Five to ten percent of North American women have hirsutism, or excessive hair on their faces and bodies. Women have the same number of hairs on their bodies and faces as men do, but the male hormone, testosterone, makes hairs thicker, darker and longer, so they are more noticeable. Some women with heavy facial and body hair have normal amounts of testosterone and inherit this tendency. Others have a medical condition that causes their bodies to produce larger amounts of testosterone.
Women with noticeable facial hair should get blood tests for testosterone to measure male hormones made by the ovaries and DHEAS to measure male hormones produced by the adrenal glands. They should also get a sonogram of their ovaries to test for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in which the ovaries do not release eggs each month. Other PCOS symptoms include storing fat primarily in the belly, irregular periods, acne, or infertility. For more on diagnosis and treatment of PCOS see report #8124.