We work with ladies to help combat some of the symptoms of PCOS that they have to self-manage. One of our team members has PCOS herself and has written a 3-part blog about her experiences with the symptoms.
Part 1 is about hirsutism and laser hair removal:
I was first diagnosed with PCOS when I was 29 and had been trying to get pregnant for what seemed like a very long time. Working with my NHS Doctor, I was desperate to hear something was wrong with me because then they could fix it. I was more scared of them finding nothing and still not being able to get pregnant.
However, after hearing the words ‘Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’ and being told to do as much research as I possibly could, I then had a really low period processing everything. I had a realisation that a lot of the things I thought were ‘normal’ and I just had to deal with, were in fact symptoms of my PCOS.
PCOS has a lot of associated symptoms:
- Irregular periods– more or less often, or missed months
- Hirsutism– excessive hair, often where men usually have more hair than women
- Acne or oily skin
- Thinning hair– hair loss on the scalp
- Weight gain
- Dark skin patches
- Skin tags
- Difficulty in getting pregnant
With 1 in 5 women having PCOS (according to the NHS), that is an awful lot of us needing help to manage these symptoms.
I got support from my Doctor and my local NHS Fertility Clinic to get pregnant and now have 2 children. But with help managing some of my other symptoms, I have had to look outside of the NHS and find my own solutions.
I am going to share my experiences with you across a few blog posts. In this one I talk about hairiness or to give it its official name ‘hirsutism’.
It’s a funny word, to me it just means very hairy in all the places I don’t want to be. This is a symptom I struggle with on a daily basis and have done since I hit puberty.
I am fairly hairy over my whole body but the area that caused me daily embarrassment was my face. I described myself as having a beard and a moustache. My eyebrows join with my hairline, I get hair spouting from the end of my nose and my chin got very thick black hairs.
When I was a teenager, I actually shaved my face (so hard to admit this) but I realised very quickly that this actually made the issue far worse, by increasing the stubble feel and speed of regrowth. I was too embarrassed to go for professional waxing and admit how hairy I was. And there was also no way I was going to grow the hair on my top lip for anyone to be able to wax it! So, I spent about 15 years manually plucking my top lip and chin.
My legs and armpits in the winter were always stubbly and, in the summer, needed shaving every day to get close to being smooth. I’d always said that my armpits got a ‘5 o’clock shadow’; I could have shaved them smooth in the morning and they’d be dark and stubbly by the end of the day. My legs always had the little black hair dots all over them even after a fresh shave and the hair grew back so quick, they needed shaving every day. Even waxing just didn’t long enough to warrant spending the money on it.
I had looked into laser hair removal a long time ago but decided that the results were not permanent enough for people without PCOS, never mind me and my hairiness. But fortunately, I revisited this just last year.
Laser hair removal has come a long way since I first looked into it. And the results of true laser hair removal can be very long lasting or permanent (don’t get confused with laser and IPL – read more about it here ). I have now had it done on my full legs, bikini line, underarms, and my top lip and chin.
If you’re going to go for this, you really need to commit to it. There are rules about when you can have it done in relation to sun exposure and you have to wait a certain amount of time between sessions. I worked out what time of year I wanted it all completed by and then planned in when all the sessions needed to fall to achieve it.
It took a total of 6 sessions on my legs, underarms bikini line to get long lasting results, but it was quicker on my lip and chin – just 4 sessions.
I was scared it was going to be painful, but it wasn’t.
I was scared it would be embarrassing, and it wasn’t.
For my legs, underarms and bikini line there wasn’t any special prep. You have to shave the areas but not for 2 days before treatment. This was easy. It was harder on my face having to shave but I’d started the laser treatment process on my body first, so I was confident I was going to get the results I wanted on my face too.
You also have to really commit because laser hair removal is fairly expensive. If you have a couple of treatments and then don’t carry on, you won’t get the long-lasting results you want.
A year in, I have smooth underarms that I don’t need to shave anymore. There is the odd hair from around the edge of the lasered area that I might pluck out, but nothing noticeable to anyone else.
The tops are my legs are amazing and of course I no longer struggle with ingrowing hairs on the back of my thighs anymore either. The bottoms of my legs are generally totally hair free; every now and then I get the odd lone hair make an appearance that I just pluck out. The same goes for my bikini line.
It wasn’t until I’d done all of this and invested time and money getting laser hair removal done, that I realised just how limiting my hairiness had been for me. I take my kids swimming far more now because I don’t have the rigmarole of shaving everything, I can just go at the drop of a hat. I wear more skirts and dresses in the summer more often, and I don’t just shave my ankles in spring anymore! Plus, my fake tan lasts much longer on my legs.
The skin on my face is also far happier. After plucking my top lip I would always get little blisters, and quite often where I’d plucked on my chin would turn into a spot. I don’t have to deal with any of that now.
It has made a massive difference to how I feel about myself. It has been a very freeing experience and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.