Allerleirah with a mustached mug

Beating the Beard: How I Live With Hirsutism

Allerleirah with a mustached mug“I can’t speak for all little girls, but I certainly expected to be beautiful when I grew up.  I was thrilled when that first strand of body hair heralded oncoming puberty.  At the time I imagined I was on my way to becoming the princess or the femme fatale I was meant to be. Little did I know that body hair was going to take over my life.  I was on my way to becoming the bearded lady.

It began as more-than-average peach fuzz on my lower face, but by the time I started my post-secondary education the hair had gone so dark and coarse that I was shaving every morning.  I was afraid to wear certain clothes or even tie back my hair.  I turned down invitations to go swimming, camping, and some days I just could not bring myself to leave the house.  Stubble sprouted not only from my face, but also my chest, my shoulders, my stomach, and down my thighs. I was frightened, but even more frustrated.  I was finally a woman but my body was, to me, anything but womanly.

Excessive hair growth in distinctly “male” patterns, called hirsutism, is always caused by hormones. The real trick is to find the origin of the hormonal imbalance.  A majority of the hirsute women I talk to have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition that can also affect fertility, weight, and insulin resistance.  But many other women, like me, appear to have hirsutism with no particular cause, not even a high testosterone level.

Seven years stretched between my first unsympathetic doctor’s visit and finally comprehending my body.  The ignorance of medical professionals wasted my time and money and left me brutally discouraged.  The only thing that kept me functioning was my degree program, which forced me to go out in public and kept me too busy to obsess over my reflection.

The first turning point was starting a blog.  It compelled me to do research, and put me in touch with many amazing women who were going through exactly the same thing, or worse.  And it built up my determination to get my own personal answers, bringing me to my second turning point.

Allerleirah with hair growth on her chin

I was eventually referred to an incredible endocrinologist who knew what tests I should undergo and how to interpret them.  In 2010, I finally had my answer:  Idiopathic hirsutism.  No cause could be found on any test; all my hormone-producing organs were normal.  My hair follicles were simply sensitive to the normal levels of testosterone in my blood.

You would think that learning you had a bizarre and incurable condition would be devastating, but I was relieved.  After so many years, my problem had a name.  It had an explanation.  Under my endocrinologist’s supervision, I started medications to block testosterone from reaching the hair follicles.  Over time, I had less than half the body hair I used to. Of course, my self esteem needed some extra time to catch up.

The thinning and lightening of my body hair made certain wardrobe changes easy.  I began to buy things that made me gasp, “That’s pretty!” rather than, “That’ll keep me hidden!”  I refreshed my drawer of underthings to include lace and bright, cheeky patterns. My first drastic haircut was difficult.  I had always had long hair, the better to hide behind, but I fantasized about a sleek, blunt bob.  A skilled hairdresser gave me exactly what I wanted, and the concern that I no longer had a protective curtain was nothing compared to the constant compliments.  And continuing to talk frankly about hirsutism has kept its less-than-glamorous realities from being quite so off-putting.

Other lifestyle changes helped my confidence along.  I left a miserable job and found something that involved learning new skills and working with children.  Taking on less hours allowed me to hone my talents and pursue more creative goals.  I gave myself challenges, like cooking a complicated meal or sewing a complicated pattern, which do really build your confidence in yourself.  And I got a dog. Having someone else to focus on, who is always delighted to see you whether you’ve shaved or not, makes a world of difference.  And things like volunteering and nurturing my spirituality took the spotlight off my problems and highlighted the bigger picture.  Gradually, I have become much more comfortable with being hirsute.  And that makes this the most exciting time of my life.

In early days, I dreaded being unable to completely eradicate the hair growth.  I didn’t think I could live the rest of my life shaving my face every morning.  But learning about hirsutism has taken the weight of fear off my mind, and treatment has lessened the effort required to hide the hair.  Now I see it is such a small part of my day, and such a small part of who I am.  I am not a bearded lady.  I never was. I am a sister, a daughter, a friend, a world traveler, a teacher, an artist, a writer, and an accomplished maker of cupcakes.  Who also just happens to have a beard.  And when you describe yourself that way, don’t you sound much more fascinating than a mere “princess”?”

Check out Allerleirah’s videos on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNgs575HriY


Allerleirah on youtube

Allerleirah can be found blogging at  http://allerleirah.blogspot.co.uk/ which she started, amongst other things to support the estimated 10% of women who are also going through the same cosmetic disorder.




There are 8 comments

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  1. Mo

    I actually follow your blog and I am so happy to come across another idiopathic hirsute woman. I can relate with every single thing you said about struggle. The moment I found a doctor that actually gave a damn, everything made sense. The medication gradually started to work, the hair got lighter and my confidence crawled from under a rock!

  2. Allerleirah

    Mo, I follow your blog, too! (For readers, it is http://www.thehirsutismhub.com) It is so nice to find more and more of us speaking out. Hopefully women who are as yet too embarrassed to talk about their hirsutism will see that they don’t need to feel ashamed!

  3. Keely

    I was diagnosed with PCOS in my 20’s after discovering my hirsutism at the age of 13. My endocrinologist just put me on birth control, but it never helped. This post gave me hope that I can find someone to help me.
    Thank you

  4. Allerleirah

    Keely, it seems that the road to taking control of hirsutism is full of roadblocks for a lot of people. But there are definitely professionals out there who can help. Please keep trying, it’s worth it!

  5. MimiEugenie

    So happy I found this blog! I have been through the sammee experience. Going from unhelpful doctor to unhelpful doctor, I guess it’s not a priority as it isn’t a matter of life or death. However, for a 13/14 year old girl it seems as though it’s the end of the world. It was soul destroying for me, im 21 now and I still find it difficult. I am currently taking natural remedies, which appear to be slowing things down. Hard to tell as it’s still early days.
    I will definitely be following this blog! The more people that speak out about hirsutism the better. Hopefully someday it will be looked at in the same way as any other dermological condition; such as acne.

  6. Bethany

    Thanks so much for writing this! It really helps, my story is very similar. My confidence has always been a huge issue in this area, but I feel it’s getting better as I’m getting older. And have also found at least a couple doctors and psychologists, friends, who don’t minimize the pain I’ve been in over stupid hair. I’ve also been so incredibly relieved to find that some men I’ve dated *just don’t care* about the hair. One guy even had a fetish for hairy chicks (he was really nice, and I apologize if that was a crude thing to say). I know that putting a lot of weight on what men think about my body isn’t the healthiest way to view my own personhood, however I let hirsutism keep me from even kissing a guy until I was 25. And now, I can truly say that the guys who don’t like it can just go shove it where the sun don’t shine! I have the power to be around people who treat me the way I want, and that’s a grand thing 🙂

    Do you mind me asking, is the med you’re taking Spironolactone? That’s what I’ve been taking, 50mgs twice a day. It has helped some, though I’ve been trying to get an increase, wondering what the best dosage is for hirsutism…

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  8. Me

    I suffer with the same. Been trying to get help since i was 22, now I am 26. But because there is no hormone imbalance in my blood no one is actually doing anything…. I am pretty much still “hiding”. In Norway it seems pretty much if they dont find a hormon imbalace you dont get a diagnosis and you get no treatment. And thats it….I waited alot, went do different doctors, then paid alot to go to a private endocrinologist (as it doesnt exist that many) that wasn’t helpful at all…


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