The normal amount of body hair for women varies. Most of the time, a woman only has fine hair, or peach fuzz, above the lips and on the chin, chest, abdomen, or back. If you have coarse, dark hairs in these areas, the condition is called hirsutism. Such hair growth is more typical of men.
Women normally produce low levels of male hormones (androgens). If your body makes too much of this hormone, you may have unwanted hair growth.
In most cases, the exact cause is never identified. It tends to run in families. In general, hirsutism is a harmless condition. But many women find it bothersome, or even embarrassing.
A common cause of hirsutism is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS and other hormone conditions that cause unwanted hair growth may also have acne, problems with menstrual periods, trouble losing weight, and diabetes. If these symptoms start suddenly, you may have a tumor that releases male hormones.
Other, rare causes of unwanted hair growth may include:
Tumor or cancer of the adrenal gland
Tumor or cancer of the ovary
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Hyperthecosis (a condition in which the ovaries produce too much male hormones)
Use of certain medicines, including testosterone, danazol, anabolic steroids, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, minoxidil, and phenytoin
Rarely a woman with hirsutism will have normal levels of male hormones, and the specific cause of the unwanted hair growth cannot be identified.