and Water

Things I liked:
  • It stops the bleeding from minor nicks instantly.  No more bits of toilet paper and waiting for nicks to clot on their own so I can apply make-up and get on with my day. 
  • I’ve even used it on moderate nicks from shaving my legs, and while it doesn’t stop them right away, it does slow the bleeding so I’m not tracking blood all over the place like a horror film.

Things I didn't like:
  • It stings.  A lot.  Think paper cut in lemon juice.  (Guess that's why they call it an astringent...)
  • It leaves a white residue on your skin, which you need to rinse off before make-up will apply with ease.

Did it do what it promised?

“Stops bleeding resulting from minor shaving cuts”--absolutely.  I might not have believed it if I hadn’t tried it for myself.  Even slightly larger nicks are helped with the pencil, which makes shaving just a little less messy and frustrating.  Because getting nicks to clot is often one of my biggest peeves with shaving, I think it’s an invaluable part of a shaving arsenal.

There are so many companies that make them, I’m not going to bother linking others’ reviews.  You can search on your own, or just try it for yourself.  They’re not expensive, and well worth a look if you’re an aggressive and sometimes clumsy shaver like me.

December 4, 2012

Being "Allerleirah"

There’s some drawbacks to having an online identity that is just for talking about hirsutism online.  Things I didn’t even imagine when I started up this blog. 

I intended to create a way for me to talk with absolute honesty about what it’s like to personally live with an androgenic disorder, without worrying about how that honesty (which might at times be ugly as I'd never, ever properly expressed myself regarding hirsutism before) would reflect on other areas of my online life.  The blog's been great for that.  It’s also been great for giving me courage to connect with other ladies in similar circumstances and find useful resources for support.

But in a way, it’s kept hirsutism compartmentlaized; separate from the rest of my life.  It's had the benefit of allowing me to flush out the frustration in a place where people who see it will understand utterly and completely.  It has also cultivated an awareness in me that hirsutism is really a small part of my life.  Small enough that I sometimes run out of things to say about it.  And in some respects, it’s nice to have it over here so I can only think or talk about it when I want to.  But it also means that when I come over here, it’s all I think or talk about.  And that’s overwhelming sometimes.  So overwhelming that when I feel fragile or very stressed, I avoid this place completely.  I apologize for that.

Having hirsutism as the primary aspect of this online identity also means that those who are drawn to Allerleirah in respects to friending me or following me or subscribing to me are drawn to me because of the hair.  That’s kind of a weird experience, when you think about it.  A person you met face-to-face on the street would likely not be drawn to you if you were sporting a few days of stubble on your chin.  That’s kind of the crux of the anxiety we feel as hirsute women.  In a way, that’s lifted off you when you’re open about it online.  Being Allerleirah has been great for meeting women with whom I have these struggles in common, and in fact being inspired and taught by them.  And it’s been great for being introduced to people who are genuinely curious and trying to understand this bizarre situation of being a woman with a beard.  But on the other hand, as a woman talking openly about body hair, being interested in it and being able to grow a good deal more of it than most women, I’ve at times become an object of fetishism. 

Perhaps sometimes being the subject of an erotic fixation is what I’ve been finding particularly discouraging.  And maybe I shouldn’t--after all, would I be miffed if someone was attracted to me because they first noticed above all else that I had blond hair?  How silly is it to say, “Hey, don’t notice me because of something I’ve done on purpose!”  (Not to say I’m hirsute on purpose, but I’ve made it public deliberately, just as I dye my hair deliberately.)

I think it troubles me because I feel like I’m merely part of a collection of things that someone finds pleasing.  I guess that’s nice on some level, because girls like us easily doubt our desirableness.  However, being hirsute is just a physical trait.  It’s not who I am.  The effects of hirsutism are, such as lack of self-confidence or being less judgmental about what others look like.  But I doubt that’s why I’m in the collection.

And if that's a bad thing, it’s my fault for presenting myself as “Allerleirah the bearded lady” and having this whole corner of the internet just for that.  But like everybody else in this world, I want to be appreciated as an individual.  And I know most of you here are here because the blog gives you encouragement and solidarity.  It gives it back to me, too, for which I will ever be grateful.  I shouldn’t let a little trichophilia get under my skin.  It’s nice that they have a taste for the unique, and I shouldn’t take that personally either positively or negatively.  I need to remember the feeling of being your hirsute sister, one of many, and at the end of the day, I know who I am and why I ought to be appreciated.  :)

November 13, 2012

A Dabble in Modeling

Back in the summertime I agreed to help out a budding photographer by sitting for a few portraits.  She decided that she wanted it to be a bridal photo-shoot, and her friends who were hair stylists and make-up artists looking to build their own portfolios were going to come and doll me up.  I’m sure most of you can imagine my trepidation about having people working so close to my skin.  It’s the same reason I don’t do facials, make-overs, or even get advice from the young women who work at the beauty counters in drug stores.  You get to close to my face, you see the effects of hirsutism.

I had already decided I would not shave for one or two days prior to the shoot to help my chin skin to be in fine form for the day.  But even so, I know my skin, and I know what shaving will do to it.  Aside from the accidental nicks if you’re not careful, you’ve got the tiny little bumps like chicken skin, the dry flakes, the ingrown hairs, and in my case also a couple of deep cystic acne nodules that decided to develop at the beginning of the week.  I knew there would be a lot to battle, but I’m used to disguising them.  Over the years I’ve developed a few tactics.  A burgeoning make-up artist?  I imagine it might be the first time they'd have come across something like that.  I was not looking forward to her sponging foundation over my jaw and getting baffled and frustrated by its misbehavior.

Then, a surprising relief: the make-up artist cancelled.  And then, another relief: the hair stylist cancelled.  Although I had to go through the morning with only a bit of concealer on my chin and no other make-up, that afternoon I got to do my own make-up, the way I’m used to, and my skin stood up pretty well.  It ended up being just me, the photographer, and a family member getting me ready for the shoot, so it was more comfortable than I could have imagined when I first agreed to do it.

I knew it would be fun no matter what, but without the stress of other people trying to work with my skin, it was even better.  I always loved to play dress-up as a kid, but now I was finally old enough to actually fit a wedding dress and wear red lipstick without looking like I’d raided my mother’s stash.  It was awkward in front of the camera at first, but I soon relaxed and the pretty little princess within came out.  It was a great day.

Of course, not knowing what style the wedding dress was, I had shaved... everything.  After I started following “****-shaving” on tumblr (NSFW), I challenged myself to growing out my armpit hair just to see how far I could go and how comfortable I could get with it.  It turned out to be extremely comfortable, and I was awfully bummed to get rid of it, as well as other hairs elsewhere.  Now I have to suffer through the uncomfortable regrowth, and the older I get, the more that outweighs the momentary pleasure of seeing myself hairless in a mirror.  ;P

October 31, 2012

Hi, you're hairy too!

I found out who on my team at work was interested in the No!No! in April (see post).  I figured the topic would come up again eventually, or that maybe I’d notice some body hair on one of them.  But to tell you the truth, on the average day, I’d forget about it.  I never really looked.  So if one of my colleagues hadn’t asked me to untangle her necklace for her while she was wearing it, I never would have known for sure. 

I thought I’d seen a few hairs on her chin once before, but it was a passing glance as she sat next to me and I didn’t want to look again in case she noticed and felt self conscious.  But yesterday, because I had to keep my eyes on what I was doing (that chain was really tangled!) I could clearly see the combination of both coarse dark and coarse light hairs on her chin.  They were several days long, but blunt like they were usually cut. 

Finding someone else who might know what you’re going through is very exciting.  But then I wondered, does she?  She might have a more serious condition than I do.  She might have an even harder time with the situation than I do.  She’s much older than I, and is of an ethnicity to which such things are a little more common.  Her chin might be the only place she has it.  She might not be bothered by it nearly as much.  Would it be callous of me to just hop on the subject with a thrilled exclamation of, “Hey!  You have hair on your chin!  Me too!”?

I know I’d be unnerved, if it were me.  But then I’d be relieved and happy to have someone to talk to.  I might not even mind if it happened in front of the rest of the team.   But I cannot make that call for someone else.  There may be an opportunity to jump into a conversation about hair removal sometime in the future, since there’ve already been a couple.

October 25, 2012

"Tweezed" The Sequel

I kept up the plucking for almost two weeks.  First of all, I have to say that wearing my peach fuzz for the first time in a long time was a constant challenge.  I actually felt the need to wear my hair down all the time to hide it a bit.  But that alone wouldn’t have induced me to go back to shaving.

What did make me say to myself, “Self, it’s time to take out that razor again,” was when the ingrown hairs and soreness eventually got as bad as when I shave nonstop for weeks on end.  That surprised me, but all that yanking on the hairs, accidentally catching skin, hairs breaking off instead of coming out at the root and getting stuck under the skin... it got ugly.  I am still trying to heal from all the ugly.

So I’m back to shaving.  My hair removal regimen is down to ten minutes again.  All is right with the world.  Well, it will be once this big blemish on my chin heals over.

October 13, 2012


Shaving has been my preferred method of facial hair removal for, oh... quickly and sloppily doing the math in my head... seven years, at least.  That’s a long time to do something you don’t like, and almost every morning to boot.  Even taking days off shaving when I can, it gets tiring.  And lately, as I’ve been thinking more and more seriously about laser hair re-removal, I’ve been fantasizing about waking up and having no hair to remove way more than usual.

So last weekend, I needed a longer break from shaving.  I got prickly, then stubbly, and by the third day, downright beardy.  And as I thought about going back to work the next day and dreading the shaving, I just felt extraordinarily weary.  And as I had little else to do that day, I sat on the counter in my bathroom after a shower and took out the tweezers.

Two and a half hours later, I was very sore and my chin and jaw were beet red.  I couldn’t even remember the last time I had stared down every dark hair I could find on my face and then ripped it out.  It hurt more than I remembered, and it gave me such a feeling of futility.  For the whole two-and-a-half hours I was thinking, “Damn, that’s so much hair!  And it’s only half of what I used to have!”  It was a real downer.

But as the stinging and redness receded, I glanced in the mirror a few more times in passing, and it felt nice to see that I was beardless without the shaving, and would likely be in the same state the next day.  And I was, except for a few missed hairs that I caught by the morning light, and a handful that broke off rather than came out by the root.  And so I didn't shave before going to work.  Or the day after that.  Or the day after that. 

What I find pretty funny is that I am now having to get used to having blond hair on my face again!  It’s mostly normal vellus hair that everyone has, with a scattering of coarse blond ones that I am trying not to pluck, but it’s weird to me!  I’ve shaved it all for so long that I’m more used to lumpy-nicked-ingrown-hair skin than smooth-healing-blond-furred skin.  It’s been really interesting.

It certainly would not be practical to keep this up, time-wise, which I already knew.  I used to pluck in the eleventh grade when I had much much less facial hair.  And I cannot see how ripping and tugging on so many hair follicles so often could be good for your skin.  But I haven’t shaved in five days now, and it’s been great.  The longer break has been good.  But gosh, I can still think of so many things I could have been doing for those two-and-a-half hours!

October 2, 2012

Product: Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo (Fine to Medium)

To be honest, it’s just kinda nice to see a facial hair removal commercial air pretty regularly on mainstream TV channels.  My guess is that it features models who probably never have to actually use the product, and who are being shot with the perfect lighting and filters to make them look even smoother than the most “hairless” human being would normally look, but...  Eh, I was curious.  And because I was curious, I figured I wouldn’t be the only hirsute girl who was.

Of course, a few weeks after I purchased the box, the version for “medium to coarse hair” began to appear on shelves.  Awesome.  Now I have to shell out another $25.

I was thrilled, though, to go to their website and see they make an effort to educate visitors about hair.  (They state that the saying that hair will grow back thicker and darker after it is removed is myth!  YES!  FINALLY!)

Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo (Fine to Medium Hair)
Skin Guarding Balm - 1.9g
Hair Removal Cream - 19g

  •     Skin Guarding Balm:  Sucrose Polycottoseedate, Brassica Campestris, Ozokerite, Beeswax, Propylparaben, Ethylene Brassylate, Tocopherol, Propyl Gallate, Tocopheryl Acetate.
  •     Hair Removal Cream:  Water, Mineral Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Calcium Thioglycolate, Calcium Hydroxide, Ceteareth-20, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice.

Things I liked:

  •    When I followed the instructions to spread the balm out farther than where I planning to apply the hair removal cream, and don’t leave it on longer than specified, I did not get the dreaded aura of redness that I’ve had from every other depilatory cream ever.
  •      It slaughtered my peach fuzz mustache.

Things I didn't like:
  •     My peach fuzz mustache was all it slaughtered.  Like the little green rectangle on the box says, it can’t handle much more than that.
  •     It smells like chemical depilitories always smell.  It also tingles like chemical depilitories always tingle.  (Put that balm on first!)
  •     You are told not to use it more frequently than every three days.  This is impractical for women who are so hirsute they need to remove dark, secret-telling hair every morning, or every morning and afternoon.
  •    The price is not ideal, for what they estimate to be up to twelve uses (probably working off of the area above your lip, which is what they always show in their commercials)

Did it do what it promised?

According to the box:  “Works together to gently remove facial hair for skin that is beautifully soft, smooth and visibly hair-free.”  Well, the Skin Guarding Balm (which feels like you’re rubbing chapstick on your face, by the way) is pretty cool, because it protects your skin from the immediate redness, and though I would have expected this to prevent the hair from behind dissolved away right at the skin’s surface (leaving stubble), I was really impressed by the hairlessness of my upper lip.

But I don’t need a hairless upper lip.  That hair is light and thin and not really a concern.  I need something to remove the dark coarse bristles on my chin and jaw.  So it’s not the product for me, and probably for a lot of you.  But now that I know I can get the “Medium to Coarse Hair” version, that’ll be a more practical product to evaluate.

See what other people thought of Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo (Fine to Medium):

my cosmetic bag 
Olay Customer Reviews 
Ulta Beauty 

And a really cute video review by ShawneePoo:

Hee hee, I want to be her friend.  I’m going to go watch more of her reviews now.

September 19, 2012

Bearded Ladies Pay Extra

As some of you may know, I rung in the new year happily jobless.  But in cutting loose a job that made me miserable, I also lost some pretty cushy benefits which my new job hasn’t replaced.  And that’s okay, really--it's a small price to pay for happiness--but applying for brand new insurance has been a pain in the butt.  Particularly life insurance.

There’s no need to go into the details, really, other than to say the company I’ve been dealing with seemed very concerned by this cyst on my ovary.  I had to jump through a few little hoops to get them the information they asked for, including driving across town for ultrasound results which subsequently got lost or never arrived, making them ask me to go across town to get them again when they would not release them to me without a request from the insurance company first... and then I wasn't notified when the original information was finally found.  And after more than a month of silence, I received a letter.

They’re unable to offer me the original premium, but not because of my ovary.  Because of my idiopathic hirsutism.  If I want their life insurance, I have to pay a higher rate.

How high?  Two-thirds of the way to the amount I’d have to pay if I were a smoker.  That’s how risky the medical underwriters deem idiopathic hirsutism.


Now, I used to sell health insurance as part of my last job.  I had to explain risk categories to many, many upset people.  These people had some frightening pre-existing conditions.  I cannot comprehend how idiopathic hirsutism would up anyone’s risk category.

I could understand if the hair had a serious underlying cause that could affect your overall health, like PCOS or a tumor.  But if the underwriters had my health records, they would have been able to see I was tested for such causes and have been found healthy, the hirsutism inexplicable.  There are no known health risks associated with my being hairy, except the side-effects of the medication I choose to take, which I’ve been tolerating for well for over a year now.

I wondered if they thought hirsutism made me a higher suicide risk, but if that is an indicator of someone’s mental health risk, maybe they should be asking all their applicants to submit photos of themselves so they can evaluate the self esteem each applicant should have based on how they look.  Ridiculous, right?

So the only other thing I could think of that would scare an underwriter is the fact that there is no known cause.  But see, if it were that much of a danger to my life, wouldn’t a doctor treat it as such, too?  Why, when no cause was found, did the focus turn to helping me live with the cosmetic aspects of it, if it was indeed so dangerous to have?  A vulnerability to normal amounts of male hormones in one's body also manifests as acne and excess sebum.  Are people with bad skin penalized too?  I mean, their underlying cause can be just as "idiopathic."

It just flies in the face of what I’ve been trying to tell myself for so long; that idiopathic hirsutism is a simple genetic quirk, out of my control and not such a big deal.  Now I have to pay more because I have it?  Do I at least get a discount for having blue eyes?  Maybe I should advise the company that I faint when I get needles, and see how much more I have to pay for that.  That, at least, presents a real risk of smashing my head open when I fall unconscious to the floor.  This infuriates me, and it infuriates me that it infuriates me.

I wish I could speak to these underwriters, just to understand why.  Why am I being penalized for the ability to grow a beard when I am otherwise young and healthy?  Do they even know what idiopathic hirsutism is?  Or does their little price chart have a column that assigns a dollar value to anything with “idiopathic” preceding it?  But alas, even when I sold insurance and had all sorts of backways and direct phone numbers, the underwriters were ensconced in some holy sanctum that no one could reach.  My chances of getting to speak to the anonymous decision-maker who looked at my medical records and judged my life based on my hairiness of all things, are probably nil.

So do I swallow my wounded bearded-lady pride and pay the higher premium?  Or do I continue my quest for life insurance and hope I don’t die of skin sensitivity to normal amounts of androgen until I’m covered?

September 8, 2012


I have to deal with being a woman with a beard every day of my life.

Every.  Day.

So sue me if the odd time, coupled with other events that might be currently wailing on my emotions, I can't handle it.

These words, which I can never seem to say out loud, are directed at anyone who feels I have disappointed them by giving up for a day and refusing to leave the house.  Sometimes, I don't have the energy to fight.

September 3, 2012

What Happened to August?

Wow, I can't believe I haven't updated the blog for a month!  I really apologize for that.  After my trip I experienced a vague need to hold on to that state of mind, and let a lot of things slide in my life for a week after I returned.  And then my computer needed a complete hard-drive wipe and restoration. And then I had a week full of appointments, mostly doctors, and then I got sick.  Aaaand that, in a nutshell, was August.

Camping was great.  We got stuck in such bad traffic on the way out that we had to overnight in a highway-side motel, but that was just a part of the adventure.  The campsite facilities have been seriously upgraded since the last time I was there, greatly reducing a part of my fear--that of having spiders drop on my head arachnophobia style.  Our site happened to be nice and close to the showers, too, so that I felt like I had more opportunities to shower than I needed.  It took a huge load off my shoulders.

I was really hoping to have some photos to prove to you guys that for about a week, I, the hairiest woman of my personal acquaintance, lived in a bathing suit.  I had an awesome bathing suit, very modest, with a low rise at the legs so I didn't have to fiddle with the bikini line all the time.  I didn't shave my body every day, and sometimes I did my face in the tent with a stainless steel bowl of boiled water.  I never did try the sink in the washroom, mostly because they were more popular with the teenage contingent of our party--a contingent I had not realized would be present on this trip.  (And a contingent that flipped out when they thought a waitress at a restaurant one night was in M-to-F transition... so... didn't think they were ready to have their minds blown with the knowledge that sometimes, women just have beards.)  But overall, although I wasn't terribly close to most of the people I was camping with, they were much, much more down-to-earth than previous camping companions.  For the most part, I would not have had a problem telling them, "Excuse me while I go shave my face."

Also I tried highway driving and wake-boarding for the first time, got some great new shoes, discovered a wonderful bookstore, and made some new friends.  I read several books and was so relaxed not having to do anything else.  And I have to say, working through some of my fears really heightened that feeling.  It may be the only time I'll get away this year, but it was excellent.

The appointments went well, too.  I got back my old GP, the one who sent me to the endocrinologist in the first place, and she will continue to fill my prescriptions for Spiro and Diane so I don't need to keep seeing the endo.  The cyst on my ovary is stable--not shrinking but not growing--and the OBGYN didn't recommend any surgical intervention.  So now I know why I'm hirsute and I know why I get pain, and I'm tolerating my treatments.  What next?

I've got to call the laser clinic I used to visit, and see if the laser technician who helped me before still works there.  She was lovely and I'd want to give her the business.  Also apparently my GP is concerned about some moles on my stomach and wants a dermatologist to look at them.  Just have to wait for the referral on that one.  So that's what I'm working toward now.

July 31, 2012

Ultrasound Today and What's Up Next Week

I was meant to be having my ultrasound yesterday, but a migraine made me throw up all my water forty-five minutes before my appointment.  (Side note: throwing up only water is a very bizarre experience.)  I managed to nab a cancellation spot today, which was very fortunate considering that clinic was booking into the end of August already.  I really wanted to get the thing over with before I went camping--one less thing to worry about. 

Thankfully the migraine had all but departed by this morning and I could hold and process the water okay.  I think I’m starting to get the hang of how much water I personally need to drink, because this was probably the most comfortable ultrasound yet.  It probably helped tremendously that the technician was super-fast.  Almost before I knew it, I was done. Now I just have to wait until my OBGYN comes back from holidays to hear the results, but I’m not worried.

My reward for “being good” at my ultrasound (i.e., "going, as if I had any other choice") was taking a little detour and picking up my favorite ingredients for croissant sandwiches--namely, croissants.  It’s totally irrelevant to this blog, really, but I’m trying to get a bit more personal so you guys can get to know me as a person.  So now you know that I love croissants, and that I will use any excuse to spoil myself.

Ultrasounds really aren’t so big a deal, but they always make me emotional.  I really, really hate leaving the house with a full bladder (you guys know my worst recurring nightmare involves having to pee and finding no suitable place to do it), and having my lady parts laid bare on a screen is a very vulnerable feeling.  Couple that with helplessly puking my guts out less than 48 hours ago (something else I am a huge wimp about is vomiting) and I feel all stretched thin and fragile, like tissue paper.

What’s weirder, though, is I feel most vividly happy when I feel wrung-out like that.  I get happy about all the simple things, like sunshine, puppy kisses, and croissants.   I’m strangely fearless, as though throwing up and having an ultrasound were the worst possible things that could happen to me and there’s nothing else to be scared of.  I go out in public without make-up, I ask for help from strangers even though I find it scary, I sing to the radio.  What do you suppose that means?

So next week, ladies, I’ll be encamped by a beautiful lake with a lot of people who don't know me that well.  A lot of my energy has been directed towards gearing up for that and trying not to be too scared of it, and now that the ultrasound is over with, I feel more relaxed and free to look forward to the holiday.  Part of this “gearing up” has included forcing myself to buy some new bathing suits--ones that I simply like, not ones that I feel will hide most of my flaws.  I intend to really face my fears next week.

See you all soon, and take care of yourselves!

July 18, 2012

Can't Go Back On It Now...

I am going camping.  Yep, I’ve committed.

And not long after I did, I felt a surge of panic.  I’d have to go into a spider-infested shower stall every day to awkwardly shave without a mirror.  Other women would complain I’m taking too long.  My skin would be terrible.  I’d be avoiding peoples' cameras.  I’d dread waking up every morning to do it all again.

I can’t do this.  This won’t be a vacation.

The feeling hasn’t stopped with time.  I’ve been getting waves of doubt and worry intermittently since.  I’ve tried to distract myself by buying some cute new swimsuits, and reminding myself that I have a right to feel good about myself as I am and no one should be able to prevent me.  Not the people I’ll be camping with, not the impatient women in the campsite washroom, or me when I look at photos of myself.  I’ve told myself my self esteem and my skills at hair removal have changed a lot since the last time I went camping.  Thanks to my medication, the severity of my hirsutism and acne have improved, and I'm more comfortable with stubble than I ever was before.  Even my family has changed in that time.  And I’ve been to this campsite before, so I know exactly what to expect of the facilities.

So between moments of alarm, I’m working on mentally preparing myself.  How do I know I’ll be mocked this time for being so adamant about showering every morning?  What if I shaved over one of the sinks of the campsite bathroom where I’d have a mirror, so everyone could see exactly what I'm doing and why it takes so long in the shower?  How can I be sure I couldn’t endure the curious looks?  Heck, my morning ablutions could turn into my own personal educational demonstration on what so many women have to go through in secret.

But I don’t think I should be using all my prep-work to obsess about my hirsutism.  That’s not what a holiday is for.  I’m supposed to be looking forward to the things I’ll see and do.  It’s been so long since I’ve eaten at a campfire, talking and laughing with the smell of woodsmoke in my nostrils.  I can only distantly remember the morning fog clinging to the lake and the mug of instant Swiss Mocha coffee mix to stave off the cold.  I used to love clinging to a biscuit dragged behind a motorboat until my arms got tired and I would fly off into the freezing lake.  And I’ve totally forgotten what it’s like to be cut off from technology and work and responsibilities, and just lie on a beach and read. 

I have to think about why I felt the urge to go in the first place.  This is supposed to be fun.  I must refuse to let hirsutism get in the way of that.  If I refuse hard enough, maybe it will be so.

July 4, 2012

Product: Skintimate Moisturizing Cream Shave

When I first started shaving my face, that desperate morning in a trailer in the mountains with my leg razor and the can of Skintimate fruit-scented foam, I thought all shave mediums were created equal.  Over time I learned that foams can seriously dry out the skin, particularly the sensitive skin of the face, and I vowed never to buy another foam again.

I was in my pharmacy picking up my prescriptions and I had run out of my usual shave gel which I order online.  I had been to a few other drugstores that week, looking for my second favorite, but it seemed that every store that used to carry it no longer did.  Once again, I was desperate.  I prowled the tiny hair removal section of the pharmacy (I never buy anything but my Spiro and Diane from there; the selection is less than ideal) and saw a uniquely shaped bottle next to the girly-colored shaving foams with “cream shave” in all capital letters. 

Could it be true?  Had Skintimate finally come out with something other than sweetly scented foam?

I selected “Extra Gentle,” because, y’know, you always want to be “Extra Gentle” on your face flesh.

Skintimate Moisturizing Cream Shave - 117 mL

  • Aqua, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil, Microcrystaline Wax, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit, Hydrogenated Olive Oil, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Aluminum Starch Octenyl Succinate, PEG-150 Pentaerylthrityl Tetrastearate, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides,Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Camelia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycerin, PEG-14M, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Parfum, Titanium Dioxide.

Things I liked:
  • It actually feels like you’re putting a cream on your skin as you shave.  It’s quite a lovely feeling, and something that non-foaming gels have never been able to replicate completely.  I could swear I felt that olive oil at work.
  • It really does not lather.  (And it amuses me that in the directions it says “the cream WILL NOT lather.”)   You can see where you’re shaving and you know it’s not going to dry you out like suds will.
  • Not a bad price point, about $4 CAD for about the same amount as my usual shave gels, or a bit less.
  • The packaging is unique.  I always like things that are designed with the spout upside down so gravity is always working at bringing the product close to the opening, especially when you begin to run out.  The silly upside-down flower dispenser is not recyclable, but the bottle itself is. 

Things I didn't like:
  • The smell is rich and buttery, which is nice, but way too cloying for use on the face.  (I imagine the “Revitalizing” and “Cashmere Rain” scents to be even stronger.)
  • I could feel it stinging a bit during the facial shave--that’s something I don’t always get with other gels.  Makes me wonder how mild it really is.

Did it do what it promised?

“With deliciously rich ingredients like natural olive butter, vitamin E, and antioxidants, Skintimate Moisturizing Cream Shave gives your legs the luxurious feeling you want.  Smooth.  Sleek.  Positively sensational.”  And on the bottle: “Noticeably softer legs.”

Well, they do only promise things for legs, but my reviews are meant to help you gals see how well they would do on our faces.  Because I couldn’t stand having that smell around my face all day, I did end up relegating this bottle to the shower for legs only, and it always gave me a pleasant shave.  No softer than other gels, but the actual experience of smoothing the cream over your legs is a nice one.

For use on the face, I wouldn’t call it sensational, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve tried.  If you can stand the perfume up your nose all day, you might like this one.

See what other people thought of Skintimate Moisturizing Cream Shave:

Yahoo! Voices 
Makeup Alley

June 26, 2012

Contemplating Camping

It seems that suddenly, everyone wants us to go camping with them this summer.

I have always loathed this topic, which comes up as summer looms.  Often it’s a half-hearted discussion within the household, where they well know my stance on camping even if they don’t understand it.  I usually don’t have to worry.  When it comes to things that take that much effort and planning, my closest relatives are all talk.  (That’s not to say that sometimes they don’t shock me by actually booking a vacation now and then.  It’s impossible to accurately gauge how serious they are for that reason.) 

But when outside invitations are extended, it’s a different ballgame.  They want a full explanation.  I can say it’s an issue with lack of plumbing, but I’m really not a wimp in that area.  I don’t mind foregoing showers and swimming in a lake for a week.  It’s the getting hairy that’s hard.  Or rather, the expectation to not be hairy.  Even if I could risk offending people with poodles under my arms and cacti for legs, a beard would be hard for them to process. 

Then if the inviting party says the campsite has good facilities, I don’t know what to say.  I’ve camped where there have been public showers a short walk away, but that never used to ease the pressure I felt as a hirsute teenager.  It's robbed me of a fun, relaxing holiday more than once.

It probably didn’t help that I was much younger then, and was still coming to terms with this mysterious change in my body.  Or that I was with people I instinctively did not trust.  So this past weekend, when the subject of possibly going camping came up in mixed company, I stayed silent, thinking.  At first I was angry that my family one by one replied with interest, leaving me to give the answer they know I will give and not showing the least bit of hesitance for my sake.  But I remembered the numerous comments on this blog that express how silly it is to let this thing hold us back from what we really want to do.  I remembered that I’ve said it, too.

And this time, I could see myself clambering out of my tent in my flannel pajamas one cool mountain morning, plopping down in my folding chair in front of the fire with a cup of coffee, freely itching my chin stubble and saying to all the company, “Sorry, haven’t had a chance to shave yet.  I’ll do it before we go out in the boat.”  And then shaving with my razor and a bowl full of hot water from a kettle on a picnic table in the middle of the campsite.  It didn’t scare me.  It made me laugh.  Maybe I’m ready for camping this year after all.

June 12, 2012

Why Not Us?

I was in the hair stylists’ chair several weeks ago, reading slightly outdated gossip rags as I waited for my color to set.  There was an O magazine in the pile, and that is how I stumbled across an interview with Diablo Cody, screenwriter of Juno.  I really enjoyed that movie, and she is really adorable!

There were some very positive sayings that I felt were definitely worth sharing.  Women, especially when we’re young and are new to the continuous emotional battle with our bodies and our self esteem, fall easily into despair.  Developing something so mysterious and unique as male-pattern hair growth singles us out further.  We can’t trust our friends, our parents have an even harder time understanding this challenge, and sometimes our doctors will even shrug it off.  It truly seems like there is no one in the whole world like us.  But here’s what a teacher with cancer said to Cody:

“’I never waste time asking myself, “Why me?”  Instead I ask, “Well, why not me?”’”

Cody adds: “...Rather than being a statement of resignation, I think of it more as a battle cry: ‘I am not my circumstances.’ ...  I could choose to feel like a martyr, but instead I think, ‘You are not the first and only person in the world who has had to do this.’”

Chew that over for a while.  I did, and I knew immediately who I wanted to share this with: all of you.  Because I’m not the only one.  And neither are you.  We’re all in this together, and we can take it.

Read the full interview:

June 5, 2012

Blog Submissions Update

This week I'm just mentioning a little change on the site, moving the Call for Submissions to a less prominent place.  I'm still open to submissions, don't get me wrong!  But I've been thinking about this since my 200th post, contemplating milestones and such.  And I remembered a certain poll I had up to gather all your opinions on what you'd like to see here.

Now, for all the initial enthusiasm about allowing guest bloggers, I sure haven't had that many submissions.  ;)  That's all right, really; I completely understand that feeling of being fired up to write something, only to be hopelessly paralyzed by writer's block, the absolute freedom to write about anything, plain old fear, or involvement in life's everyday goings on.  I fall prey to that a lot, believe it or not!  And I expect to fall prey to it a lot more during the month of June, just with the sheer amount I have going on again. 

So while I will keep on accepting submissions, I think the surge of excitement for that addition has long passed, am I right?

Besides, if you want to read about real women living with hirsutism right now, the Pink Razor Project blog is doing a much better job than I ever could.  They have a written interview form to fill out, making it easy for us to share their thoughts and experiences within a well-developed frame.

So. If you haven't yet, go have a read (stow an industrial size box of Kleenex at your elbow, I warn you!) and maybe submit to the blog yourself!  I want to read about you all, too!  There is so much wonderful material to consume, in case I should miss the next few weeks of updates...  (I say this as I glance nervously at my day planner).

Link to the "written interviews" category:

May 29, 2012


When I saw a tiny cover image of this book on the soon-to-be-released graphic novels list last year, I was skeptical.  I figured the little bearded girl with the spotted knickers and plump little belly was just a gimmick, but eventually I looked up a blurb and learned this wasn’t the case. 

Her name is Lula, and the book is all about what happens after she trades a lock of her beard to a witch for a rock that turns out to be an egg... which turns out to contain a hulking monster.  Now, despite knowing this much, I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was curious enough to buy it.  Lula, of course, lives and works in her grandpa’s circus, where all the other cast members (some authentic oddities and others pretty average) are quick to judge the beast Lula brings home.  Meanwhile, what the witch does with the lock of Lula’s facial hair brings even bigger troubles to the circus.

Although the story itself is simple and accessible to a much younger crowd, I enjoyed the commentary on being happy with who you are and not compromising for anyone or anything.  The exploration of inner beauty is none-too-subtle, but I was charmed by the fact that Lula really believed in it.  It never crosses her mind that she’s not beautiful for a moment, and her attitude is, to me, what makes this book.

And how often does a girl with a beard get to be a heroine, really?  Who knows why Powell thought of a story about a bearded girl, but it’s nice to see them out there in the entertainment industry a little more--and as characters, not props.

May 23, 2012

7 Things You Can Do to Deal With Hirsutism

Because there is often no way for modern medicine to “fix” hirsutism for good, you should not be afraid to start contemplating living with this forever.  I promise it gets easier.  I have spent this month outlining how hirsutism is investigated and what could be causing it. 

So, regardless of the outcome of your tests, here’s what helped me, and therefore is my prescription:

  • Understand what is causing the hirsutism.  It gives you peace of mind, and helps you see that it is a bodily quirk, a genetic lottery, and has always been beyond your control.
  • Don’t be afraid to try the different treatments out there.  Even if you don’t plan to be taking medications forever, being able to say you’ve tried everything also helps you to realize this is not your fault; it is out of your hands.
  • Family support is wonderful if you have it, but often they cannot fully understand what you’re going through, so find a place to interact with other women with similar challenges, and listen to their experiences.  And if you can’t find one or feel intimidated by the ones out there, do what I did and create your own place.  There are other girls and women looking for those like them all the time.  They’ll find you.
  • Similar to the above, talk about your hirsutism, even if only to yourself.  It helped me to have this blog, and women like me that I could share with.  A diary is another good option if you’re more comfortable with it.  Sometimes I imagine myself making a defense in front of a mirror, the same way people fantasize about receiving an Oscar.  You really can talk yourself into acceptance over time, and might even make you want to talk about it with others.
  • Spend your energy helping others.  This could be returning the support of other hirsute women you meet.  Maybe you could volunteer for the less fortunate.  Maybe you know of a friend who is going through a tough time.  Focusing on making them feel better takes your attention off your own problems.  There is nothing quite so rewarding as relieving the burden of someone else.
  • Nurture and take care of yourself.  Be proud of your achievements.  Pursue new experiences.  Challenge yourself.  You may never be able to celebrate your hirsutism or wear it with pride as some women do.  And that is okay.  You are not obligated to show off your beard, just as other women are not obligated to shave theirs.  Body positivity goes both ways.  Feeling good about yourself as a whole helps you to see that being hirsute is just another tiny detail about what makes you you, the same way your height or the color of your eyes is just a tiny detail unique to you.
  • Cultivate spirituality.  Not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable or risk alienating anyone, I try to avoid turning this blog into a platform for my beliefs, but I am also helped to cope by trying to foster a relationship with God and an appreciation for why things are the way they are now, as well as the hope for the future.  Regardless of what you believe, looking at “the bigger picture” helps keep your own problems in perspective.

I hope that this month's series of posts have covered the main points.  I tried to think of what would have benefited me when I was searching for answers, and what I could have liked to have known then. 

And please, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me!  I allow anonymous comments, and I won’t publish them if you tell me not to.

May 18, 2012

I’m a girl and I’m growing hair on my face. Please just tell me why!

The third and final post in this series directed at young women beginning to develop hirsutism.  The first article dealt with what to expect in the doctor’s office and the second article dealt with some of the main tests you will likely undergo.  Now we will talk about what those test results may tell the doctor, and what can be done about them.

I’m a girl and I’m growing hair on my face.  Please just tell me why!

The “why?” and the “what can be done?” are too intertwined to separate.  And I’m afraid the bad news is, unless the cause is a tumor or organ that can be removed, or a medications that can be stopped, there is no current “cure.”

And no, laser hair removal is not a cure, despite what laymen, some laser hair removal companies, and even some doctors will tell you.  Especially if you are hirsute, your hormones will be able to coax your laser-burned hair follicles right back to life.  This happened to meIf you wish to try laser hair removal, ensure you know the cause of your hirsutism first and have that under control.  I have both read and been told by my own specialist medications combined with supposedly “permanent” methods like laser hair removal are much more successful, and for a longer period of time.

Regardless, learning to love and accept yourself as a whole (not as a “bearded lady” or a “hirsute woman”, but as a woman) seems to be the best treatment available.  But I have a whole blog to talk about that.  Let’s move on to the immediate topic of concern:

What could the diagnosis be? 

Medications or steroid use - Sometimes the answer could be as simple as something you are putting in your body yourself that is causing the hormone imbalance.  Certain treatments for asthma, epilepsy, and endometriosis can do this, to name a few.  If the medication is not essential or can be changed, your doctor can discuss with you the safe way to taper them off.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) - The most common diagnosis.  In PCOS, the ovaries are producing excessive amounts of androgens, for a few possible reasons.  The high androgen levels are what cause the hirsutism, as well as other symptoms relating to too much “male” hormone like:
  • acne
  • thinning of scalp hair
  • irregular (and otherwise abnormal and uncomfortable) periods
  • lack of ovulation (and thus difficulty becoming pregnant)
  • a series of small cysts like a “necklace” on the ovaries,
  • issues with metabolism like weight gain and insulin resistance
And these are just the most obvious symptoms.  Although this is the most common diagnosis, you should know that some doctors immediately jump to this conclusion without ruling out the other possibilities.  The tricky thing about PCOS is that it has such a wide range of symptoms, and not all of them will appear in every woman.  Many women won’t get cysts on their ovaries at all, some women never have weight issues, some don’t grow unwanted hair. 

This is usually a syndrome that, depending on how it presents in you personally, will need to be treated, because it can put women at higher risk for many other conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Treatment of PCOS can include:
  • Diet and medications to bring insulin sensitivity under control, which can in turn help the other symptoms. 
  • Oral contraceptives to help regulate your cycle, if starting a family is not your immediate goal. 
  • If hirsutism is the primary concern, you can also be prescribed the same anti-androgen medications as other women with hirsutism, as long as you are not planning to conceive. 
  • If conception is your main goal, there are ovulation-inducing medications, and assisted reproductive technology is an option.
And the nice thing is, there is a lot of support out there for you at places like SoulCysters.

Obesity - Similar to PCOS, hirsutism can be caused by hormonal imbalances from obesity.  And considering obesity can be a symptom of things like PCOS, Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism (discussed later), it may all be related anyway, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Cushing’s Syndrome - Too much cortisol in the body.  This can be caused by certain drugs, or disorders like Cushing’s disease, wherein the pituitary creates too much ACTH (telling the adrenal glands to make lots of cortisol) or the adrenal glands themselves secrete too much cortisol (or, rarely, a tumor not related to the endocrine system is secreting the ACTH itself).  Aside from hirsutism, other symptoms include:
  • acne
  • weight gain
  • excessive sweating
  • easy bruising and skin dryness
  • high blood pressure,
  • insulin resistance
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • irregular periods or lack of ovulation
  • changes in libido
  • insomnia
Often, Cushing’s syndrome is caused by other medications, which you can gradually stop taking, if possible.  If you have Cushing’s disease and it is caused by a benign tumor on the pituitary or adrenals, treatment usually involves surgically removing it.  Either way, it takes some time for the endocrine system to recover, and usually some hormone therapy will be required. 

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) - A genetic disorder that is present at birth.  It has several different forms, but in the forms relevant to hirsutism the adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of androgens.  This can cause symptoms in girls and women besides hirsutism, including:
  • irregular cycles
  • lack of ovulation and infertility
  • early or delayed puberty
  • ambiguous genitalia
  • mineral imbalances
There are hormones that can be applied to reduce the hyperplasia, and in young ones hormone therapy of testosterone or estrogen can be applied at puberty.  And, as in PCOS, there are anti-androgen medications that can reduce the effect of the angrogens on your skin and hair, though these will not reduce the excessive production.

In many countries, newborns are screened for CAH, but it is a good idea to be tested for this again simply for family planning.  As a recessive gene, if you and your partner both carry it, there is a greater chance this disorder will present in your children, and with greater severity.

Hypothyroidism - The thyroid is not making enough thyroid hormone.  This can be thanks to the thyroid gland itself, the pituitary gland not communicating properly with the thyroid, or the hypothalamus is not talking enough to the pituitary gland.

Some sources will cite hirsutism as a symptom of hypothyroidism, and others do not.  It seems to be a rare occurrence, but happens often enough to be connected.  And considering hypothyroidism’s other symptoms include affects on the menstrual cycle, libido, scalp hair loss, and weight gain, like in the previously mentioned conditions, it is worth putting on the list. 

I won’t go into it much more than that, but this can be treated by medications containing synthetic thyroid hormones.

Tumor - I must emphasize again that this is quite rare, and remind that tumor does not equal cancer.  Aside from the tumors mentioned in Cushing’s syndrome, it is possible that a tumor, frequently on an ovary, is secreting the androgens right into your system, and its removal will help restore balance to your body.

Idiopathic Hirsutism - Just as tricky as PCOS, if not more-so because different doctors use the term in different ways.  To many, “idiopathic hirsutism” means “I don’t know what it is, or why it is.”  And maybe that’s party true.  But if all the other possibilities have been excluded, and your only symptom is hirsutism with no evident cause (not even high androgen levels), there is still an explanation. 

Doctors may not be able to explain yet why this happens, but some women are just more sensitive to the normal levels of hormones in their body.  These normal hormones are just tootling along, minding their own business, and the androgen receptors completely misunderstand and tell the woman’s skin to do things like get oil and sprout dark, coarse hair where a light, vellus filament once grew before.

Since there is no known underlying cause to treat, you can choose to manage your hair with the previously mentioned anti-androgen medications if you wish.  As I said, these don’t lower your androgen levels, but they interfere with the way they interact with your androgen receptors.  This will reduce, but not always erase, your excess body hair.  But as mentioned in the outset, once you have determined which medication (if any) works best, you might find some more aggressive hair removal methods (such as electrolysis or laser hair removal) are more effective.

There is a lot of information out there that is more detailed about each of these conditions and their treatment, including what the medications are like and how they help, as well as their side-effects.  Since I have idiopathic hirsutism, I mainly talk about the anti-androgen medications here.  I have tried Spironolactone with and without oral contraceptives (Alesse and Diane-35) and Finasteride, which you can read about by following the links.

I also talk about methods of hiding body hair, from plucking and trimming to bleaching and chemical depilatories to shaving and more.  I personally endorse shaving as the least invasive and easiest method.  And I sometimes review products that I feel others might be curious about or that have been helpful to me.

Because this post is so full of information, most of which you will not need, I will post next week the summary of how I have learned to deal emotionally with hirsutism.  Your thoughts and feelings will be the most important part of your treatment.

May 15, 2012

200th Post!

This September will mark the 5th year I've been blogging, but today marks another milestone: Post # 200.

It kind of snuck up on me--in fact, it probably would have flown right by me had I not been poking through the new Blogger updates and noticed the post count.  I just wanted to mark the occasion somehow, and thank you all for reading and interacting and showing me I really am not alone.  You've all taught me so much about how to live with hirsutism and be happy, and you're making me think all the time! 

So let's all pause and take a minute to contemplate how far we've come in our own personal journeys (and please share your thoughts on your own progress in the comments if you want!)  I'm a tea drinker, so I'll be contemplating mine with a nice mug of orange pekoe and the sounds of neighbors mowing their lawns on this muggy (heh, no pun intended) afternoon.

(By the way, you can buy mugs like this all over the place.  This one was brought back from the States.)

201st post will be later this week, continuing the current "newly hirsute" topics of concern.

May 11, 2012

I’m a girl and I’m growing hair on my face. What will happen?

 This post is a continuation of a series of little articles for girls with hirsutism who have just started looking for answers.  Read the previous post here.

I’m a girl and I’m growing hair on my face.  What will happen?

 Last week I talked about what it means to have hirsutism and what your initial doctor's visit will probably be like.  After they do their physical exam (you'd be surprised how much this can tell a dcotor--I can barely comprehend it myself!) and ask for more information about your symptoms, they will either give you an order for some tests, or refer you to a specialist who will give you an order for some tests.

What kind of tests will I undergo?

You are growing coarse dark hair in these odd places because male hormones called androgens are telling those hair follicles to grow it (including testosterone--and forgive me for using the term “male hormones”, which is misleading; it’s a hormone women need too). This can be caused by too much of that hormone or a sensitivity to that hormone.  There are many different parts of the endocrine system that can affect this change in you.

This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you some of the main tests the doctor will likely order:

  • Tests to measure the amount of androgens in your blood like Testosterone, SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin), and/or Free Androgen Index
  • Tests to measure your thyroid activity such as TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) and sometimes Free T4 (Free Thyroxine)
  • Tests to measure pituitary function like FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone)
  • Tests to measure adrenal function including Testosterone, DHEAS (DHEA-SO4, DHEA Sulfate, Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate) and 17H (17-hydroxy-progesterone)
  • A fasting glucose test will also tell them a lot about how your endocrine system is working

They may not order all of these tests if you aren’t presenting symptoms besides the hair that call for concern in these areas.  Or they may order others besides these, like estrogen, cortisol or insulin, which are relevant for certain conditions that cause unwanted hair growth.

Don’t stress over these tests.  They can only reveal so much.  Every woman is supposed to have some level of "male" hormones in her body, and I was shocked to learn that it is actually very difficult to determine what amount is “normal.”  Hormone levels fluctuate throughout your cycle; even throughout the day.  (Some tests even have to be taken at a certain phase of your cycle for pertinent results, and the doctor will tell you about that if it is necessary.) 

The labs are given a range to judge by.  The computer might rank you as "high" but you might simply fall on the high side of normal, which is completely normal for you.  This was what happened in my case.  My family doctor told me I had too much testosterone, while my endocrinologist blinked with surprise and said that my levels were fine.  It comes down to this: What might be average for one woman could be an extreme for another.  That is why it is so good to have an endocrinologist on your side--they have experience interpreting these tricky tests.

Depending on the results of these tests, the doctor may order more tests.

Some of the afore-listed tests can be ordered as follow-ups to other tests.  For example, a doctor may order only a TSH test at first, then ask you to get your Free T4 evaluated afterward.  And keep in mind that once you decide on a treatment path, the doctor may want to test you periodically for side-effects.  Be prepared for multiple trips to the clinic or lab.  For example:

  • If your 17H test comes back with results in certain range, they will want you to take an ACTH stimulation or "CAH" test.  This is a test that involves an injection of ACTH, and then subsequent blood tests to monitor how your adrenal glands react.  (I have done this test, it’s a lot better than it sounds.  You can read about it here.)
  • Your DHEAS and corstisol levels might also point to requiring a closer look at the pituitary and/or adrenal glands by CT scan or ultrasound.
  • Several results might indicate a pelvic ultrasound would be useful.  Testosterone, DHEAS, FSH, Glucose could all point the finger at your ovaries for the source of the elevated hormones or sensitivity that is causing your hair. 
  • TSH or T4 results may show the need to check out the thyroid in detail, by ultrasound or sometimes using radioactive iodine in a scan.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of tests, but it gives you an idea of how much work it can be to pinpoint the underlying cause of your hirsutism.  That’s why it’s good to start now.  Knowing the reason provides a huge amount of peace of mind, I can tell you, even if you don’t like the reason.  And while some reasons do not require treatment unless you want to manage the hair growth, your hirsutism may be a sign of a condition that could cause complications later on in your life.

Combining your description of all your symptoms, a physical exam and these tests, a specialist can then come to a conclusion and advise treatment.  We’ll talk about some of the possible conclusions next week.

To read about all my tests (read: me whining about needles and full bladders) go here.

A really good site about lab tests, what they’re used for and why: Lab Tests Online (Not intended to replace a doctor’s advice!)

Read the next post in this series here.

May 8, 2012

Follow-Up to My Lonely Weekend

For those who were wondering about my weekend last week following this post--it was a successful failure.  But what I reenforced to myself was that it is more painful to live with not trying than it is to try and fail.  Here’s why:

My practice hair-do bombed.  I had to go out as I normally look, but I was out like I promised myself I would be, so I felt good anyway.  Sort of powerful.  A hair-do might have helped, but not that much.

Traffic was so terrible that I had to give up on going to the festival, and instead headed right down to that party.  I am out of my element in a pub, and no one I knew ended up showing up.  Talk about awkward!  But people were friendly and curious, and when the attention was thankfully not on me I sat by the window sipping a rum and coke and smiling in what I hoped would be an inviting way as I let people move around me.  I met a lot of people that way.  And you know how you meet someone and you both say, “We should do this again sometime” but neither of you even bother to exchange phone numbers?  Well I met people I actually want to keep in touch with, and I have actually done so.  (I also maintain one of the bar staff was checking me out repeatedly throughout the night.  I have terrible self esteem so if I got that impression, there must have been something to notice about his behavior, right?)

I did try to get to the festival the next day.  Had to pep-talk at myself all over again.  I actually arrived on the grounds, and feeling horribly intimated, walked double-time towards what I hoped were the ticket booths with my head down pretending to text on my phone.  I felt like everyone was staring.  “Oh look at her, she’s all alone...”  And when I got to the booth, they told me tickets were sold out for the day.  Shocked and disappointed, I took a very long way back to the car, a path that included a shady street in order to avoid passing those same staring people a second time.  They would know I was stupid enough not to pre-order.  However, not being able to go in allowed me the day to get so much work done that really did need to get done, and I had a lovely lunch at a restaurant I've wanted to try for years, so that was a bonus. 

By Sunday I was exhausted.  There was no way I was going to be able to pluck up the courage to make a third attempt!  It was time to cut my losses.  One of my favorite events of the year, missed.  I opted to give priority to my family, and then if I had time, maybe I’d go down and catch the tail end of everything.  I found out they sold out of tickets for that day, too, but I ended up not having time at all, so it was rather moot.  There was actually quite a bit of outrage at the number of people who did get turned away this year, and watching all that ugly rage allowed me to look at my disappointment and shrug.  There was always next year.  And next year I’d learn from my mistake and pre-order.  Or maybe I’d look at helping out the function by volunteering instead, since they really seemed to have needed it this year.  Good way to meet people with whom I have things in common.  So I was able to let go of my own feelings.  I had tried, and it might not have worked out but dealing with negative emotions is an opportunity to grow.  You learn more from failure than success, right?

I guess I’m more resilient than I think.

The series of posts geared toward young girls with hirsutism continues later this week!

May 1, 2012

I’m a girl and I’m growing hair on my face. What do I do?

Did you know, I recently realized I never did articles like this, as was my intention from the very start?

I’m a girl and I’m growing hair on my face.  What do I do?

The words I was too frightened to type into a search engine from the time I was 14 years old, even though it was the question I wanted an answer for more than anything else.  Until my early 20’s, as I was most of the way through college and had already spent what I would have considered a “fortune” on laser hair removal, I didn’t dare look for an explanation.  Now I see them everywhere--Yahoo!Answers, tumblr, forums, in the comments section of beauty articles.  My impression in communicating with some of my readers is that most of you have been living with excessive body hair for a while and already know why you have it.

But what about those girls out there who are in the stage where they cannot yet admit to themselves that they know something is “wrong” with their bodies, or who are just starting to concede to it and aren’t sure what to do next?  (Note, I am about to start addressing girls who can be qualified as ‘hirsute,’ that is, have pronounced male pattern hair growth--not a surplus of soft blond hair, not a thin mustache or darker arm hair accountable to certain ethnicities, not a couple of stray buggers on the chin or nipples.  Hirsute means you have dark and often coarse hair in some or all of the places a man tends to have it--chest, back, stomach, face, etc.)

To you, I would like to start by saying: Don’t panic.

I promise it’s not as bad as it might seem right now, regardless of the reason why you’re growing dark hair in surprising places.

Next, the thing I wish someone had told me before anything else: Abnormalities in hair growth are a symptom, not a sickness.  They indicate a hormonal issue, not a skin issue. 

What you need to do is go to your doctor. 

I know it can be embarrassing talking about it to your parents, never mind someone else.  You’re probably hoping if you ignore it, it will go away.  If you’re a young person whose hormones are in the midst of a change already, perhaps it will.  But most likely, your excessive body hair is a clue to something that doesn’t automatically fix itself. 

Is it serious?  Well, serious compared to what?  If your body hair is robbing you of confidence and changing the way you live your life, is that not serious enough?  You are in control of your own happiness.  Start by taking charge of your health.  If you don’t, you will always be wondering what is going on in your body that you can’t see.  You deserve the peace of mind, and the knowledge that will allow you to make good decisions about how to manage your body hair from day to day.

Three things your doctor will want to know:

When was your last period?/How regular are your cycles?/What are your periods  usually like?  (Heavy flow?  Cramps that last longer than the first few days of your period?)  - Your answers to these is often a very good indicator that something funky is going on with your hormones.  They can even hint at where the hormonal issue might lie in your endocrine system. 

How quickly did the hair appear? - If severe body hair growth has cropped up in a short amount of time, this can direct the doctor’s attention towards certain causes.

What is your family history? - Often you will not find hirsutism in your family history.  Doctors aren't quite sure how or even if hirsutism is passed on, with the exception of one or two disorders that have hirsutism as a symptom.

Any other symptoms? - Some things you may want to mention to the doctor include:
  • changes in mood, energy, appetite, concentration, libido.
  • difficulty losing weight.
  • oily skin and hair, acne, thinning scalp hair.
  • any body pain, changes in breasts, cramps, bloating, headaches.
  • challenges with conceiving.
Aside from this, they will also do a physical examination (checking your blood pressure, feeling your abdomen, etc.)

See all my personal blog entries on visits to doctors.

What next?

Your doctor may order some tests to try to pinpoint abnormalities before doing anything else.  Or, they may refer you to a specialist who will order the tests for you.  Either way, the specialist you will eventually want to be referred to is an endocrinologist.  They are experts in hormones.  Many women have received great care from their gynecologist, but keep in mind that the endocrine system involves so much more than the lady parts.  Indeed, the cause of your hirsutism might have nothing at all to do with the reproductive systems.  That’s not to say OBGYNs can’t be well versed in hirsutism.  Some dermatologists might be familiar with those tests too.  But frankly, they have a lot of other stuff they need to know as well.  Wouldn’t it make sense that an expert in the entire endocrine system is more likely to catch all clues towards your diagnosis, having both the specialization and the experience?

Over the next few weeks I’ll go a little further into the kinds of tests you can expect, possible causes for your unwanted body hair, and what can be done about them.

Read the next post in this series here.

April 26, 2012

We Now Present Al, Being Sad

I wasn't going to do a blog post this week.  For one thing, I've been working on a series of posts directed at the, shall we say, "newly hirsute."  It's requiring some looking back at my old posts, reorganizing tags, and flipping through my own medical files as some of the tests I've done have gotten hazy as time goes by.  It's taken a lot more time than I thought.

For another, I've just been feeling kind of down lately, with no energy or focus.  It's one of those "blue" patches everyone gets for a couple of days or a week or so but that eventually fades on its own.  I get annoyed, though, when this happens to me, because though I know it is perfectly normal, I hate to witness myself wallowing in self pity.  It makes me mad at myself!

There are several reasons I've been feeling sorry for myself.  Yes, hirsutism is one.  Or rather, at the moment, I'm going through another rough skin patch--chin's all angry and wants a holiday from shaving, and is expressing its displeasure by developing scales of dry skin that feel as prickly as stubble. And there's this enormous zit that started as an ingrown beard hair and now refuses to heal because I shave over it accidentally every morning and open it right up again.  Always nice.

I'm also having some issues at work.  Nothing really bad, but some personality clashes with some coworkers and situational nonsense which I would never deign to react to on the outside are, on the inside, getting me frustrated enough to cry. 

And I'm lonely.  Not for a man; what I really miss is having a friend.  Being a reserved person, I don't connect easily with people, so I've only ever had a few close friends.  These have eventually drifted away, or had to move away--and I don't wish to blame anyone for that, life happens, and that's why I've found myself blogging about it on a forum I use to talk about body hair instead if a place where they might read it and feel bad.  And I'm not looking for reassurance, I'm just expressing myself, because I kind of have nowhere else "safe" to do it where it won't make someone I know incorrectly feel responsible.   

Not long ago, with spring on the air and events ramping up throughout my city, I realized I no longer had anyone to share the things I really enjoyed.  Blowing money in used book stores, tea houses, artisan soap shops, bakeries, or mocking artwork in galleries, smelling old things in museums, getting lost and wandering helplessly for ages... all these things I now must do alone.  There's nothing wrong with that, and I do like being alone.  But some things are just more fun with someone else.  Someone you trust, and who appreciates the same things you do.  I have no one like that in my life anymore, and no one I would feel comfortable bringing into that circle.

There's a particular festival coming up that I look forward to every year.  I was counting down to it for months before it hit me that I have no one to go with.  I've inquired of a few people, who have quite honestly expressed their disinterest, and I respect that.  I feel intimidated going alone, terrified of the commute to get there, and just plain sad that I'll have no one at my side to turn to so I can express my excitement over something I see--or at my back to protect me from the awkward and unwelcome advances of some of the very strange people who will be there.

But I was driving home from work today in the fog and the drizzle (perhaps also a reason for these blues) and remembered all the things I have accomplished my own.  I mean, come on woman, you went on a bloody business trip to another country by yourself!  And I was driving to and from work by myself, a job I got completely under my own power by my own merit, something I never imagined myself doing a year ago.  I am not only capable, I am pretty darn strong inside.  And I deserve to surround myself in the things I love, even if no one is there to love them with me.  Lack of self confidence prevents me from doing so much, and it really needs to stop!

I told myself I am going to go to that festival tomorrow, and then to a pub to meet some acquaintances I haven't seen in a long time.  I've spent the evening practicing a new hair style to overcompensate for my self consciousness with my face right now.  I intend to go out, do my thing, and look smashing while I do it.

(Why do I feel like hyperventilating right now?)

April 17, 2012

S*** People Say About Hairy Girls

A sardonic look at the gems people utter without thinking.  It's more to do with natural hair than hirsutism, but I doubt the humor or the truth will be lost on anyone.  Just a warning, these videos contain mature subject matter.

See more hair-related videos in their Youtube channel.

April 16, 2012


One of the ladies I work with brought in a No!No! last week. I see the commercials and infomercials on TV here in Canada often, and thanks to my browsing history regarding body hair, I see the ads on the web when I surf, too. It claims to remove hair painlessly and discourage it from growing back by “crystalizing” the hair beneath the skin using “thermocon technology.” I’m not sure what that means, though apparently it uses heat and not light, but it so closely resembled home-laser-hair-removal kits (which I universally read as being disappointments and downright dangerous) that I resolved to stay well clear. Besides, a 60-day risk-free trial barely gets you through two hair cycles. You’d hit very few of your total active follicles in two months.

So anyway. She brought it in, took it out, and I knew immediately what it was. I tried not to be too excited as I drifted toward the conversation she was having with some of the other gals, explaining to them what it was. It sounded like she had brought it in for someone in particular, but I couldn’t insert myself into their circle to see who'd wanted to see it, or hear how it worked on the lady who owned it. But clearly at least two people I work with have concerns about body hair, but I haven’t been able to ascertain whether it’s simply normal hair they’re tired of shaving, a few stray chin hairs from menopause, or something else entirely.

I really tried to get in there. I asked questions, like how effective she found it on what type of hair, but the circle ignored me, closed tight. I don’t think they were trying to exclude me, but I sure felt like they didn’t think what they were talking about was relevant to my interests. So once again, I was kind of saddened at work.  But there’s still lots of opportunity to talk to my workmates one-on-one, and maybe someone’s hair woes will come out, because obviously they’re not secretive about it. I really want to know what their concerns are, and what has worked for them. This mystery is bugging me!

And now I’m curious about the No!No! again. It’s different when you actually know someone who’s used it. My expectations still wouldn’t be high, but what if it doesn’t totally suck?

April 12, 2012

"My Mustache Bleach!"

I was reading an involving graphic novel by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the latter being a young illustrator I’d heard about in art school, when I came upon this tiny scene:

Skim is about a private-school student who feels separate from the other girls at her school.  What teenager hasn’t felt that, right?  But Skim has more reasons to feel alienated than most--besides being unskinny, and a cultural minority, and identifying herself as goth in the early 90’s, she is in love with her English teacher, a woman.  And she’s coping with all this during a time when her school is turned upside down by a suicide.  It is an unfailingly honest look into a teenager’s thoughts and feelings, and how they cope with them. 

But, of course, this one scene as she gets ready for a school dance resonated with me more than anything else.  The character doesn’t write actually about it in her diary or refer to it in any way, but there she is, making an extra effort to look and feel her best, using her mom’s “mustache bleach.”  (You’ll have to buy the book to see what else she impulsively does with it!)  When I looked closely at the boxes of bleach drawn in one panel, I am sure they are even the exact same brand I used.  It's the same teeny tiny spatula that was my companion up until my beard became too dark and coarse to bleach any longer.  I can still smell it, remember the slight tingle as the bleach it worked its magic.

And so it touched me.  Even though this character is not hirsute, she has plenty of other ways to feel like an outsider.  And we get a peek into a small, personal cosmetic ritual, shown oh-so-casually (and no panel is ever accidental, everything is carefully planned to reveal this girl’s world to us) but it is all the more intimate because of its familiarity.  Sort of a reassuring "everybody does it, behind closed doors" thing.  Except, thanks to this being a graphic novel, the door is open to us as readers.

April 7, 2012

I Want to Come Out!

In the past, I’ve sometimes spoken about my medication in front of people who I haven’t told about my hirsutism.  Usually I’ve just been involved in the conversation, maybe explaining something about my meds to somebody who is aware, like my mother, and someone else has joined us when I'm not prepared to stop talking.  And I’ve been ridiculed for that: why would I talk about it and not tell people the whole truth?  It makes me feel like I’m some kind of tease or something.  “Don’t talk about it if you don’t want people to ask,” I’ve been told.

Maybe all this time I have wanted people to ask.  Maybe I’ve been dying to tell someone, and hang the consequences.  Could the reaction really be as bad as I’ve imagined all these years?  Whenever I have told someone, they’ve never reacted with shock, never mind disgust.

I like to know what’s going on in other peoples’ lives.  If I know what challenges they’re facing, I know how to help, or not to help.  And when I see them carrying on with their lives, I feel so encouraged and awed.  I have a better appreciation for who they are and what it takes for them to survive in this world from day to day.  So why wouldn’t some other people appreciate knowing this relatively mundane fact about me?

Perhaps every time I’ve mentioned medications or alluded to my own struggles, I’ve been testing myself to see if I feel ready to tell someone who is not in my immediate circle of trust.

At my new job this week, a couple of coworkers walked in discussing laser hair removal.  Of course, for them it was in the context of being tired of waxing their bikini lines, and one of the women said her friend had had great success with the procedure. 

“It’s supposed to be painful,” she ventured.

I nodded.  “Oh, it is.”  And I discovered I was ready for them to ask if I’d had it done, and where, and how it had worked.  And I felt prepared to gesture comically toward my face and come all out about it.  I have only worked with these women for a month.

But another coworker spoke over me with, “I don't think it's as bad as waxing.  But you have to do it with a numbing cream.”

I tried to make a few other contributions to the conversation to clear up some misconceptions about it that made it fairly clear I’d been through the procedure, and they didn’t give the least impression of even noticing.  (A part of that, I think, is being the youngest woman on the team, and looking much younger than I really am.  I find it quite difficult to speak up and be noticed among them.  It’s as if they don’t expect me to have anything to add to any topic.  When I went out to lunch with all of them, I didn’t have to talk at all.)

I realize I was kind of disappointed to be overlooked just then.  I was prepared to come out with my hirsutism and did not expect to be shunned because of it.  So the experience wasn’t entirely for naught--at least I noticed I was not afraid to speak about it, in that circumstance.  Now that I know the cause of my hirsutism and what medications work for me, the next natural step seems to be to reconcile myself to living with it.  Being open about it keeps coming to mind as the upcoming goal.

March 31, 2012

The C-Word

Holy hole-in-a-doughnut, guys, comment explosion on the blog this week!  I love it!

Visitors, if you're just reading my blog posts and not the comments, you're missing out on the expressions of other women like me.  Don't worry--I screen all the comments before they ever appear to the public, so there will never be anything hateful there.

I've known what I wanted to post all week this week; I don't know why it's taken me so long to post it.  A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with appendix cancer that has metastasized, claiming one ovary among other things.  This week, I simply want to boost the signal for the blog she's started to share her experiences.  It may not be relevant to any of you, but like this blog, it might be a relief for anyone going through it or something similar.

Cancer will touch us all eventually.  For me, it used to be something far away that claimed this person or that person so long ago that I could hardly remember it.  It's been touching my life quite a bit lately, to the point where it's sometimes all I can think about.  But when the strong reactionary emotions fade, you still have to face it and find a way to deal, like everything else that happens in life.  This is how she's dealing.  In that way, our blogs are quite similar indeed.

March 20, 2012


Girls, I am sick again.  Unexpected downside to working with kids, I guess.  Viruses come and go through that place like its a hotel.  So, as a combined break for my throbbing head and the granting of a request, I'm going to use this week's post to share some beardy pictures.  Of my beard.

The only successful photos I have are from before I started treatment and after I finally decided what treatment to go with, so I really don't think they're the best example of how the various meds have worked on me.  But if they're at all helpful to you, Anonymous, or any other readers who haven't asked, I will be happy. 

These are from November 2009, before my first visit to the endocrinologist.  I believe I had just been sick in bed for a week or so, so the hair on my face is quite a bit longer (and much of the acne and irritation caused by shaving is absent).  You may have seen the first one on tumblr.  Click for large size:

Below are the only other photos where you can actually see the facial hair, and they're from January 2012, just after my most recent endo appointment.  I'd been on Spiro since the first photos were taken (with a brief break on Finasteride), and on Spiro with Diane-35 for 6 months.  This is about two days growth, which I was able to cultivate thanks to a brief break before starting my new job:

You can see the beard has really thinned out, especially on the sides of the face and under the jaw.  I mean, look, the neck-beard is almost gone!  But there's still plenty on the chin which is why I still complain about shaving every day.  Your results might be different if you try this treatment--they could be disappointing, or they could be even more satisfying.  My endo says its rare for Spiro to completely clear up facial hair, especially if your hirsutism was as severe as mine (or worse), but you won't know for sure until you try, right?

For those of you just joining us, I usually post photos of how the different meds worked on my stomach hair.  If you want to see those, try any of the tags below, like "medical" or "spiro."