Hair removal creams are an easy, inexpensive, and safe alternative to shaving, electrolysis, or laser hair removal. Before spreading on a cream, however, interested consumers should understand how they work as well as their pros and cons.
About Chemical Depilatory Creams
Chemical depilatories, more commonly called hair removal creams, work because their unique chemistry affects the chemistry of individual hair strands. The active chemicals in the creams break down keratin, the principal protein that forms hair strands, allowing it to be safely wiped away with gentle friction rather than requiring a blade or other harsh treatment. The precise effects of the cream vary based on its strength and the color and coarseness of the hair being removed as well as the length of time the cream is left undisturbed on the hair to act. Removal creams can be used on:
- Leg hair - This is the most common hair removed by creams.
- Arm hair - Another common area for hair removal.
- Armpit hair - Strong formulas are required to remove coarse underarm hair.
- Bikini hair - Creams will not leave embarrassing razor bumps.
- Chest hair - Men who want a smooth look can easily use creams.
- Facial hair - Special formulas are necessary so they do not irritate sensitive skin. Note: depilatory creams are not recommended for eyebrows because the chemicals can be dangerous if they contact the eye.
Choosing the Right Cream
With different types of body hair having different textures and strengths, it is important to choose the best cream for your anticipated needs. Unlike the general creams of years past, manufacturers now offer a range of formulas specially designed for different types of hair - coarse or fine - as well as for different areas of the body to minimize irritation. Individuals with sensitive skin should opt for milder formulas containing moisturizer and aloe, and creams should always be used on the appropriate area of the body for best results. In addition to creams, hair removal products are available as gels, roll-ons, mousses, sprays, and powders. Strength and effectiveness does vary, however.
How to Use Hair Removal Creams
Once you have found the right cream, the best way to achieve smooth results is to use it properly.
- First, read the instructions carefully. Every product is slightly different and may require different steps to maximize its effectiveness.
- Hair removal creams are best used after a bath or shower, when the area to be treated is clean and the hair has been softened by the warmth and water. This also opens the follicles, allowing the cream to penetrate further below the skin.
- Test a small, discreet area in the same body region before a more widespread application. This helps determine how long to let the cream sit and will help discern any negative skin reactions.
- Do not apply a hair removal lotion or cream over even small abrasions, scratches, or cuts, and do not use the product on sunburned skin. The strong chemicals can be extremely painful on damaged skin.
- Apply the cream thickly and evenly over the area to be treated and let it sit for the recommended period. After the appropriate time has elapsed, remove a small area of cream to test the effectiveness of the treatment, and if the hair comes off easily, remove the rest.
- Remove cream with a damp washcloth using firm strokes in the direction of the hair growth. After the bulk of the cream is removed, rinse skin thoroughly to remove any residual traces.
Interested individuals should carefully consider the pros and cons of using creams before deciding to try these popular products.
If used properly, hair removal creams have many benefits, including:
- Painless hair removal without the risk of nicks and cuts.
- Fast treatment - usually 3-15 minutes - depending on the type of hair and the specific cream used.
- Inexpensive products, generally $4-8 per bottle, which will last for several applications.
- Products are available at most major retailers and drugstores, making them easily accessible.
- Results last up to twice as long as shaving depending on the hair and the type of product used.
- Creams can also exfoliate and moisturize skin for truly radiant results.
At the same time, removal creams are not suitable for everyone, and they can have some serious drawbacks.
- Many creams have strong, unpleasant odors.
- Chemical burns can result if creams are left on too long.
- Dark hair may have a residual shadow beneath the skin even if the cream is used properly.
- Individuals with sensitive skin may develop rashes, itchiness, or allergic reactions to harsh creams.
- If applied unevenly, hair removal will also be uneven.
There are many different brands of depilatory creams, and while some come and go through infomercials or short-lived popularity (such as the once familiar Enleve brand), others have developed exceptional reputations for quality and effectiveness. Some of the more popular brands include:
These and other brands can be purchased in most stores as well as online on popular hair care websites such as Folica.com.
Depilatory hair removal creams are a quick and easy solution to hair removal woes for many people. Understanding how these creams work and how to use them properly will help you choose the best cream for your hair removal needs.