Rose Geil has polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s a common hormonal condition that's associated with irregular menstrual cycles, reduced fertility and excessive hair growth among other things.
In Rose's case, it meant that by age 12 she started noticing the growth of coarse facial hair which she began to shave on a daily basis.
Speaking to This Morning this week, the 39-year-old says the hair – which she unsuccessfully tried to treat through laser hair removal and medication – has had a deep impact on her social life that she was only able to overcome after she put down her razor.
“I don't feel like my full personality was ever present, and instead of facing ridicule, I hid," she says of her youth. "I didn't participate fully in school as a young child. Even going to class on a regular basis was difficult for me. I suffered all around."
After 26 years of trying to hide her hair from the world, Rose was emotionally drained. She realised that she was the only one holding herself back and after reaching a point where her skin could no longer physically take the constant shaving, she stopped and it turned her life around.
"Growing my beard has made me more confident,” she tells Barcroft Media. “I definitely feel womanly, sexy and sensuous. 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."
Through social media Rose found a welcoming community of people who were able to offer support and encouragement and share their own similar experiences.
She had been contemplating growing out her beard for a year before she took the plunge and was following the accounts of bearded woman and people who generally don’t conform to conventional gender ideas.
The experience was so instrumental in fact, that Rose says she couldn’t have done it without them. And now that she's been sharing her own story online, Rose has had a huge response from male suitors.
“Of course it’s really flattering to get this attention from men. Suddenly after 28 years of being told I didn’t have anything to offer and in fact what I had was a detriment, to be told that it’s actually an asset… is very exciting," she says.
Harnaam Kaur is 24 and also has excessive facial hair as a result of polycystic ovarian syndrome. After contemplating suicide as a result of intense bullying, she was encouraged to embrace herself as she is and has since been baptised Sikh, a religion that prohibits the cutting of hair.
Harnaam, who is from Berkshire, England, is now a body confidence and anti bullying activist, and in March this year she became the first bearded female model to walk in a major fashion show.
“I keep my hair to show the world a different, confident, diverse and strong image of a woman,” she tells RocknRoll Bride.
“I love my beard, it has become a part of my body. I look at it and is it a sign to me that we are all different and none of us are born the same. I love my lady beard and I will forever cherish it.”