A woman has grown out her facial beard after years of shaving every day and refusing to let anyone touch her face.
Nova, 26, first started growing facial hair when she was just 12 years old and began shaving it off after she was bullied.
At 16, Nova was finally diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes a hormonal imbalance and can result in excess facial hair.
The Virginia Beach local decided to grow out her luscious beard during No Shave November 2017 – and hasn’t looked back since.
“My confidence has grown a lot now,” Nova told Barcroft TV.
“I was letting go of this thing that I hated about myself for so long and now that it was there, it’s like I’m going to love this now and I do love it.
“I love it on myself, I love how it looks, it’s interesting, it keeps my face warm when it’s freezing and again it’s helping a lot of people.”
Nova’s confidence today is in stark contrast to when she was growing up.
“Having facial hair as a teenager really did affect my confidence a lot. I was afraid to go to sleepovers, I was afraid of people touching my face, finding out that I had this issue at all,” she said.
“I felt like a freak so it really did affect my confidence in a major way.”
After being bullied for the hair in her early teen years, Nova quickly began shaving, all the while having no idea what was happening to her body.
“When the hair first started growing I was completely miserable. I felt like a reject,” she said. “I felt disgusting, like, girls aren’t supposed to grow facial hair, why was I at such a young age?
“When this first started happening I did get bullied a bit. I had some kid commenting about how I was going to have more facial hair than him and there were girls who would make fun of my body hair and stuff in physical education, so I started shaving everything pretty young.”
PCOS is characterised by three features – irregular periods, excess androgen, which can cause excessive hair growth and polycystic ovaries.
Despite the name, patients with PCOS do not always have cysts on their ovaries, instead their ovaries become enlarged and contain many fluid-filled sacs which surround the eggs and can cause fertility problems.
However, some patients will develop cysts, which can be a painful symptom for many, especially when ruptured.
“As I grew up there was no question if I should stop shaving,” she said. “It had been a normal part of my routine. I shaved from the age of 12 until the age of 26 so it was very much a part of my normal routine to just keep doing it and I saw no reason to stop.
“As I got older and I made more friends who are new and good accepting people and I was with my partner for more and more time, I still continued to hide the facial hair, the body hair and everything because I personally felt disgusted by it.
“I wouldn’t let my partner touch my face at all. I was very self-conscious about anyone touching my face or any of my body really. I just felt like people would be disgusted in the way that I was personally.”
In November 2017, Nova decided to take part in No Shave November to raise money for men’s charities and to embrace her furry cheeks.
“When my hair first started growing I felt rebellious like this is something that I have been so terrified of my whole life but I was still very afraid of it,” she explained.
“The first couple days going out shopping, going to the grocery store I would try to hide my face from people and like turn away and brush my hair over my face so people wouldn’t see me, so I was terrified but at the same time I felt increasingly more liberated from my own personal hell basically.
“I put myself through so much torture and now I’m finally letting go of it, so it felt terrifying but incredible at the same time.”
Finally embracing her hair growth, proud partner Ash loves Nova’s new furry face.
“I like her either way to be honest. She’s still Nova, she’s still my girlfriend,” Ash said.
Since growing out her beard, Nova’s confidence has grown dramatically and she hopes to inspire more women to feel more comfortable with their body hair.
“I feel like I can do more in the world, I can do more to help people, I can do more to help myself. I can make other people happy, I can make myself happy.”
Got a story tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org