Hypertrichosis can be either congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life. The excess growth of hair occurs in areas of the skin with the exception of androgen-dependent hair of the pubic area, face and axillary regions. The primary characteristic of all forms of hypertrichosis is excessive hair, which is usually longer than expected and may consist of any hair type (lanugo, vellus or terminal). Generalised hypertrichosis occurs over the entire body while localised hypertrichosis is restricted to a certain area. Extensive hypertrichosis carries an emotional burden and can cause cosmetic embarrassment.
In the past, people suffering from hypertrichosis often found jobs as circus performers. Examples include Russian Fedor Jeftichew (“Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Man”), Polish Stephan Bibrowski (“Lionel the Lion-faced Man”), Mexican Jesús “Chuy” Aceves (“Wolfman”), American Annie Jones (“the bearded woman”) and American Alice Elizabeth Doherty (“The Minnesota Woolly Girl”).