Rose Geil first started noticing excess facial hair when she hit puberty at 13. In an effort to hide it, she began shaving her face. Doctors recommended laser hair removal and medication. But nothing worked.
“It was exhausting trying to keep [my beard] hidden,” Geil said in an appearance earlier this week on the British talk show This Morning. That’s why the 39-year-old from Portland, Oregon, has decided to let it grow.
Geil has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal disorder affecting as many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. It can lead to symptoms like weight gain, irregular periods, and trouble getting pregnant. Women with PCOS may have elevated levels of male hormones called androgens, which can trigger excess facial and body hair, called hirsutism.
For 26 years, the disorder ruled Geil’s life. “I don’t feel like my full personality was ever present, and instead of facing ridicule, I hid,” she said. “I didn’t participate fully in school as a young child. Even going to class on a regular basis was difficult for me.”
Nine months ago, Geil made the decision to stop shaving. “My skin was just torn up, and I really couldn’t handle putting a metal blade to my skin just one more day,” she said. “I was emotionally drained from trying to hide my beard every day and feeling like I was failing miserably.”
Within six weeks, she developed a full beard—and a newfound sense of confidence.
“I definitely feel womanly, sexy, and sensuous,” she said in an interview with Barcroft TV. “I feel more feminine, and it has very little to do with my appearance. It comes from my attitude and giving myself the freedom to be who I am.”
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Social media has helped ease the transition by giving Geil access to a supportive online community.
“Through social media I met a few people in the bearded community. They were very welcoming as soon as I put myself out there,” she told Barcroft TV. “To see these women living their lives, as normal as they want to be, was a great inspiration. They’ve opened my eyes to the beauty of self-acceptance.”