Women with a little hair on their chin or upper lip can feel like there’s something wrong with them – but it’s actually pretty common. Mona Chalabi writes at The Guardian that even the measurement tool that determines whether you are “hirsute” has some serious issues.
The Ferriman-Gallwey score puts a number on how hairy you are. Each of nine body parts can get up to four points. Add them up, and anything over eight points means you have hirsutism, along with about seven per cent of women; over 15 points, you have severe hirsutism. The amount of hair correlates with your hormones. There’s a large overlap between hirsutism and polycystic ovary syndrome, for example.
But, Chalabi reports, this score was developed on white women, who turn out to have less body hair than people of colour. Many people across the globe would qualify as hirsute on the Ferriman-Gallwey score even when there’s nothing wrong with their hormones. In a 2014 study, researchers compared the scores of healthy women from the US, England, Italy and Japan. They found that white British women had the least hair on their upper lip, while women from other ethnicities, including African-American and East Asian, had more.
Normal or not, a lot of women feel the need to remove whatever facial hair they may have, and Chalabi writes about the contradictions there too. We know that it’s silly to feel so bad about it – it’s just hair! – but we tweeze, bleach and wax just the same.