Dear Dr. Kate,
I’m a light skinned woman who’s pretty hairy all over, including hairs on my chin and around my nipples. Years ago I had an ob-gyn who said I could take a certain birth control pill in combination with something else that would actually make me less hairy. I never did it but I’ve always wondered about it. Now, just the other day, I saw a commercial for Vaniqa, what they’re touting as “the first and only FDA approved prescription cream clinically proven to reduce the growth of unwanted facial hair (UFH) in women.” Do you know anything about this? And why you can’t rub it everywhere? Do you have any other recommendations for safely and permanently removing things like facial hair, nip hair, that treasure trail from the belly button down, etc…?
— Bad Hair Day
Any birth control pill, with or without the other medication (likely spironolactone) will reduce body hair for many women. To my knowledge, Vaniqa hasn’t been tested on other areas of the body, so only has a label indication for the face. Using it any where else on the body is “off label” and runs the risk of a skin reaction/irritation. The only permanent removal methods for body hair that I’m familiar with are electrolysis and laser. While all procedures have risks, going to a reputable place with hygienic practices (preferably a dermatologist’s office) for either of these shouldn’t pose undue risk. However, both require multiple sessions and a bit of cash. So the birth control pill may be a better first attempt, especially since you get the added benefit of birth control.
There have been no studies on whether the birth control poll reduces nipple hair in women, but it does reduce “male hair growth” — i.e. hair on a woman’s face/chin and belly — so it should work for nipples, too. Of course, you could always just pluck those pesky nipple hairs — it works faster than the pill and is the route most women I know take!
— Dr. Kate
Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.