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Like many of my fellow hairy girls, I had a very early experience with depilatory creams - mainly because my parents completely forbid me from shaving, telling me that I was too young (and also that I would become hairier! What a lie).
While wistfully browsing the women’s body grooming section at the drugstore, I spotted my salvation (or so I thought) - a can of Veet, promising silky smooth legs, no shaving required.
I could finally stop being Chewbacca’s little sister.
This was it - I was finally going to get rid of my leg hair discreetly and effectively because it wasn't technically shaving. Well, my scheming little self was shocked when I actually used the stuff. I thought I would come out the other end of using Veet cream as a smooth, hairless nymph - but that wasn't the case.
Afterward, my legs were covered tiny, itchy bumps - AND, I still had patches of half-dissolved hair all up and down my legs. Not the look I was going for, obvi.
So what went wrong? Why is hair removal cream not working for me?
I didn’t patch test. Because depilatory creams are extremely basic (as in, alkaline) to dissolve the keratin bonds that hold your hair together, they can sometimes irritate skin. A patch test is the best way to check how resilient (or not, in my case) your skin will be to the chemicals in depilatory creams.
Second, it wasn’t strong enough for my thick hairs - even though it had been strong enough to irritate my skin and stink out my bathroom, I still had some thicker hairs left in uneven patches, something I clearly did not anticipate.
Luckily, this didn’t entirely put me off hair removal creams - they definitely have their advantages over other methods of hair removal, and are one of my favorite go-to products for being hairfree because they’re so easy to use and yield quick, hairless results.
How Does Hair Removal Cream Work?
Hair removal creams will use a blend of alkaline ingredients in a moisturizing, lotion-like base to soften hairs, and basically turn them to jelly so that they can be easily wiped away from the skin. Ta-dah!
You can use them pretty much anywhere on your body (legs, bikini, underarm, face) so long as it’s correctly formulated for that area - please don’t use body-strength creams on your upper lip!
It’s these same alkaline ingredients that are responsible for that signature, slightly nostril-singeing chemical smell that you get with hair removal creams. The smell can be a make or break deal for a lot of girls out there, and I don’t blame them - even hair removal creams that have scent added to cover-up fail to cover anything up at all!
Sometimes, such a strong chemical smell can make you wonder if maybe, just maybe, hair removal cream is bad for you. It’s okay, I can see how one would think that - they absolutely STINK and when used incorrectly, your skin could become very, very irritated. But on the whole, they’re completely safe to use, even during pregnancy! In that case, it’s more about whether or not your pregnancy nose can handle the smell.
Hair removal creams take anywhere from 5-10 minutes to work, and it’s absolutely essential that you stick to the time recommended to you on the instructions. There was a time when I decided that the instructions did not apply to me and again - I was left rashy for weeks after.
Does Hair Removal Cream Hurt?
IMO, this is the number one advantage that hair removal cream has over basically all other removal methods -
it’s actually painless.
...At least, it is when it’s done correctly. Hair removal cream should only ever be used on healthy, unbroken skin - no rashes, mosquito bites, shaving nicks, nada.
This goes for everywhere that you plan to use it, even on your bikini area - if you can’t handle bikini waxing but still want a smooth bikini line, hair removal cream could be the way to go - here’s my post about the best pubic hair removal cream.
If your skin is sensitive and always seems to tingle or burn (wash that ish off ASAP if it's burning!) then, unfortunately, hair removal creams may not be right for your skin type - luckily, there's a whole world of other de-hairing options out there.
Getting the Most Out of Hair Removal Cream
If you’ve used hair removal creams before, dutifully followed all the instructions and still found that you had a few leftover hairs time and time again, you might be sitting there thinking, “Wait, why doesn’t hair removal cream work on me?”
There are a couple tips and tricks that you can use to get the most out of your hair removal creams for gloriously smooth, hairfree skin.
A cream designed for facial hair might not be strong enough to dissolve hair on your underarms, and likewise, a product designed for your bikini area could be too strong for your face.
Like waxing, there’s an ideal length for hair removal via depilatory creams - because they rely on a thick, even layer coating the hair to dissolve it, some hair can be too short for it to be visibly effective.
Doing this helps ensure you’ve taken off as much of the hair as possible down to the root, totally eliminating any chance of leaving any half-dissolved hairs behind. Get ready to feel smooth AF!
Which Is Better: Hair Removal Cream or Waxing?
Now in comparison, waxing is a whole different ball game. The major difference is how exactly the hair is removed from the skin. Waxing rips hair out at the root for a few weeks of totally hairless skin but can be painful if you're not used to it. Hair removal cream only dissolves the visible hair on the skin, not the root, so regrowth from depilatory creams can appear pretty quickly - so you'd have to use a hair removal cream about once a week for general upkeep.
Improper waxing aftercare can leave you more prone to ingrowns than hair removal creams because the hair root is totally removed, and the hair has to regrow completely. But, there’s no funky smell and it’s over relatively quickly in the hands of a skilled aesthetician.
They’re both excellent ways of managing body hair (believe me, I know) and, at the end of the day, comes down to your personal hair-managing preference.
Here’s to happy hair removal!