The Link Between PCOS and Excess Facial Hair

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Facial hair growth by itself does not indicate that you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), though hirsutism—unwanted or excess body hair—is one of the most distressing symptoms of PCOS. 

In some cases, the exact cause of facial hair in women is never known, although it often runs in families.

A woman shaving face in mirror
Philipp Nemenz / Getty Images

Symptoms of Hirsutism

Most women have fine, light-colored, and barely noticeable thin hairs (called vellus hairs) that grow above the lips, on the chin, chest, abdomen, or back. This is usually referred to as "peach fuzz" and is normally developed in childhood.

When women have coarse, visible, dark hairs growing in the place of the vellus hairs in these areas, the condition is called hirsutism. These coarse hairs are referred to as terminal or androgenic hairs, and they normally develop during puberty.

Causes

If your body makes too many androgens or male hormones, like testosterone, you may experience unwanted hair growth, especially in the central part of your body (between your breasts, belly button, inner thighs). 

Some causes of excess androgen productions, and thus hirsutism, include the following conditions: 

Hirsutism is tied to the use of certain medicines and supplements, including but not limited to:

When PCOS Is to Blame

If you think your PCOS may be the cause of your hirsutism, you should see your healthcare provider about your symptoms.

Though there is no definitive test for PCOS, a diagnosis is usually made after your healthcare provider conducts an extensive review of your medical history and confirms the presence of symptoms such as: 

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Signs of hyperandrogenism—like facial hair, hair loss, and acne—without another medical cause
  • Weight gain or trouble losing weight and/or diabetes
  • Skin tags in the armpit or neck area
  • Darkening skin, especially along the neck, groin, or underneath breasts

To distinguish PCOS from other conditions, your healthcare provider will likely take a full medical history and perform a physical and pelvic examination to look for signs of PCOS (such as swollen ovaries or a swollen clitoris).

Usually, they'll also order blood tests to measure the following hormone levels:

Other tests may also be ordered, such as:

Once all of the prescribed tests are performed, the healthcare provider will look at all of the results and clinical information to come to a medical diagnosis. 

Treatment Options

Since hair grows in different phases, in six-month cycles, hirsutism is generally a long-term condition. There are multiple treatment methods for unwanted hair, some of which are more effective than others.

Some examples include:

For overweight or obese women, weight loss may help reduce excess hair growth.

Was this page helpful?
5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women's Health. Polycystic ovary syndrome. Updated April 1, 2019.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Excessive hair growth (hirsutism). Updated January 13, 2018.

  3. Mihailidis J, Dermesropian R, Taxel P, Luthra P, Grant-Kels JM. Endocrine evaluation of hirsutismInternational Journal of Women’s Dermatology. 2015;1(2):90-94. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2015.04.003

  4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ovarian cysts. Updated February 2020.

  5. Agrawal N. Management of hirsutismIndian J Endocr Metab. 2013;17(7):77. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.119511