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Excess Facial Hair

A problem affecting millions of women is excess facial hair. Removing it can be costly, time-consuming and painful. Now, for the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a treatment aimed at slowing hair growth.

Excess facial hair can be humiliating. The condition can range from mild to severe — one woman even had full sideburns while still in her twenties. Fifty-nine-year old Marge Mercadante had excess air on her upper lip and under her chin. The Bronx mother of three started having problems in her twenties and since then she’s been plucking, waxing and suffering through electrolysis and still the hair is not gone. It affected her self-esteem. "You think everyone is starring at you — looking at your face and mouth every time you talk. I feel funny." She says.

Enter eflorihane, marketed as vaniqa, a topical cream recently approved by the FDA. It slows hair growth by inhibiting an enzyme needed to grow hair. "Whether you’re plucking, waxing or tweezing, the patient will still have to continue doing that. But over time the activities will decrease because the product will cause the hair to grow slower," says Dr. Ken Washenik of the New York University School of Medicine who participated in the clinical trials.

The $25.00 a month cream must be applied twice a day for life, like a moisturizer. Results can be moderate or quite pronounced. Of 1400 patients studied, 32% showed marked improvement, 26% showed some improvement and 40% had no improvement. About 15% of patients experience side effects like burning, tingling and, to a lesser extent, acne.

Marge said she had no adverse reactions during her year of treatment. "I started to use the cream and within a week or two I could see. A big difference — less plucking. It was really good."

So, if it works for facial hair, what about bikini lines, legs, even men’s hairy backs, necks and beards? "I feel confident that people will start using it other places." Says Dr. Washenik. "What I can’t tell you is how well it will work. We haven’t done any studies on that."

Vaniqa is not a magic cream. It will not stop hair from growing completely or cause existing hair to fall out. However, it can slow hair growth and generally takes two months to work. But if you stop using it, any benefit will be lost. Doctors says excess hair can be caused by genetics or too much male hormone so you should have a full check up to determine why you have excess hair before undergoing treatment. Vaniqa will be available by prescription in September.

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