Hypertrichosis: What Is “Werewolf Syndrome”?

What Is Hypertrichosis?

werewolf syndrome

Hypertrichosis is a condition that results in excessive hair growth, often on the face, arms, chest and back. For this reason, it is often referred to as “Werewolf Syndrome.” Hypertrichosis is very rare, but has existed for several centuries. In the 19th and early 20th century, individuals with the condition were often employed in “Freak Shows” and promoted as humans with animal-like characteristics.


Hypertrichosis can be congenital, meaning it is present at birth or it can be acquired later in life. Congenital hypertrichosis is thought to be the result of a genetic mutation. Acquired hypertrichosis can occur as the result of certain medications that encourage hair growth or as a result of severe eating disorders.


There are two main types of hypertrichosis:

Generalized Hypertrichosis

Generalized hypertrichosis refers to excessive hair growth in various areas of the body, usually the face, forearms, legs, chest, stomach and back.

Localized Hypertrichosis

Localized hypertrichosis refers to an increase in the length and density of hair, usually restricted to one area of the body.

abnormal hair growth


  • Excessive hair growth in various areas of the body
  • Excessive hair growth in one area of the body


Diagnosing hypertrichosis can be done through an examination by a doctor. If a patient presents with excessive hair growth in one or multiple areas of the body, it is likely they have a form of hypertrichosis.


hair removalThere is no cure for congenital hypertrichosis, but acquired hypertrichosis can be resolved by treating the underlying cause. If the underlying cause is a medication, stopping the medication will usually reverse the hypertrichosis. If the hypertrichosis is caused by an eating disorder, recovery and resolution of the eating disorder will typically resolve the excessive hair growth.

Treatment for hypertrichosis is focused more on management of the condition, Managing the excessive hair growth may consist of various depilation methods, such as shaving or waxing. Depending on the severity of the hypertrichosis, hair may grow back rapidly and depilation methods will need to be repeated frequently. Longer-lasting methods of hair removal include laser hair removal and electrolysis, which target the hair follicles to prevent hair growth.

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