December 11, 2013

Vaniqa Update

I started Vaniqa about 12 weeks ago, and since my last update, I’ve been slowly plucking out the coarse hairs--dark and blond--from my chin and throat.  I started with the sides of my chin out of sheer curiosity: what was it like to pluck and use Vaniqa?  Besides, those are the worst parts for me, because that’s where most of the ingrown hairs from shaving and the bumps from the Vaniqa were happening. 

And then I noticed that I wasn’t having to go back over the area with the tweezers the next day.  It was great!  So gradually I plucked another area, and another, and another. 

I was still going over everything lightly with the razor each morning to get any strays, most of them under my chin--blond and hard to see to pluck.  However, a couple of weeks ago, I realized I really didn’t need to do it.  That slight scratch of stubble I felt in the morning was deceptive; it was either blond hair that I couldn’t see (and so it was unlikely anyone else could), or simple dry skin.  And so I stopped shaving, and haven’t put a razor to my face since.

I still go over my face every morning to check for hair to pluck, and might find a couple, but if its not dark or extremely coarse, I try to leave it be.  In the right light, you can still see the difference between the sides of my face that I have let grow out with peach fuzz, and my chin where I was shaving.  With the Vaniqa I doubt it will even out anytime soon, but in the meantime I am supremely content with my results right now.  And I'm still on my first bottle.

A little while ago I booked my first trans-oceanic flight since adolescence--since before my hirsutism fully presented.  I agonized over how I was going to approach an overnight flight, beard-wise.  I could have switched my schedule back to shaving at night so that I could shave right before the flight and then my face would probably be okay for the next day when I arrived.  But then I’d have to shave every night on the trip, and I don’t know about you, but I have a strong compulsion to look my best when I travel.  So I had decided I was going to shave on the flight and pray for no turbulence while I was doing it.  But now seeing Vaniqa in action, its taken such a load off my mind.  I won’t have to shave at all during the flight, or worry about it the day I land.  And if I have a particularly rushed morning, I know I can skip obsessing over my face and just go have fun.  I am looking forward to my trip even more, now!

November 13, 2013

Calling All UK Readers!

Calling All UK Readers!

I have been contacted by an assistant producer of a new tv program featuring single people with medical conditions that affect their love lives.  They are looking for a single lady in the UK suffering from hirsutism with the intent of raising awareness of how conditions like hirsutism affect one's confidence, as well as showing her dating life in a positive light.

Have a look at the company's website:

If you are interested in discussing this opportunity with them, send me an email ( ) and I will send you the appropriate contact information.

(Please note that I am not involved in any way other than sharing this information, so I am not responsible for any outcomes, positive or negative, that may result from pursuing this information.)

October 29, 2013

Product: Tend Skin Liquid

If I remember correctly, I first heard of this liquid through longtime reader Sophie.  The web site told me it reduced ingrown hairs, razor bumps, and redness.  It was exciting to think there was a product like this, but back then, the only way I could get it was either ordering it online, or going into Sephora, the most intimidating cosmetic store in Canada.  (To put that in its proper context, I go to Walmart or drugstores for my cosmetics.  I'm easily intimidated.)  To be honest, Tend Skin’s claim that it solved common hair removal complaints sounded too good to be true, so even when I crossed Sephora’s threshold for the first time in my life, I never actually bought it.

Then a few years later, I finally saw it in a drugstore.  If the product had made it out of specialty shops at last, perhaps now was the time to give it a chance.  What kinda sucks about reviewing products how is that my facial hair is much less coarse, much less dark, much... less.  It's hard to me to gauge the way the product would have worked on my original beard anymore.

...Is my lesser beard making me irrelevant?

Tend Skin Liquid, 188 mL / 4 oz (also available in 8 oz and 16 oz, as well as refillable roll-on)

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol), Butylene Glycol, Acetylsalicylic Acid (Aspirin), Cyclomethicone, Glycerin, Diglycerin, Polysorbate 80.

Things I liked:
  • I noticed much less ingrown hairs when used on face, underarms, and thighs--particularly the latter two.  It’s even better than Bikini-Zone for such prevention, which made it invaluable in summer.
  • A little goes a long way.  One quick turnover onto a cotton swab would cover my entire beard area or underarms.

Things I didn't like:
  • It’s an astringent, so it stings.  Probably worse than the styptic pencil, but for a shorter period of time.  At least you know it’s working.
  • Because it’s alcohol based, I know it’s drying out my skin.  This needed to be counteracted with generous moisturizing.
  • You have to be SO careful not to get it on mucosal body parts, especially when using it near the bikini line.  Seriously.  Don’t ever do that.  Ever.
  • $20 CAD is a bit steep, but if it works well for you, it may be worth it.

Did it do what it promised?
  • “When applied regularly, Tend Skin® Liquid effectively reduces appearance of unsightly razor bumps...” 
I can’t say for certain if my razor bumps improved on my face, mostly because my face has been doing better and better with reduced amounts of hair, thanks to laser hair removal.  But they did improve in other shaved regions.
  • “...reduce appearance of existing ingrown hairs without tweezing...”
Though I mostly used this preventatively and noticed much less irritation, especially on my thighs and underarms, I did use it a couple of times after ingrown hairs appeared and it does reduce them retroactively too.
  • “...reduce appearance of the noticeable redness that appears on the skin after shaving...”
Inconclusive.  My face is sensitive and gets red at the slightest touch or temperature change, so I found the astringent properties of Tend Skin added to the redness after shaving, though it went away quickly.

I wish I’d known it’s now suggested for use after laser hair removal to reduce redness and bumps.  I had chosen to suspend its use after my sessions because my skin had already sustained such abuse, the last thing I wanted was to put a stinging, drying liquid on it.

In summary, I’d recommend trying it.  I wish I’d tried it when shaving was harder on my face, so I would know if it would have helped me back then, but it was great for keeping my thighs and underarms more comfortable.  You may find it a little too harsh and unpleasant, or you may find it works great for you.  I’m glad to have it within reach for those times when shaving just isn’t going well and needs and my skin needs an intervention.  (And if you can’t try it, some people say you can make your own!  Some of the recipes include Witch Hazel, which is probably a lot nicer for you than some of the ingredients in Tend.) 

Note: pregnant women and those with aspirin allergies should not use this product, and for everyone else, please try a test area before using.

What other people thought of Tend Skin liquid:

Have you used Tend Skin?  Do you have a positive or negative story to tell?  Leave it in the comments!

October 15, 2013

Four Weeks on Vaniqa

It’s been about a month since I started Vaniqa.  Actually, technically it’s been five weeks, but I didn’t bother applying Vaniqa during the week I had the flu.  Nor did I shave, and I can tell you that yes, more hair has definitely grown in on my chin since the last laser treatment.  But as for the Vaniqa, the various papers did say results can begin to be seen in four to eight weeks.  So have I noticed any change?

Well, within the first few days, I started getting pimples on my chin.  This may have coincided with the beginnings of the flu, as I sometimes get skin breakouts when my immune system goes kaput.  When the flu was gone, so were the spots, but I am also using Polysporin cream to help prevent future skin infections.

Other than that?

I'm pretty sure I’m getting into an awkward stage where the hair is noticeable in the morning, but not quite long enough for a comfortable shave.  This is leading to some irritation after a couple of days of consecutive hair removal, and reviving my old habit of staying at home on weekends to give my skin a day off.  And this, aside from the acne side-effect, is what I was dreading about starting Vaniqa.

However, it’s early days.  Things could still get better, so I’m sticking with it.  Another Vaniqa report in four weeks!

September 17, 2013

Vlog: Vaniqa

I posted the last video of my vlog series today:

As you know if you've been reading my blog, I'm now only shaving my chin, so overall I'm happy that laser hair removal has done something more tangible for me this time.  I've decided to try Vaniqa next, and most of the video shows me opening the package for the first time and learning how to use it.

Several factors went into the decision.  Though I have been resistant to Vaniqa in the past because it does not remove anything, these latest laser hair removal sessions have taught me that even small improvements in the day-to-day hair removal regimen are worth more than you'd imagine.  An article on The Hirsutism Hub clinched it for me; it talks about how satisfied the author is with her combination of electrolysis, androgen blockers, and Vaniqa.  (Read the article.)  So when I went for my annual check-up, I told my doctor I'd like to try it.  

For those who can't or don't want to view the video:

Vaniqa (eflorinthine 13.9% cream)

What it does:  "Vaniqa interferes with a natural component of the skin needed to promote hair growth."  Basically, it slows it down.

How much it cost:  $72 CAD for a 3g tube.  Ouch.

The laws of Vaniqa:
  • Apply a thin layer twice a day at least 8 hours apart.
  • Do not wash the area for 4 hours.
  • Wait at least 5 minutes after hair removal to apply.
  • Wait a few minutes for Vaniqa to absorb before using make-up, moisturizers, or sunscreen.
  • Wait 4-8 weeks for results.  If it has not helped in 6 months, stop using.
There's a lot of waiting involved.

Side effects:  Burning, stinging, tingling, redness, acne, folliculitis, serious allergic reactions rare

So far, I've noticed that a little goes a long way (thank goodness).  I need a dab smaller than a pea to cover the chin and neck.  It doesn't have a strong smell, and there's been no redness, but a little stinging after shaving, even if I wait more than 5 minutes.

It'll be a while before I notice anything, and the results may not be photographable, so I've ended the vlog series here and will talk about any changes I see with Vaniqa on the blog.  A warm welcome to all who have come here because of the videos, and I assure you I am not gone!  I will continue to answer questions and comments on the videos.


September 11, 2013

Dustin Hoffman on "Tootsie"

This week I wanted to share a video of part of an interview of Dustin Hoffman about his movie "Tootsie".  I just love the way he articulates (or doesn't, as the case may be) with such sympathy the way it is for women.  It's a very short video, and worth watching just to know that someone "gets it."

(Cross-posted to tumblr, too.)

September 4, 2013

Guest Post on StyleAble this week

Instead of putting a post here this week, go to StyleAble and read my guest post!  StyleAble is a blog that endeavours to make style accessible to everyone, no matter their challenges.  Check out some of their other articles; I learned some stuff.  I was honoured to be able to pen an article for them.

I never would have imagined me writing something for a style website.  It's pretty cool.

August 19, 2013

Camping 2013

August ended up being a tough month.  Immediately after coming home my dog got sick and had to stay in the hospital.  Recovery has had its ups and downs but he was getting back to normal.  He relapsed yesterday, but thank the good vets at the animal emergency, he's already on the mend again.  I had this blog post already written, though, so you'll have something to read for now.  If there's another long silence, though, you'll know why.

Camping was lovely.  A few circumstances were different, such as our site being farther from the showers.  But hey, I’d had laser done this year, so I didn't need to shave as often, yes?  Well, unfortunately I got paranoid that more of my chin hair was starting to grow back, so after trying one day of not shaving, I changed my mind.  Sure, I felt a little defeated that I wasn’t going to shave every other day like I planned.  And then came something unexpected.  The weather got so hot that our family decided to move to a hotel.  Suddenly we had our own private bug-free bathroom, with a sink behind a locked door.  Brilliant, right? 

But no, I was already giving up on shaving every other day.  I wasn’t going to just go back to my normal routine that I follow at home.  I thought of something else that I could do this year that I could never do before: shaving at night instead of the morning.  And when the weather went back to normal and we returned to tents and campfires, I kept the routine going.  I would shave in the closer bathroom which had no showers, just a couple of toilet stalls and two sinks with only cold water that were out where all could see.  At night, though, it was much less likely someone would walk in, so my only audience was the moth population and the spider that lived behind the mirror.  It worked pretty well, and took a lot of the pressure off the morning.

It’s amazing how much hirsutism changes your life.  For the first time in the history of my camping trips, I could wake up when I felt like it.  And instead of worrying about when I could sneak away to shave and not miss out on anything, I could sit and enjoy the mountain morning, chat with everyone, share in the communal breakfast.  It definitely helped the experience. 

This trip also surprised me by showing me how much emotional strength I have built since I was a teenager.  This was highlighted by my step-sister, who is not in any way hirsute, being unable to cope with camping.  I guess I had always assumed that if you’re not paranoid about your body hair, whether it be simply legs or also face/tummy/chest, camping is a breeze.  Turns out it can still be an ordeal for some.  When we checked out of the hotel and went back to the campsite, she did not want to stay, and ended up going home early.  I was shocked that someone found it more challenging than I did.  How was I, with my hair issues and self consciousness, and my nervous stomach problems, and my fear of insects (particularly spiders), able to have a wonderful time?

I suppose, and this is just my guess, that you have to really want to.  And if you really want to enjoy yourself, you’ll allow yourself to be challenged, try your best to be adaptable and to accept things as they come.  If I had gone home early with my sister, I probably wouldn’t have gotten sick that one night and would have avoided kneeling retching in a ditch in the pitch darkness.  But I also would have missed out on so much more.  I dislike being sick as much as I dislike arachnids, but I lived through it and came out the other side much more relaxed.  I really didn’t think I was that laid back.  I certainly never used to be.

I tried paddle boarding this year, which is fun but a lot harder than it looks--or maybe that’s just me.  I’ve never had exceptional balance.  That swimsuit, by the way, you can purchase (in all sorts of colors) from Modcloth.  They’re very modest, but very trendy right now, so you can look retro while hiding your treasure trail and that bikini line that breaks out in a painful rash when you try to shave it.  I love that swimsuit and would highly recommend it to anyone.

But my favorite thing of all was just lying in a hammock and reading, with nothing but quail chirping around me.  It’s something I could have enjoyed just as much whether I’d had laser hair removal done or not, but I can say it was worth it just to have my mornings like a normal person.  I guess in a sort of way I got my wish.

Also, I found this book on my travels.  What?

July 21, 2013

Keeping Busy

Oh my goodness, July has been insane! 

Probably one of the most important things I've learned about myself this month is that I can sew.  And sew lots.  And sew wearable items, even.  Sometimes sewing is the only way to achieve the look you want.  There have been several big occasions this month and I've had ambitions for each of them.  Whether I achieve hairlessness or not, I have been resolved to go for the looks that I want (and in some cases have fantasized about wearing for years).  And I feel I succeeded in them.

 I mean, take a look at this hair!  I did that myself, and I learned it from an amazing site called CuteGirlsHairstyles, which you should check out if you've ever wondered how to do some elusive braid you've seen on Pinterest or tumblr.  I never ever used to do anything with my hair, ever.  I wanted it to be around my face to hide me, and on the rare occasion that I wanted it done up, it always seemed too hard to do.  I started practicing braiding my hair while I was bedridden in May, and was able to accomplish that by July.  (Girly admission: the hair was merely a foundation for the plumerias, which I've wanted to wear in my hair since my transformative holiday in Hawaii.  It's a silly dream, but it's been mine for ages, and why put it off any longer?  No time like the present to make yourself feel as beautiful as you've ever imagined you could be.)

Of more interest to you ladies, though, is that I have been keeping up with the challenge to shave as little as possible without planning ahead for the days I need to leave the house.  I have left the house several times now without shaving, including going to the dentist, something you long-time readers will know I dread because they work so closely with my face.  Laser hair removal has reduced my beard enough that the regrowth is much more subtle, much more bearable.  I look forward to experiencing camping like this.  And speaking of which, I am getting ready to leave, so I'll report on how it went when I get back. 

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and keeping busy with good things.

July 2, 2013

A First in July

Yesterday, I did something crazy.  Something I didn’t believe I’d ever do again.

Or maybe you could say I didn’t do something crazy.

Yesterday, I woke up to the local country music station (and let me tell you, if I have to hear that woman wondering why he doesn’t take her downtown anymore one more time, I’m going back to the classic rock station and let AC/DC wake me up instead).  I hit snooze a time or two, then finally got out of bed, went to the washroom, then got some tea with milk and sugar.  I shuffled back upstairs to bed, turned on the local news, took my Spiro with my tea and sewed up the hem of a suit I’m making.  Since my plans for the day involved shopping with my mom and my step-sister, when I heard them moving I washed my face, brushed my usual SPF 30 foundation and concealer over my face, swiped some deodorant under my arms and got dressed.  Then we went out.

What was different?  I didn’t shave.  And you know what?  The act of washing my face without digging out the razor felt just plain wrong.  It took a lot of concentration to stop myself.  But my chin still felt smooth from the morning before, though the hair follicles looked more prominent in the mirror.  Why would I put my face through shaving if I didn’t have to?  And since we were only going out shopping and would be amongst total strangers, I figured this would be a good day to try it.

And while I was out, when I remembered I hadn’t shaved that morning, it wasn’t with a surge of embarrassment or worry.  It was with a sense of thrill.  'Dude, I didn't shave this morning!' I kept telling myself like it was a dirty little secret.  'Maybe I'll only have to shave every other day, now...' 

By afternoon, I could brush the back of my hand under my chin and feel a prickle, but no worse than it felt immediately after shaving sometimes when my skin was really dry or in the phase after laser but before the hair starts shedding.  And by the time I went to bed, the make-up was still well in place, but I was definitely more prickly--but no worse than the five o’clock shadow I used to get before medications began to work. I think a thing to remember is that a lot of the hairs left on my chin are coarse, but blond, and not as easily noticeable.  Even if I did let them poke out of the skin a little, would anyone be able to tell at a casual glance?

It was the kind of morning I’ve dreamed of having for so long.  And you know what?  It wasn’t that different from any other morning up until now.  That could be because first the medication, and now the laser, have reduced my facial hair to a point where shaving and make-up is much less likely to be a tearful battle in front of the mirror anyway.  But really, I didn’t do anything else different.  But I sure felt excited.

June 8, 2013

Addendum to Yesterday's Post

One thing I forgot to mention in the video of my fourth laser hair removal appointment is that on my way out of the medical building, I ran into a long-time family friend whom I haven't seen in a long while.  Someone who's known me since I came into the world.  She was on her way in for an appointment so we couldn't talk long, but she asked me what I was doing there.

"I'm getting laser hair removal," I said quite frankly, surprising myself again.  Who is this person who has taken over my body and wants to tell the world?

She was interested, not shocked or turned off.  "Really?  I thought of getting a No-No," she said.

When we're hirsute, I guess we forget that most women have at least some issue with a little errant body hair somewhere, not to mention the kind that is normal and expected for all women to have.  And even if they don't experience the unique kind of emotional and physical pain of growing a beard or a luxuriant patch of chest hair, most at least are far from horrified by those of us who do experience it.

Something else she said was that she had a friend who had owned and run an electrolysis clinic for many years, and being ready to retire, wanted to hand it over to her.  I was way too excited by this, even knowing that she had turned down the offer.  A part of me would really like to work somewhere where I could meet other hirsute women all that time and hear about their lives.  I fantasize about that sometimes.  But I know I would not be good for business, because I could never in good conscience treat someone who had not received a proper diagnosis from a specialist first.  Still, it's fun to dream.

Let's see... I was gone for a month so what else is new?  I've committed to camping again this year.  I wonder if the experience will be much improved by the laser treatments I've been having?  

June 7, 2013

Vlog: Fourth Treatment

I apologize for the month-long absence.  I have been really sick.  And I mean, three doctor's visits and three different prescriptions kind of sick.  A kind of sick I haven't been since I was a child.  I managed to kick H1N1 in a week without medical help, so this has been a real low point in my year.  But I'm better now, and well enough to be able to lie still for the laser.

After my fourth laser hair removal treatment, I asked the technician if there would be a point where we would call it; that my chin would be as good as the laser could ever make it.  And she basically told me that that point was now, and it was time to come in twice a year for touch-ups.  She has said to me more than once now that the chin is a very "hormonal" area, and if she's seen in her many years of experience that the chin is particularly difficult to laser "pew-pew" into submission, it's time for me to accept that.  The good news is, she expects that touch-ups will only be needed on my chin, so I'll be looking at around $50 a touch-up instead of the full amount.

So what now?  I don't know. 

Being sick, I had ample time to view my face with almost a week's worth of growth.  I show the pictures in the video but will post them here as well:

Really, this is still an enormous improvement over my chin in it's natural state, or even as it has been with medication.  But look at all that coarse blond hair that the laser won't ever be able to kill. 

I ramble on in this video about how my goal of eradicating the dark hair was really just me deceiving myself, and that really in my heart of hearts I want to get rid of it all.  As much as I would tell myself that I could live with noticeable hair if it was blond, to be perfectly honest, I don't want to have to deal with that either.  I want perfection.  Who doesn't?  Most of us are struggling to achieve an ideal set before us by our culture.  I want my pre-pubescent hairless chin back. 

I mention some realistic next steps in the video, but I'm not sure which one I want to take yet. 

April 30, 2013

I Told My Sister

After I made the video about my third treatment, something surprising happened.  I was in the kitchen with my step-sister, cleaning up for the night, when a voice trailed in from the laundry room.  I couldn’t make out a word of it, and called out, “Pardon?”  But my step-sister had heard it clearly and repeated what had been said to me.

Feeling a little abashed, I laughed my partial deafness off as part of my burgeoning sinus infection, and to support the argument, I proceeded to tell my step-sister how I’d had to get the laser technician to repeat almost everything she said to me that afternoon as well.

“Why were you seeing a laser technician?” she asked.  And then I realized what I’d done.

“Laser hair removal,” I said, as lightly as I could manage.  “That’s why my face was so red when I came in.”  Instead of staying in my room after I made the video, I’d taken my ice pack downstairs to the couch and plunked myself down with the family.  I never do that.

“I didn’t even notice,” she said.  And we haven’t talked about it since.

Somehow, starting laser hair removal again has caused me to let my guard down.  I told a coworker I was going to the consultation because I was terribly nervous, I told my cousin about my problems with body hair when she had her wisdom teeth out the same day as one of my treatments. 

And now I’ve told my step-sister, someone I’ve lived with for almost nine years now without telling.  I did expect her to know that I’m hirsute, though.  I had to bleach my face in front of her one day when we were traveling and I couldn’t keep the bathroom to myself, and told her it was just cream.  She’s shared a home bathroom with me for ages and has seen all the weird shaving apparatus I have, and surely she’s noticed it all gets wet in the morning when I say I’m going to “wash my face.”  And as I’ve started to get more accepting of my hair, I’ve ventured outside my room when I’ve taken shaving breaks and even gone so far as to make dinner for everyone with a day or two of shadow on my chin and jaw.  But apparently she never looked close enough.  I think very few people actually do.

But why is it when we start to do something about our hirsutism we feel better talking about it?  I’ve noticed that’s often when women start their blogs or make their videos.  Somehow, knowing we’re getting command over our situation, or even that our situation might eventually be gone (or reduced significantly), gives us bizarre amounts of courage.  I figured I had a pretty good handle on acceptance of myself, but now that laser has been reducing my issue, I’m out of control!  My secret’s slipping out all over the place.  And not a backlash to be seen.

We all appreciate knowing about the challenges of those we’re close to, right?  It has enriched my love and respect of others to learn about their chronic pain, traumatic memories, anxiety and depression, and more.  When we see them going about their days as if nothing’s wrong, it is very inspiring.  As Peter S Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn) says, “Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens, or half their greatness goes unnoticed.”   Our struggles, even if minor in comparison, might be just the thing to encourage someone else out of bed in the morning.  So many people are like that for me.  It's important to share, if and when we can.

April 24, 2013

Video: How to Hide Facial Hair

If you haven't seen this video via my tumblr yet, I thought I would share it here as well. It has some great tips for hiding facial hair--a couple of them I don't think would work for me, but who knows, they might work for you! Plus she's really sweet; you'll want to hug her!

And don't forget, the deadline for submissions to the Armpits 4 August zine closes next Tuesday, April 30th!  Are you submitting something?

April 13, 2013

Vlog: Third Treatment

Treatment number three was kind of business-as-usual.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed more hair growing in on my chin, so hopefully the laser got all that.

Lately I haven't been feeling too well--I just reached the deadline on a huge project and the lack of sleep left me open to infection I guess, so I've been run-down and sniffly and fatigued.  So I didn't ask the technician too much, I'm not sure if the laser intensity went up again, or anything else I wanted to know about.

I didn't even feel too positive after the treatment was over, because the one thing I asked was whether people who go through the initial 5-6 treatments have to come back for touch-ups forever.  The answer was "yes."  And I think it was "yes" because she was thinking of people with hormonal vulnerability, whose skin is going to be constantly bombarded with hormones.  But if you've got pills to help with that, do you still have to have laser treatments in perpetuity?  Why is it said that laser hair removal can be permanent?  And why does the technician think the effects of my old laser treatments are still helping?  I'm rather confused, and because I'm also sick, it's making me a little sad.

But it's not a mood that will last, I know.  I'm looking forward to this new growth falling out anyway, and now I've been recommended Vaniqa so I have something new to seriously think about.  I've never paid it much mind before because it doesn't get rid of hair, it just slows it down, and my sights have always been on getting rid of the hair.  The technician has tried it herself and she thinks it might be worth it for me--it might mean laser hair removal treatments spaced farther apart.  But I know it has some side-effects like break-outs and redness and irritation, and my skin is doing so well right now with less hair and gentler shaving.

Here's the video itself, and don't worry about my low energy.  I'm already getting much more sleep so I'll be feeling better soon!

March 26, 2013

Update on Second Laser Treatment

Nothing's happened that is worthy of making a vlog.  There haven’t been any huge shedding “events” this time around.  Starting the day after the laser treatment I usually lost a couple of hairs a day.  Impatient, I started gently pulling with tweezers to see if any were ready to let go, and a lot of them were.  I still have some stubborn areas on the sides of my chin, but I never had the guts to imagine that I would ever come so far as to only have to shave my chin every morning.  It feels quite miraculous.

The picture is some hyper-pigmentation I noticed a day or two after the session.  I was told it could be a possible side-effect but I didn’t really know what to look for because, to me, they just look like dark freckles... or food on your face.  ;)  They faded within the first couple of weeks. 

I do have a few dark hairs still growing along my jaw, but I trim those instead of shaving the areas completely.  This has allowed all the blond vellus hair we all normally have to grow back, and it is... weird.  When you’re hirsute, I think it is so much easier to be ashamed of all your body hair, normal and abnormal.  I catch sight of it in the sunlight when I look in the mirror in the morning, and a part of me is thrilled to see it, while another part still wishes to hide it.  The emotions are proving to be more difficult to change than the physical symptoms of being hirsute.

But despite the self consciousness that is going to take a while to leave behind, every morning is exciting, because the process of hiding my hair is far less stressful.  I can keep my shave gentle, which means I have less redness to cover up.  In fact, I haven’t had much opportunity to take a picture of what is left on my chin because I don’t have to give my face a break from shaving.

I’m still trying to learn all I can about hair growth in general and how six sessions of laser hair removal could have worked, yet afterward still allow me to grow a full beard.    This is the current mystery, and I hope to find a way to make sense of my experience, for myself and for you guys.

Also, I really want to thank you all for your patience!  Between the psychological turmoil of the laser treatments, a huge year-long project coming to its conclusion, and all the amazing messages I've been receiving from ladies who have stumbled upon the vlog, it's been extra difficult coming up with relevant posts for the blog right now.  Even keeping up with all the notes and questions has been a challenge--but a happy one!  :)

March 5, 2013

'Zine Call for Submissions

Armpits 4 August is probably best known for organizing a "Movember-like" event for a PCOS charity in summertime.

But they've just announced on Facebook that they're putting together a zine to further raise money for the charity.  They're asking for submissions in the form of art, poetry, and prose about PCOS and body hair.  This sounds like a really cool project, and it's most successful if they get as many contributions as possible.  I'm trying to think up something to send.  I hope you will, too!

Submissions are due April 30th. 

March 1, 2013

Vlog: Second Treatment

Well, here we are at treatment number two!

And I am happy to sum up the video for those who aren’t comfortable watching me talk.  (Maybe it’s just me who hates watching myself talk.)

The laser technician was pleased with my progress, in fact she said (and this isn’t in the video) that my sideburns look “pretty much fine.”  She increased the laser’s intensity and did some of my stubborn chin hairs a couple of times.

What surprised me, though, was that she said I may only need to come in on an “as-needed” basis now.  I’m still trying to get my head ‘round this.  She thinks that the series of treatments I did eight years ago might have permanently damaged at least some of my follicles, because she doesn’t see much of a new hair cycle starting.  Normally it takes several rounds of laser to start seeing a noticeable reduction, because we’re killing off active cycles each time.  But as it had only been one treatment and no new hair coming in to replace it, perhaps the old treatment really did make an impact.

And, now that I’m on medication, I don’t have testosterone stimulating new dark cycles.  I may not need six treatments after all.

But I’ve scheduled an appointment in six weeks, just so I have one, and if I find I don’t have any hair to laser by then, I’ll cancel it.  I really can’t imagine it.  It’s frightening to think this may actually work.  Will anyone read a blog about hirsutism by an ex-bearded lady?

I also mentioned in the video that after my laser treatment I went right over to visit my cousin, who had just had her wisdom teeth out.  I muscled past my own embarrassment--I know I would need some cheering up if I ever had to have dental surgery.  So I talked to her about my issues a little, and she had never noticed but she was not startled or horrified by the news.  She told me about some of her own cosmetic concerns, and it was a great bonding moment.

That’s the first time I’ve told anyone in my family that I’m hirsute, besides my mother, and it was anti-climactic and an all-around relief.  And now I know someone who can use the products I’ve tried that don’t work for me.

Why does it get easier to tell people your problems once they’ve been taken care of?

Well, let’s see what falls out in a couple of weeks...

February 11, 2013

Vlog: I'm Shedding!

I had to do a vlog update, because I am ridiculously excited about all the hairs falling out of my chin.  This is something that is supposed to happen, but has only happened to me once, in my final laser treatment eight years ago.  To experience this after the first treatment is a shock, and hopefully a promising precedent.

I also talk a bit about my downtime after the first treatment, which ended up being emotional, not physical.

The video contains new pictures of my chin post-shedding, as well as the washcloth, but as always, for those of you that can't or don't wish to view the video:

This was my washcloth from the day after the treatment.  Just a few hairs, but you can see how damaged they are.  We got 'em good!

The second photo is my washcloth from thirteen days later.  It is covered with little hairs with burned little bulbs at their bases from my chin and neck.  This was when I started to get excited.  A little too excited, as you'll see in the next picture.  I exfoliated my epidermis right off in places, trying to get as many hairs to shed as possible!

On the left you can see my chin sporting a couple of days' growth as per usual with the Spiro and Diane.  On the right is also with a couple of days' growth.  The hair you can still see is all that's left of the really coarse dark stuff right now.  These patches are not likely to shed as they are probably in the intermediate or resting phase of growth, which the laser cannot damage.  The hairs coming out on the washcloth were in the active growth phase, which tell me how many hair follicles we took out in that treatment.

Whether they'll stay out remains to be seen, but this is already beyond my expectations.  It absolutely had to be shared with you guys!  :)

February 5, 2013

Book: It's Your Hormones

It’s Your Hormones by Geoffrey Redmond, M.D.

This is the first book I’ve read on the subject of hormones and self-help so I have little to compare it to, other than everything I’ve read online.  It is definitely worth a read.  You might recognize the author as the director of the Hormone Help Center in New York, a site that has been on my sidebar for some time (and if you haven’t checked that one out yet, you should!)  It covers the tests and treatments for hirsutism, PCOS, acne and alopecia, as well as menstrual cycle issues (including moods, migraine and other pain), menopause, osteoperosis, and low sex drive.

Though it is designed for you to read only the parts relevant to you if you wish, I read it from cover to cover and found it progressed very logically, starting with what hormones are and what they’re meant to do, on through the various things that happen when women like us are vulnerable to them.  (“Hormonally vulnerable” is a phrase he coined, and isn’t it nicer to say “I’m hormonally vulnerable” than “I’m hirsute”?)  It’s purpose is not to give you the means to self-medicate, but as I’ve often said, a little research makes a huge difference when you look for medical help.  If you don’t know what you want out of a treatment plan or the best ways to get it, you could end up shelling out for laser hair removal before any blood tests and being baffled and devastated when it doesn’t work, like me.  ;)

If you already have a treatment plan you are satisfied with, this will finetune your understanding.  It addition, probably the most important experiences I got from this book was a sense of affirmation.  The author doesn’t downplay any symptoms, but does not aggrandize them either so that the reader feels even more hopeless about their problems.  So many of us are brushed off by medical professionals who think these are things we should just learn to live with, and it’s nice to be addressed as human beings with legitimate concerns.

I like that he had his criticism of the medical system, yet did not condemn doctors or a specific field of practice like we are all wont to do, myself included.  How many times have I poo-pooed the helpfulness of a dermatologist, only because of my own experience with one?  The author provides some perspective on the history of how these disorders and their treatments came to light, and why many have the attitudes they do towards them, so that we can understand why it is sometimes so difficult to find proper treatment from medical professionals.  It helped me reevaluate my own attitude, which I thought was fairly even-keeled as it was.

I’ve seen this book criticized for favoring certain medications, and yes, he has had his hand in the development of a few.  But it’s nice that he acknowledges that some medications are just too frightening for a woman to take, and that that's okay--and goes into some “natural” healing methods with a realistic approach.  The section on spiritual healing felt incomplete to me, however, because it can be a highly personal way of dealing with things, it wasn’t too bad.  I was glad to see it even mentioned.

I was constantly marking my favorite and most useful sections of the book, and I’ll share a few of my favorite with you to give you a taste of what you can get out of reading it:

“Too often a woman’s expectation that she should feel good and look good is dismissed as if it were unreasonable.”  p14
“There are really two aspects to hormone action: the level of the hormone, which can be measured in a clinical lab, and how vigorously the cell responds when the hormone attaches to its receptor, something that tests do not tell us.” p29
“Because hair is part of skin, it is included in dermatology.  Yet the cause of the most common form [of alopecia] is hormones, which are the focus of a different specialty--endocrinology.  Dermatologists can recognize it but lack a background in the internal hormonal causes.  Endocrinologists understand hormones, but most have not been trained to recognize and treat their effects on skin and hair.”  p238
“Many feel uncomfortable being around people with physical problems, and so try to avoid them.  Acne in a sense is a handicap, and it brings discrimination with it.”  p279

“There is no infallible system for finding the right doctor.  All you can do is ask around.  The individual is more important than the specific subspeciality.” p317

“...those more vulnerable can get caught up in self-blame, as if their difficulty coping is a character weakness.”  p369

“...others rarely accept hormonal disruptions as a justification for temporary impairment.  It is acceptable to call in sick for the flu, but not for PMS.”  p427

Above anything else, it's always nice to read something and feel understood, to be able to say out loud, "Yes!  That's so me!  I feel that way too!"

January 25, 2013

Vlog #2

Here it is already: the second installment of the video blog!  This time I'm talking about my first laser treatment.  No puppies though.

And if you don't wish to watch it, the topical anesthetic I am using is EMLA this time rather than Maxilene.  Maxilene was 5% lidocaine, EMLA is 2.5% lidocaine and 2.5% prilocaine.  I discovered that although EMLA is inconvenient in that you must cover the cream with an air tight bandage (ie, plastic wrap) and leave it on for 1-2 hours, the numbness lasts much longer, even increasing after you wash it off. 

The treatment itself didn't hurt as much, possibly both because of the EMLA and because I have less of that really coarse dark hair on my face now.  Additionally, the new laser machine they use ("Alex") does not require the tip to be pushed into the skin like the LightSheer diode laser they had eight years ago, so it can easily skim over your skin and treat a larger area with smaller pauses in between.  The Alex also blows cold air during the process, which almost instantly calms the pain you feel after the laser hits.

The worst of the pain was around my chin, where the worst of the hair still lives.  There, I really felt the pain surging down into each hair follicle, and smelled the burning hair, both of which are good signs, apparently.  I also heard a weird popping or crackling sound at those points, which I wasn't sure was from the laser or my hair.  When it was over, the technician wiped my chin and said some of the hairs had "popped" right out on the cloth, which was another sign of good results.  It certainly made me feel good.

My laser technician has spent ten years in aesthetic work, including laser, once owning her own clinic, so she is pretty awesome to me.  She had me out of that chair in less than half an hour.  But she seemed to fixate on the irritation of my skin when I came in, like she'd never seen razor burn before, which made me wonder if I have been doing something really wrong all this time.  Still, it didn't interfere with the treatment, and she just told me to apply Polysporin every night for the next little while to keep any infections at bay. 

That was how the topic of redheads came up; she asked if my beard was red because she couldn't tell with all the redness from the EMLA and the razor burn.  And she told me that they had found some redheaded women have less success with laser hair removal because the laser is also in the red spectrum, making it less effective against red pigments.  I don't think I've ever checked to see if there is red in my beard.  It was interesting, though.

The only new thing about the actual treatment process was that I had to sign a waiver acknowledging, among other things, that laser hair removal would not bring 100% results.  I wish I'd had that eight years ago, so I would have had the possibility of disappointment firmly in my mind.  I think they may have had some upset clients in the past?

One thing I forgot to mention in my vlog was that the technician looked me over, and said the treatment would be closer to $100 because there was more hair than the consultant had quoted.  I had wondered about that--the consultant didn't look at my hair at all.  So I wasn't surprised.  It's not a huge price difference.

So now I've got a really red chin with singed stubble sticking out in places, and the smell of burning hair is stuck in my nose.  I've engineered it so that tomorrow is a day off from work so I can give my skin a good holiday.  My next appointment is in five weeks, only because we couldn't make four weeks work for our schedules.  So look for the blog to update in the meantime! 

January 19, 2013

Introducing: The Vlog!

Ladies, I am very excited about this.  I have decided to turn my laser hair removal adventure into a little video blog.

I'm also very nervous, because this brings a whole new intimacy to the blog.  However, I've been struck time and time again by the strength of the empathy and solidarity you feel when you watch someone share their experience.  I'd like to do be able to do that for someone else.

It also gives me another place to set up my soapbox about finding out why you're hirsute before getting laser hair removal done.  You all know how much I love telling people that.

This first video is about my consultation and it also covers some of the hirsutism basics; the things I wished I knew going into laser the first time.  To make sure I covered everything, I was working off a script so I'm just a tiny bit stiff (yes, I am always to some extent stiff).  And you may want to turn up your volume; I'm a soft talker.

And excuse the shameless cuteness exploitation.  I was dog-sitting and she simply has to sit in my lap when I work.  Usually she'll just sleep there, but when she interrupted me in the middle of my sentence, I realized it would probably be the only impromptu thing to happen in the video, so I kept it.

And for those of you who can't view the video, or don't wish to watch me talk (which I totally understand; I abhor watching me talk), the consultation went fine.  I was somewhat disappointed by their lack of knowledge, which was probably my fault for having such high expectations that the clinic (which is affiliated with the dermatologist who didn't test me for anything before sending me there, as I've mentioned) would have made advancements since I last came to them.  She didn't even try to look at my face to see the hair.  But it's costing me less than $100 per treatment, a big improvement on last time.

I booked my first treatment for next week, so there'll be another video following soon.  This vlog is going to be a big job, however, so expect blog posts to be a little more scarce while this is happening.  Hopefully this new media will make up for that.

If you guys have anything you'd like me to ask the laser technician, leave a comment!  I'll need something to keep my mind off the pain...

January 9, 2013

Laser Consult Next Week!

How long have I been saying I am seriously considering trying laser hair removal again?  Last January, when I went to see the endocrinologist and decided to stay with the medication I am on right now, I knew it was probably the next step in reducing the hair I have to live with.  In August I think I was more seriously resolved, because my ovarian cysts had finally been explained to me and I could move on from that.  I seem to focus on the health concerns that worry me most, and then go down the list.  That indicates to me that hirsutism is no longer my highest concern.  That's pretty exciting on its own.

But I'd love to push it even further down the list, even if the results of laser hair removal are as temporary as last time (3-4 months, if you remember). And it will always be a lingering question in my life if I don't try again--what if the results are better on the medication?  I'll always wonder.

Funnily enough, it wasn't so much the inspiration of others' New Years Resolutions that finally urged me to make the calls, though it is that sensation of January being a "fresh start."  It's hearing about friends taking charge of their own lives and doing the things they always meant to do for themselves that is spurring me on to tackle the questions in my life.  It's getting me beyond the fear of being disappointed, the fear of pain, and the fear of cost.

So I called the same clinic I went to before.  The technician I used to see no longer works there, but they still have my life from 2004-2005, and I feel more confident using this place than trying another clinic elsewhere.  This one is connected with a team of dermatologists (even if one of them is the one who sent me right to laser instead of trying to figure out the cause of my hirsutism), and not one of the many salons that have popped up all over the place in the last several years.  You might be able to get good treatment from a salon, but I can be fairly sure a clinic like this with the backing of doctors will have the most state-of-the-art equipment and most highly trained staff.  I'll know for sure by the kind of questions they ask at my consultation.

I like to think I'm going into this with more realistic expectations.  I know what laser hair removal feels like, and I know the worst-case scenario results.  What I don't know is how much it costs now, and how well it will do this time.  So there's plenty to still be nervous about, but I also feel excited that I am finally trying it again.  I am brainstorming how to document the journey this time, so if anyone has any suggestions, or anything they would really like to see, please leave it in the comments!

January 1, 2013

What I'm Using Now

Hello and welcome to 2013 everybody!  I'm still here, and if you're not, I hope it's because you're off having fun!

The last time I did a post about my morning shaving routine was in 2010.  I don't update it much because, really, not much has changed.  I thought I'd share the subtly evolving line of products anyway, though, especially because newer readers would have to wade through over two years of posts to read about it otherwise.  So.

 Step 1:  Soften the hair and cleanse the skin.  I run very warm water over a washcloth and hold it to my face to open the pores and get the beard all soft, and rub my chin where the hairs seem to dislike standing up and are more likely to grow back into the skin again.  Then I use a Cetaphil or drug-store-equivalent gentle skin cleanser, whatever's cheapest.  I find the imitations work just as well.

Step 2:  Shave - stubbled sisters do it against the grain.  I've been using the King of Shaves Azor System Razor with Kiss My Face moisture shave.  The razor lets me have a greater range of pressure on the skin and the blades last a long time, and a small dab of the foaming gel goes a long way and is easier to come by than my other preferred mediums.  And yes, I shave against the grain.  I don't want any evidence of stubble or a shadow by afternoon.  I pay for it with a few ingrown hairs, so if that worries you, try shaving across the grain.  I finish off with the styptic pencil to stop any bleeds, and am now able to apply moitsurizer and make-up much sooner than before.  

 Step 3: Make amends with your skin.  That poor organ goes through a lot when you shave it.  Now that I've been on Spiro for a while, I don't have the same problem with oiliness that I used to, but I still like to use Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion or its less expensive imitations, all of which are light and leave no feeling of residue.  It's just enough for my face, but my chin needs a little something extra.  It's always dry and flaky after repetitive shaves.  I ran out of jojoba oil a long time ago, and man that stuff is expensive!  So I now use a tiny bit of Vitamin E oil, which promotes healing among other things, and allows make-up to sit more easily over the abused areas.

Step 4:  Cover it, girl.  I always see the stubble lying just under the skin, no matter how aggressive my technique, and then there's sometimes blemishes from ingrown hair.  I need a thick concealer, and I still use CoverGirl's Smoother because it has that extra shot of moisturizer right in the stick.  It's opaque enough to cover all but the worst spots, and I find it doesn't blob on any dry bits like other concealers do.  I also still use CG Fresh Complexion Pocket Powder even though it's designed for oily skin.  It is such a lovely fine powder.  Really, I could probably just pat a bit over my chin and neck where I have things I want to hide, but my brain still thinks I need all-over cover, even though acne is not nearly the problem it used to be.

Step 5:  At the end of the day, thank your skin again.  It's put up with your torture and carried you through the day.  I wash off all the make-up with the same gentle cleanser, and will usually gently rub with a washcloth again just to coax those hairs not to grow into the skin overnight.  My medications have really evened out my skin, so I'm not afraid to moisturize every night, now, and will often use Vitamin E oil again to encourage healing overnight, or Polysporin to prevent infection in any open cuts.  I don't even use Persa-Gel anymore, except directly on the odd pimple.

My skin does very well without the harsher cleansers or benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, thanks to the Diane and Spiro.  If I thought my face was good before, this is amazing progress.  I get compliments often.  It's funny, I really thought these chemical treatments were preventing acne, until I saw what my skin could be like with my androgen blocked.  I have to acknowledge the pills for the impact they've had on my routine.  It's nice not to have to worry about acne and oil nearly as much, and to focus on a safe, clean shave and hiding any leftover shadow.