What Is Depilatory Cream?


Depilatory creams remove unwanted body hair by means of a chemical process, providing an alternative to other methods such as shaving, waxing, plucking or laser hair removal. The process is relatively simple, can be done at home, and the procedure is usually well-tolerated by most skin types. Depilatory creams have been used for decades and a variety of formulas have evolved for specialized uses.

Chemical Process

A depilatory cream uses chemicals such as calcium thioglycolate and sodium thioglycolate which dissolve the part of the hair shaft that is above or very slightly below the skin surface.


The user applies depilatory cream to the area where hair is to be removed, such as legs, underarms, bikini area, body, and sometimes the face but the latter requires a gentler product designed specifically for the face. Do not rub the cream into the skin, but apply it to cover well. Leave the cream on for the length of time recommended by the manufacturer's instructions, never longer since that could cause irritation. If the skin begins to sting, remove immediately.


Depilatory creams are easy to use and are normally painless. They avoid the nicks and cuts associated with shaving, and regrowth will tend to show later than with shaving because it was removed more deeply. Hair does not grow back thicker or darker. Depilatory creams are relatively inexpensive compared to specialized salon treatments such as waxing or laser hair removal.


The chemicals in depilatory creams, though strong-smelling, are usually painless and safe. However, in some people with sensitive skin or allergies, the chemicals may cause an allergic reaction or irritate the skin. When first using a product, perform a patch test by applying a portion of the product to just one small area. If it becomes itchy, red or inflamed, do not use the product. Never use on any skin that is already irritated, scratched or has an open cut, nor should it be used near the eyes.


Depilatory creams are available in a range of special formulas, including those specifically created for sensitive skin, facial hair, extra moisturizing or perfumed products. Forms include lotions, gels, roll-on creams, powders and aerosols. They are available over-the-counter at drug stores, large discount stores and virtually any store that supplies general grooming products. Brand names such as Nair and Veet as well as generic depilatory creams are available.

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