Why Do Some Sikh Women Have Facial Hair? Cause and Treatment FAQ

What Does Sikh Scripture Say About Hair?

Sikh Man and Woman
Sikh Man and Woman. Photo © [Courtesy S Khalsa]

Questions:

1) Why do some Sikh women have facial hair like beards, or mustaches?

2) What Does Sikh Scripture say about hair?

3) What causes woman to grow facial hair?

4) Is there medical treatment for facial hair?

5) How do Sikh women cope with facial hair?

Answers:

1) Sikhs believe in keeping all of their hair completely natural and unaltered in any way. All hair, including the facial hair of women, is considered a precious gift from the creator.

Cutting, bleaching, or removing facial hair is considered an act of vanity that encourages indulgence of egoism. The ego is believed to prohibit spiritual progress of the soul. Devout Sikh women who have been baptized and initiated as Khalsa are required by the the cardinal commandments to honor all of their hair, which is known in Sikhism as kes. The Sikh Reht Maryada (SRM), code of conduct document states that to dishonor hair is a punishable major beach of conduct for initiates.

2 ) Sikh scripture emphasizes that the divine is within each hair and that each hair is a tongue which repeats the name of God:

  • "Rom Rom Men Baseh Muraar ||
    With each and every hair resides God the enemy of pride." SGGS||334
  • "Romae rom rom romae mai gurmukh raam dhiaa-ae raam ||
    With each hair and every hair, the enlightened being meditates on the divine Lord." || SGGS||443

3) Whether or not any woman has facial hair, and how much, depends almost entirely on genetics.

Excessive facial hair, producing a mustache or beard, may result from a hormonal imbalance in the endocrine system. The most common medical condition which causes excess growth of facial hair known as hirsutism, is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome ( PCOS) which elevates hormones known as  androgens. However genetics may influence facial hair growth even without excessive androgen levels being present in the body.

PCOS may affect up to 10% of all women. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance which interferes with ovulation and produces cysts on the ovaries causing hormonal abnormalities, irregularity of the menstrual cycle, problems with infertility and a host of other symptoms including weight gain and acne, as well as affecting hair growth, or loss. Eating a low-glycemic diet, which involves balancing protein, fats and complex carbs, is often incorporated into the treatment and management of PCOS.

4) Eating a low-glycemic diet, which involves balancing protein, fats, and complex carbs, is often incorporated into the treatment and management of PCOS. Treatment of PCOS may also include medications which slow or prohibit hair growth, however existing hair remains intact. The option of removal by invasive artificial means directly conflicts with the basic tenets of Sikhism code of conduct which state that hair is essential to the Sikh faith and is to be honored and kept intact unmolested from birth onward.

5) Hair growth patterns usually associated with males may present an emotional challenge for hirsute affected women living in a society which prizes a face artificially denuded of hair for males as well as females.

Ultimately each woman has to make the choice for herself as to her level of commitment and devotion to the Guru and Sikh teachings. The rewards of self confidence, love of sangat, and the respect of all who see her honest face await the woman who embraces her true nature and Sikh identity. Such an empowered woman overcomes the conditioning of media and societies dictates, the lure of vanity, and fear instilled by cosmetic corporations ads that beauty can be found only in a bottle.

In 2012, a photograph posted to Reddit featured Balpreet Kaur, a devoted young Sikh women who made the choice to honor her kes and maintain her facial hair. What began as an attempt to ridicule her, ultimately earned her an apology and an overwhelming outpouring of love and respect from all around the world when her very gracefully expressed response went viral on the web:

"Baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being... and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying 'mine, mine' and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a separateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are." - Balpreet Kaur