Everything You Need to Know About Hair Removal Cream, the Painless Way to Remove Body Hair (2024)

Also known as depilatories, hair removal creams are applied directly to your skin and work by essentially dissolving any existing hair. Yep, you literally just slather it on, wait a few, and then wipe away for a hair-free finish.

Unlike waxing or sugaring, hair removal creams are completely pain-free (though admittedly a bit stinky), and you can use them over and over again to maintain smooth skin. They’re also way cheaper than laser hair removal treatments. For everything you need to know about hair removal creams, scroll ahead.

RELATED: The 7 Most Common Hair Removal Mistakes

How Does Hair Removal Cream Work?

Hair removal creams, lotions, and gels contain a chemical—usually thioglycolic acid, calcium thioglycolate, or potassium thioglycolate—that breaks down keratin, the protein found in hair.

“The hair is turned into a jelly-like consistency and is swept away when the product is removed,” explains Merry Thornton, PA-C, founder of Element Medical Aesthetics in New Canaan, Conn. As the protein breaks down, hydrogen sulfide is released. That’s what gives hair removal creams that infamous stinky-sweet odor.

Only the exposed hair on the skin’s surface and down into the upper hair shaft is removed, notes skincare pro Rebecca Gadberry, co-host of Facially Conscious. She says, “The hair bulb, or root, remains. This is why these products only deliver temporary results and can leave a ‘shadow’ under the skin’s surface if the root is dark.”

How to Use Hair Removal Cream

Hair removal cream is generally safe, but it’s important to follow directions exactly. We also recommend doing a patch test and waiting 24 hours—especially if you have sensitive skin—to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. That said, here’s how to use hair removal cream.

Step 1: Wash Up

Wash your hands and the area where the product will be applied. Dry completely.

Step 2: Apply the Cream

“Apply generously and evenly to the area with a downward ‘tapping’ motion rather than rubbing the cream into the skin,” says Gadberry. “Make sure the hair is completely covered.”

Step 3: Wait

Follow label instructions for how long you should wait, which can range anywhere from three to 10 minutes. Try to remain still. “Moving around can cause the product to move, drip or fall off your skin, especially if you’re using it on your legs, underarms and pubic region,” Gadberry says. She adds that it’s normal to feel light tingling or itching while it works, but if you experience any pain or burning, remove it immediately with water.

Step 4: Remove the Lotion

Gently, but firmly, rub the cream from your skin. “As you do so, the friction will also remove the hair, so don’t just rinse the product off,” notes Gadberry. “Follow with a gentle facial cleanser or body wash and cool or warm water to remove thoroughly.” avoid hot water, which can cause irritation.

It’s imperative to remove the hair removal cream as soon as the time has elapsed. Because keratin also fills the top layers of cells that form skin’s barrier, if the cream is left on too long, keratin in this area can also be denatured, causing extreme sensitivity, itching, irritation, burns, blisters and peeling.

Step 5: Dry & Hydrate

Follow with a soothing barrier repair cream or lotion to hydrate, smooth, and bolster your skin’s barrier. Avoid using any active ingredients, including retinoids and acids.

How Long Do Hair Removal Cream Results Last?

How long hair removal cream lasts depends on how fast your hair grows. Thornton says that the average regrowth rate is about two to five days, but this varies from person to person. This is a shorter amount of time compared to waxing, threading, or plucking—where the root is removed, too—but a bit longer than shaving.

Considerations When Using Hair Removal Cream

People with sensitive skin or allergies to fragrance might want to skip these creams, Thornton advises. Also, make sure to use the creams only on the body parts they are indicated for.

“Some people might be bothered by the scent, although many of the newer formulations smell better than they did years ago,” says Thornton. “The skin will also be more sensitive to the sun afterwards, so consider this before going outside. Also, if the creams are not used as directed, you can get a chemical burn.”

Finally, there’s a possibility for patchy results, which is a potential drawback for larger areas like the legs. If this happens, it’s best to wait a few days and re-apply since you don’t want to over-use the product in the same area.

Everything You Need to Know About Hair Removal Cream, the Painless Way to Remove Body Hair (2024)
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