Is laser hair removal masking your hormone problems?

We'll glance straight past the why and how, but recently I was at a laser hair removal clinic and noticed an advertising board in the treatment room that offered lots of different add-on areas to the general hairy legs, arms and vaginas that are usually treated with laser.

The things on the list that made me look twice were:

  • areola (nipple)
  • nose
  • chin
  • lower back

Now, laser hair removal is generally marketed towards women as a longer-term, less painful (debatable) option to waxing.  So, it's fair to assume that there are enough women out there with hairy nipples and chins to warrant an advertising board in a busy laser clinic.  

What sparks my concern is not at all the fact that women want to be hairless... it's that having excessive hair growth is a prominent sign of hormone imbalance that is obviously being disregarded or misunderstood by the general public.

Excess hair growth in women, called hirsutism, is a symptom of increased testosterone production which is a driving factor of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  

Other signs and symptoms of PCOS include:

  • irregular menstrual cycles (often having months between cycles or the absence of the period altogether)
  • painful periods
  • spotting 
  • ovarian pain (sensation of pressure, sharp stabbing pain on the left or right side of the lower pelvic area)
  • insulin sensitivity (high blood sugar readings - if you haven't had this tested you may feel incredibly tired, shaky between meals and faint)
  • weight gain, especially around the abdomen
  • acne or oily skin (read how testosterone affects the skin in this blog)
  • depressed mood
  • thinning or loss of hair on the scalp
  • abnormally cystic ovaries (found with an ultrasound)
  • infertility

If you are suffering from any of the above, it's worth investigating if there is something deeper going on with your hormone balance.  Even when it comes to laser hair removal to symptomatically help excessive hair growth, the hair will continue to grow back at a faster rate due to increased testosterone levels - so even laser will only work in the short term, and treatment will have to be continuous.

It's also worth noting that lots of people we treat in the clinic for PCOS don't have hirsutism, but they have a cluster of other symptoms to confirm the syndrome.  So, even if hair growth isn't a particular concern, if you identify with a number of other symptoms of hormone imbalance, check out our health quiz to see what your everyday symptoms are telling you... or get in touch and see how we can help!

Otherwise, happy laser-ing my friends! 

Emily Banks (Naturopath & Herbalist)