Depilatory creams are simply chemicals that transform hair at or slightly below the skin's surface into a gelatin-like mass which is then removed along with the chemical.
That's the semi-scientific explanation, anyway. Typically, these chemicals are in the form of a lotion which is applied and allowed to sit for about five to ten minutes before removal. It's important to remember that this isn't a permanent solution, and will require almost as much effort as shaving, since the hair isn't removed at the follicle as it is with tweezing or waxing.
If you suffer from ingrown hairs, especially in the bikini area, this method of hair removal might give you some relief. Part of the reason for this is that you don't have to use it as often as shaving. Also, when a razor is used to remove hair at the surface, it often regrows as a sharp point which is much more likely to curl in and become imbedded in another pore in the skin. With this method, the hair grows in with a blunt edge. Not that ingrown hairs are eliminated, but you may find you have significantly less.
The hardest part of using depilatory cream is the waiting. Application is as easy as putting lotion on, but sitting in one spot without messing up the application can be tricky. Removal is extremely easy.
I heard they smell. Is that true?
Yes, most of the lotions on the market do have a strong smell. This is due to the alkaline nature of the chemicals used. These chemicals are typically barium sulfide, sodium sulfide, calcium hydrosulfide and strontium hydrosulfide. Many products claim that they have a pleasant smell, but this is usually due to added perfumes.
Are they dangerous?
There have been reports of chemical skin burns and other problems with these lotions. However, following product directions closely will mostly prevent these kinds of problems. Formulations have been created for different areas of the body; for example, a formula created for the face will be much more gentle than a formula created for the bikini line. Both hair and skin are different in these areas.
How do I use them? Are they hard to use?
Typically, you apply the lotion as a thick paste on the skin and allow it to sit for seven minutes or so. Then you wipe away with a washcloth or tissue. Some products come with a remover, such as the Veet Rasera Bladeless Kit, which looks like a straight blade but will not cut the skin, only assist in removing the remaining hair.
So which ones do you recommend?
I can say honestly that most of these lotions are the same. There are different formulas for different needs, and some of the best ones I've found include:
- Veet Rasera Bladeless Kit for legs and larger areas. The "blade" really does help remove hair much easier than just a washcloth.
- Extra Strength Creme Hair Removal For Face by Sally Hansen is an excellent formula for facial hair.
- If you have a sensitive bikini area, Nair Sensitive Bikini Cream might be your best bet.
- For use in the shower, Nair Shower Power products look interesting, although I haven't tried them yet.