Saturday, September 5, 2015

Facial Hair, Hair Loss, Hormonal Acne & Other PCOS Nightmares (and how to deal with them!) PART 1

 I've been wanting to write this post for a long time now, but there was one major thing holding me back: Fear. In the beauty blogging community, it's unfortunately all too common to see skincare bloggers photoshopping their skin and makeup into flawless perfection.  I personally find that not only incredibly dishonest, but it shows a major lack of respect for your readers and your profession in general. How can a reader know how well an eye shadow palette will work for them if the blogger has photoshopped the swatches, or corrected any little misstep in their makeup application? It's the equivalent of someone reviewing a tooth whitener and photoshopping their teeth to look whiter than they actually are. It defeats the purpose of reviewing entirely. 

Why am I bringing this up, you ask? I've been blogging for years now, it took me a long time to even be comfortable showing my face. It's upsetting to know there are bloggers out there that still haven't shown their face on their blogs because they don't feel they are pretty enough, young enough, or good enough. It's more and more common to see mean and negative comments on any video or blog post where someone hasn't photoshopped themselves to death, and that is something that needs to stop. The majority of blog readers are not celebrities or supermodels. They're regular women: moms who are desperate to find time for themselves and want to carefully invest their small amount of pocket money on something that will make them feel better. Young girls suffering from acne or self-confidence issues, looking for answers to the questions they're too afraid to ask. Everyday women looking to connect with other women over a common interest. I feel like we bloggers have a responsibility to be more open, more honest with our readers not only in terms of the photographs we take, but about our own issues and problems that we face in the world of beauty.

I have mentioned in passing before that I have PCOS. For anyone who might not know what that is, it stands for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. And while there is a slew of issues that come along with having this, I like to call it the "ugly disease." Why? Because all of the secondary issues that come along with having PCOS are everything that we as women would rather die than have to deal with. Some of them are so embarrassing that we hide them from friends, lovers, and in my case, my readers. Here are just some of the issues women with PCOS can face, outside of simply having cystic ovaries:

Excess Facial and Body Hair
Adult Acne
Hair Loss on the Scalp
Irregular Periods
Brittle Hair and Nails
Fertility Problems
Depression and Mood Swings
Obesity
Cystic Acne on the Body (hidradenitis suppurativa)

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. And while every woman with PCOS has a different list of symptoms and level of severity, I unfortunately have not only every symptom listed here, but probably at their highest severity.

Nothing makes you feel worse about yourself as a woman than having facial hair, being overweight, having acne on your face and body, your hair thinning and falling out...the few things that make us feel feminine are stripped away, and that can be incredibly scary and sometimes so embarrassing that we feel we have to fight these issues alone. I know there must be other women out there (and possibly even some of you who read my blog regularly) that deal with these issues in secret, and don't know where to turn to when you need answers or help dealing with them. And that, is why I'm writing this post. I have been dealing with PCOS since I was diagnosed at 18 years old. I am now 30, and I can tell you that while I'm still dealing with these issues every day of my life, I have found quite a few things that make living with this disorder a lot more bearable. 

There may even be some of you that have some of these symptoms on their own and while you may not have PCOS, these issues can still be embarrassing and you may be looking for answers on how to deal with them. I hope that this post can also help you in knowing you're not alone.

Let's take a look at a few of the more pertinent issues individually, and then I'll talk about what has worked for me!
Part 1, which you are reading now will deal solely with facial hair/body hair and methods in which to deal with it. Part 2, which you can read HERE contains information on Hormonal Acne, Hair Loss and other miscellaneous issues related to PCOS.

Excess Facial and Body Hair
This is probably the issue that is most problematic for me, personally. I kept my facial hair a secret from every person in my life until just a couple of years ago when I broke down crying and told my fiance and my best friend. Nothing makes you feel more unfeminine than shaving your face and plucking hairs off your stomach and chest. It's a nightmare I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy, but I know I'm not the only one that suffers from this, and I know many of you are suffering in secret. 

Facial Hair
Hirsutism (excessive male-patterned hair growth in women) is incredibly common in PCOS patients. It can range in severity from having to pluck a few hairs from your chin every few days, to having a full beard of stubble that you have to deal with. For me personally, if I were to pluck every hair off my face it would be the equivalent of a man doing the same thing. My chin, jawline and under my chin (my V-line area, as it would be call in Korean Beauty) is where a whole field of facial hair grows. Even though I'm blonde, the hair that grows in this area is darker and more coarse. I cannot go a single day without taking care of it in some way. It's so bad that I could remove the facial hair at noon, and feel stubble by 6pm. It is hands-down my most anxiety-inducing, depressing issue I face when it comes to my appearance and dealing with PCOS. Since I am lower-middle class in terms of my income, there is no way I could afford to do something like laser hair removal or electrolysis, although those are certainly things that you could look into if you have the money to do so!
So what about the rest of us? What do we do if we can't afford serious long-term solutions to our facial hair growth? There are two options: Shaving and Epilating.

Epilating
This is something that I personally have not tried due to the expense of a good epilator, however I feel like I'm at a point where I'm just about ready to purchase one and try it out. Essentially, an epilator is a small machine that has wheels of tiny tweezers that grab and pull the hairs out at a fast pace. If that sounds painful, you'd be 100% correct. What I have heard time and time again though, is that epilating only hurts the first few times you do it, and the more you do it, the slower the hair grows back. Even better, it also grows back more fine. There are a wide variety of epilators available, however I've had my eye on this one in particular due to it being rechargeable. There's nothing I hate more than having to buy batteries over and over again!

If you're considering an epilator, you may also want to consider purchasing an "After Epilation Cream" which is used to soothe the skin and keep it from getting red or bumpy, but it also helps slow hair regrowth. I have not tried one myself yet, but Emjoi also carries their own cream that can be purchased from Amazon as well, however it states that it can't be used on the face. I would suggest using an Aloe gel instead to soothe your face after epilating!

Shaving
The most cost-effective and fast solution for removing unwanted hair on the face is of course, shaving. This is something I've been doing daily since I was 18 years old, and I can admit that it's absolutely exhausting emotionally. You have to get in a really blank mind state to be able to sit there and shave your face and not want to cry every single time you do it. Having said that, it's probably worse to just let the hair grow! I have tried my fair share of products and routines, and I have found a combination of items and a system that works the best for me!

1. Schick Hydro Silk Razors 
(most stores carry this razor!)
The most important thing when it comes to shaving your facial hair is that you have a really good razor. I'm sure most of us are already fully aware of the ridiculous prices of razors, so if you are on a very tight budget, I would highly suggest checking out the company Dorco, who are the people that supply the razors to most shaving subscription boxes. They have tons of amazing variety packs for a great price. I've tried their products myself and I highly recommend them!
However, my all-time-favorite razor has to be the Schick Hydro Silk. Not only does this razor give me the closest shave, but it seems to stay sharp longer than any other razor I've used. It also has the little "shave gel reservoir" that gives extra protection and moisture to the skin. Another great thing about this razor is that there is almost always coupons galore for these babies!

2. Whish Shave Cream (Non-Foaming Shave Cream) 
($20- Buy It Here)
The Almond-scented Whish shave cream is my holy grail currently, but this is also another pricey product. What I will recommend generally is that you find a cream-based shave cream rather than get a foaming one. Creams that don't foam up tend to protect the sensitive skin on your face and also provide a lot more moisture. I believe EOS also makes a non-foaming shave cream at a much lower price and I've seen it available at Target!

3. Shaveworks: The Cool Fix Gel Lotion 
This is another semi-pricey item, however you need an incredibly small amount of it to do the job. I believe it's usually used on legs, however I have used it on my face and haven't had any issues in regards to breakouts or having it irritate my skin. This lotion is amazing for getting rid of redness, irritation and ingrown hairs, however fair warning: it does burn a bit when you first apply it!

4. Holika Holika 99% Aloe Soothing Gel 
(You can get it cheaper from Korean websites, however Amazon has it up for around $10 HERE.
Honestly you could use any aloe gel you want, however I happen to have this one on hand quite often since it's inexpensive and the bottle lasts me ages! I never really understood the point of aloe gels for a long time- I felt like they were just another lotion, and who needs more of those? However Aloe gel is absolutely amazing for soothing irritated skin after shaving, no matter where you're shaving! I use this stuff immediately after I shave my legs, face etc, and it dries quickly as well so there's no waiting ages for it to absorb. If you can't find the Shaveworks Gel Lotion, or want a less expensive alternative, aloe gel is a great one!


Shaving Method
I have found the best method for removing my facial hair is shaving at the sink after I shower. The reason behind this is because the hair follicles are more open once you've taken a warm shower, however the water in the shower is not hot enough to really give you a close shave. 
Usually I dry off and put my hair up in a turbie twist or other towel, and then run the water in the sink as hot as it will go. I splash some of the water on my face (before it gets too hot) and then apply the Whish shaving cream liberally. I like to wait 15-20 seconds to let the shaving cream soften up the hair follicles before I begin shaving. I run the razor under the hot water and then begin. I frequently rinse the razor under the hot water to keep the blades warm and free of shaving cream buildup, which also helps for a super close shave- meaning you won't have to deal with embarrassing stubble a few hours later. You also don't want to press too hard or go over the same area too many times as it can cause irritation, so please be sure to change your blades frequently!
As soon as I'm finished shaving I run my hands over the area to make sure it's smooth and I didn't miss any spots. Then I pat my face dry, and immediately apply the Shaveworks gel or Aloe Gel to the area. I sometimes re-apply the Aloe gel after the first layer has dried because it just feels really nice! 

How to Hide Dark Hair Follicles on Your Face
The one thing that you might never be able to completely avoid are the dark hair follicles that show up even after you shave. Mine were not always as visible as they are now, and anyone that grows facial hair that wants to hide it knows how difficult this can be. I have seen many lovely trans women make youtube videos about how they hide their facial hair follicles, and while there are a million methods out there, this is the one I use most often:

1. Primer
 Once I've applied my skincare products, I will not only apply a primer to my entire face, but I will apply extra or an entirely different primer on top of the areas of my face where hair follicles are visible. It's most often visible on either side of my chin. Once I've applied the primer there, I will wait for it to dry completely before moving on to the next step. I don't have a product suggestion here as I use a wide variety of primers, but one that is used to hide pores is usually your best bet as it sinks a bit into the follicle and masks it more easily. 

2.Foundation/BB Cream
 While I prefer to use BB Creams as they make my skin look more natural, there are some days where the hair follicles on my face are just too obvious and a foundation is needed. I've really been digging the Maybelline Fit Me Matte and Poreless Foundation, lately! Once your primer is dry, apply your foundation as you normally would and then take a good look at the hair follicle area. If it looks covered and less noticeable, you can move on to step 3. If you can still obviously see them, it's ok to take a bit more foundation and pat it onto the area until it's blended and dry.

3. Concealer
 You are going to want to invest in a very high coverage concealer that also doesn't look cakey or unnatural on the skin. While the concealer I've been using for quite some time now is impossible to find (it's a Korean brand called drww) I have used many Western brand concealers, and I think the best ones are made by Make Up For Ever. I would head into a Sephora and do some swatching before making a decision on which one works best for you, but any concealer I've tried from MUFE has been excellent. 
During this step, I will take a small amount of concealer and start patting it on the hair follicles that are visible and continue to pat until it's completely blended. If you "wipe" the concealer it tends to smear rather than "fill" the area like you want it to. Give it a minute or so to dry after you've blended well and move on to the next step.

4. Translucent Powder
Since we've already loaded on primer, foundation and concealer, it isn't the best idea to also cake on a powder foundation or a colored powder. Using a translucent powder to set your makeup in your "problem area" is your best bet for a natural finish. My personal favorite is the Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder, which you can buy very inexpensively! It's under $6 HERE, and works amazingly well setting my makeup as well as keeping oil at bay!

5. Setting Spray
 Continue doing your makeup as usual, and once you're finished, make sure you use a setting spray! You never know what is going to happen throughout the day, and you want to be assured your makeup is going to stay in place, especially the makeup hiding your hair follicles. This is another product I don't have a recommendation for since I use whatever I have on hand, however I really love the Supergoop setting spray because it has SPF50, which is just an awesome bonus that many other sprays don't have!

Other Ways to Combat Unwanted Facial & Body Hair
The things I listed above are simply ways to deal with current facial hair/body hair issues, however are there things you can do or try that will have long-term results? The answer is yes and no. There is no one thing that works for everyone, and there are so many things out there that people swear by that it can get overwhelming and occasionally frustrating when you're spending your money on things that just don't work. Here's a short list of products, methods etc that I have tried or am starting to try in case you're interested in also trying them out for yourself. I cannot guarantee these things will work for you, but please feel free to give them a shot!

1. Spearmint Supplements

This is probably the cheapest thing you could possibly try to minimize your PCOS hair growth. A few months ago, I read a thread on a PCOS message board with women raving about the results of taking Spearmint supplements and/or drinking Spearmint tea. I found that Swanson Supplements has a bottle of 60 capsules for an insanely low price (you can buy them here). Why does this work? Not entirely sure, although there have been studies done that show that women who drank Spearmint Tea regularly saw a significant decrease of testosterone in their blood and saw a reduction in their facial hair growth. Since hair growth in PCOS sufferers comes from excess testosterone and hormone imbalances, this is really great news!

2. Diet and Exercise.
I know, I know. Most of already know how important this is for our bodies in general, but tweaking a few things in your life when it comes to fitness and diet can really have a positive effect on your excess hair growth. There have been many studies showing a reduction in PCOS symptoms when the patient reduced carbs in their diet. I already have a low-carb diet as it is, however I did notice a significant decrease in hair growth when I cut most carbs out of my diet.
I'm sure I'm not the only one that despises exercising, but I recommend finding something that you enjoy and making it a regular thing. I'm a pretty sedentary person, however one thing that always makes me want to get up and move is KPop. Yup. Call me crazy, but put on a good KPop song and I suddenly want to dance around my apartment like a fool. And that's exactly what I do for 20 minutes every day. It's not much, but it helps- a lot!

4. Meditation/De-Stressing
Many PCOS symptoms have been alleviated by using mediation. Stress is a huge factor in PCOS symptoms rearing their ugly head, so if you're like me an you're constantly worried or on edge, I would suggest finding something that helps ground you at the end of a long day. Whether that be meditation, reading a good book, taking a bubble bath etc- make sure you take time to unwind and relax. You'd be amazed at how much this can help!

4. Prescriptions
    Vanique- This cream helps reduce facial hair, although has to be prescribed by a doctor. I have not tried this product myself, but it's something to be aware of if you're going to be discussing your PCOS symptoms with your Primary Care Provider.
    Aldactone- This medication blocks androgens/ male hormones. This is one of many medications that you could discuss the pros and cons of with your PCP. Hormone therapy for PCOS patients can be a lifesaver, but there are side effects and issues that can arise, so be sure to talk to your PCP about medications and your options!

While it took a lot of mental strength for me to write this so openly, I really just got to a point where I was completely tired of hiding it and not talking about it. I hate the thought that someone who reads my blog might be going through similar issues and might feel really alone- I want my readers (old and new) to know that they are not alone in dealing with this. They don't have to feel embarrassed or less feminine or less confident because of this. Also- I am always here to answer questions or to listen if you need someone to vent to!

Since the facial hair thing took up a LOT of time and space, I decided to do a Part 2, which you can view here if you're interested!
Part 2 Will talk about hair loss, Hormonal acne and skin issues as well as other ways to deal with various PCOS symptoms.
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All thoughts and opinions in this blog post are genuine and belong to Harlot Beauty. No monetary compensation was received, although goods and/or services may have been provided and accepted for purpose of review. Post may contain affiliate or referral links.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for being so honest you are always a breath of fresh air! I totally agree that Bloggers should not photoshop pictures because it is dishonest! The reason I like reading posts from bloggers is because I want honesty- someone who is giving their opinions not because they are paid to but because they want to. I want reality and the reality is that nope we are not all models, but that doesn't mean that we are not beautiful so I feel we should embrace our imperfections, besides in the end it's what's inside that really counts. (I suppose I should step off my soapbox now lol) Anyway I guess what I'm trying to say is that I really love your blog so much! I trust and value what you have to say and appreciate all the time and effort that you take into writing wonderful posts! You are by far my favorite blogger!(and I hope one day to be able to write posts that are half as good as yours lol)Thank you for being so brave and honest while I don't have PCOS I do struggle with facial hair and hormonal acne so I found this post very helpful! Your just awesome! :)

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    1. Thank you SO much for being such a loyal and amazing reader for all this time! <3 I totally agree with you that we should all start to embrace and accept our imperfections and realize that we all have them and we should start to love and support each other rather than tearing each other down for things that aren't perfect!

      Thank you again so so much for being such an amazing person and a reader- it means so much to know that wonderful people like you are listening! <3

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  2. Rachel - thank you for this! I do not have PCOS, but as I get older, I do struggle with facial hair (at that V-line). I've tried both laser hair removal and electrolysis and it just keeps coming back! I use an epi a while a ago, but again, because it is delicate skin, it tugs and grabs my skin at that spot, so that made it very painful. I shave now and I hear ya on the stubble. I use MAC studio tech (a heavy cream) for that area - It does work, and I then powder over Mac studio finish powder. I will try the primer! It is amazing as we ladies get older, our hair crops up in places we don't want!! I drink peppermint tea, but I guess there must be a difference between peppermint & spearmint - I will have to pick up those supplements.

    thank you for a wonderful series - many women, even ones who don't suffer from PCOS, do suffer from some of these symptoms and I am glad you wrote about it. It is a hard thing to talk about, even though it is normal and there are more women out there than suffer from one or more of these symptoms than one might think!

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    1. You're absolutely right! While many women with PCOS suffer from these things- it's definitely not uncommon for ANY women to have to deal with this stuff! It's actually incredibly common for women to start getting facial hair as they get older- but of course because it's SO taboo or "unfeminine" in our society there are so many women suffering from it in secret- and I hate that thought! I can't tell you how many women have said "OMG ME TOO!" when I tell them about my facial hair woes. There needs to be more out there to help this issue, I think!

      <3

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  3. I've been reading and enjoying your blog for almost a year since encountering you on MUT. While I continue to read because I like your style and we seem to have similar taste in products, this is probably my favourite post. It's brave and true and admirable. I love when we, as bloggers, can take the venue we have and really say something that matters. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Meg, Thank you SO much for being a reader for so long! Sometimes it's still so crazy for me to think that there are people that actually read my blog outside of random google/search engine clicks! LOL- It's incredibly flattering and it makes me so genuinely happy and appreciative to have someone "on the other end" so-to-speak! It makes me feel like I'm not always talking to myself! ;)

      Thank you for the kind words about this post as well- I agree that while it's fun to talk about lipsticks and korean skincare, sometimes it's just as important to talk about more meaningful stuff, even if it means feeling a little uncomfortable while doing it! ;)

      *Hugs!* <3

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  4. It's a reality that there is no remedy for hair reduction. So if you're building a hairless spot or your hair is loss a bit, nothing short a hair implant can deliver a long lasting solution.The excellent news is that there are various types of products and solutions that can immediately hide hair loss, and cover up balding.

    Prevent from Wrinkles

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  5. Another option are home laser devices. They are however much more expensive than epilators but still more affordable compared to professional laser treatments which can end up costing thousands with numerous treatments. Some of the laser devices such as Tria use the same tech used as by the pros which is diode laser technology. Results are also better than epilating/shaving/waxing if you have the right skin/hair combination.

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  6. I am using Revitol hair removal cream to treat unwanted facial hair. Do you know any better method to get rid of facial hair?

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  7. The title is like my life story. You've hit every detail of my struggles.

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