Hair is a distinct part of what makes us unique, just like our skin and eye color. Some of us have more hair than others, including facial hair. A complex interplay of genetics and hormones decides the type, amount, and even how hair grows.
A few random hairs on the chin and neck popping up along with peach fuzz is routine and often related to hormonal changes our body cycles through over our lifetime.
Sometimes, chin or neck hair is more than irritating. It might be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Let’s take a closer look at why we get chin and neck hair and the best way to handle it.
Typically, hair grows from the root or hair follicle just under the skin. There are two types of hair follicles:
- vellus hair is fine hair, like fuzz
- terminal hair follicles are longer, thicker, and deeper rooted
Androgen (testosterone), commonly known as the male sex hormone, plays a major role in hair growth. Both men and women produce testosterone; women just have lower amounts.
Testosterone changes vellus hair into terminal hair by activating receptors in hair follicles. This is totally normal and happens to everyone, especially during puberty.
In females, hair growth, including facial hair is impacted by distinct hormonal phases. Starting with puberty, during pregnancy, and through menopause, shifts in hormone levels change hair growth.
What about those random few hairs?
Most females have vellus hair on the face, but some may have more terminal chin hair. This can be due to genetics or age. Menopause can trigger more chin, neck, or facial hair.
Research shows different racial groups can have different levels of androgen and resulting body and facial hair.
A little facial hair is common and normal, this includes chin and upper lip area.
Excess hair on the body or face in females is known as hirsutism. It’s more common in people of South Asian, Mediterranean, or Middle Eastern descent.
The difference between normal facial hair and hirsutism is the color, density, and texture of the hair. Hair is coarser, thicker and darker. This can be due to virilization, or excess production of androgens.
Sudden changes in facial hair patterns might mean your body is sending a sign something has changed. It can signal a hormonal imbalance caused by a medical condition or a side effect of medications.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition affects up to
15 percentof women of childbearing age and is caused by hormonal imbalances with an increase in androgen levels. There’s typically a family history. Many women are unaware they have PCOS. The condition causes facial hair growth, irregular menstruation, cysts in the ovaries, weight gain, and acne.
- Problems with the adrenal gland. Adrenal gland issues, sometimes caused by tumors, that cause too much androgen production can cause a deepening voice, facial hair, and weight gain.
- Late-onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). CAH is a hereditary condition affecting the adrenal glands.
- Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease causes too much cortisol to be produced. It can cause weight gain, headaches, problems with blood sugar, and higher levels of androgen.
- Medications. Medications like anabolic steroids, testosterone, cyclosporine ( an immunosuppressant) can increase facial hair as a side effect.
talk to a doctor
If you notice:
- sudden unusual hair growth (face, chin, abdomen, other areas of the body), deepening voice, or sudden weight gain
- changes in your period (heavy, light, stopped period)
- thinning hair
Make an appointment to discuss these changes with your doctor. Keep in mind, these are some general signs of hormonal imbalance.
Your doctor may do blood tests, ask about your symptoms, and do other diagnostic tests to find out the reason for your symptoms and how to correct them.
In the case of hirsutism, management might mean treating the underlying medical condition, including:
- surgery to remove tumors or cysts
- changing diet and exercising to balance hormone levels
- medications to adjust androgen levels, such as:
- hormonal birth control pills
- metformin for PCOS
Although chin hair is common, it can be bothersome or uncomfortable for some people.
There are many ways to get rid of unwanted facial hair.
- laser hair removal
- eflornithine (Vaniqa) prescription cream hair remover
- shaving (it’s a myth your facial hair will grow back thicker)
- depilatory creams
For most women, chin hair and neck hair is normal.
How much facial hair you have depends on your genetics and age. As we age, hair follicles respond in unique ways to changes in testosterone levels leading to hair growth.
This is especially true with hormonal shifts during certain times, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
In rare cases, excess hair growth can signal a medical condition that requires treatment, such as PCOS, a tumor, or cyst.
If you’re concerned about unusual hair growth, make an appointment to see your doctor. They can perform blood tests and other diagnostic tests to check your hormone levels and offer solutions.