Nellie-Jean Robinson, a 35-year-old bank employee from Florida, is trying to redefine beauty standards.
That's not an easy feat in today's society, but thanks to TikTok, she's off to a good start. In a recent video that now has over 10 million views on the platform, she showed off her facial hair — a common symptom of a condition Nellie has, called "hirsutism."
Hirsutism causes an excess growth of dark or coarse hair in people who are assigned female at birth. The hair is typically found in areas that are common for people assigned male at birth, such as the face, chest, and back. "Up until about five months ago, my daily routine was shaving. That's how I got rid of the hair daily," Nellie told BuzzFeed. "Recently, in the past five months, I have been waxing, which is every four weeks, and I no longer shave."
Nellie's aim in posting her video was to normalize the condition. "My goal was to reach my 14-year-old self or any young woman who was struggling with the same affliction," she said. "So they would know that they’re not alone and that they are beautiful and don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed of having facial hair."
Nellie's hirsutism is likely the result of her PCOS, aka polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can cause menstrual irregularity, ovarian cysts, and excess androgen levels (male hormones) in people who are assigned female at birth. BuzzFeed reached out to Dr. Brittany Craiglow, a Connecticut-based dermatologist, for more information on the condition.
"Hirsutism is a condition in which women develop excessive coarse, dark hair in a male-like pattern on the face, chest, abdomen, upper back and/or upper thighs. It is typically a sign of increased androgens, primarily testosterone, but can also have other causes," Dr. Craiglow told BuzzFeed.
Dr. Craiglow said hirsutism is typically first noted in the late teenage years and might become more prominent over time. "Treatment depends on the underlying cause, typically oral contraceptive pills are the most common treatment. Medicines that lower androgen levels, such as spironolactone, can also be helpful," she said. "Direct methods of hair removal can also be used, including creams, electrolysis, and laser hair removal. These should generally be combined with medical therapy for best results."
When asked whether there's been an effort by doctors to destigmatize hirsutism, Dr. Craiglow replied, "Hirsutism often causes a great deal of emotional distress for women, and doctors are understanding of this. Although presently there is no large-scale effort to destigmatize hirsutism, dermatologists are strong proponents of increasing awareness of many conditions that we see, particularly those that lead to visible differences."
Nellie hopes that her videos will help educate viewers on PCOS/hirsutism and inspire those who have these conditions. "I want women — especially those who have been newly diagnosed — to know that you are beautiful the way you are, with or without the hair, because it doesn’t define you as a person. Having a great character is the real flex, and, unfortunately in today’s society, it’s something people overlook."
"That being said, if you do have this condition, seek out a healer or a specialist to get it in order. Join therapy or get support if you need it," she said. "And if you are unhappy with the hirsutism, just know it can be treated and love the shit out of yourself first."
Amen to that. For more of Nellie's videos, make sure to follow her on TikTok!