Is hair removal cream safe? In this post, we will be discussing the Disadvantages Of Using Hair Removal Cream. Removing unwanted hair from the body has been practiced by almost all human cultures. Certain codes of conduct are in play concerning hair and the removal of it in society, and those who do not adhere to these aesthetical codes can face major social problems.
Consequently many different methods have been developed to remove superfluous hair. The use of cream and chemical depilatories is one popular and effective technique to temporary eliminate excessive and culturally unaccepted body hair with immediate results.
Disadvantages Of Using Hair Removal Cream
The History of Depilatory Creams
Depilatory creams date back as far as 4000 – 3000 BC when women made their own creams which contained ingredients such as starch and arsenic to remove the hair from their bodies. In Roman times creams were modified and developed and were seen as a popular alternative to the bloody mess caused by blades.
In the 19th century it was popular for women to experiment with homemade depilatory creams which contained more natural ingredients such as wine, oak and walnut oil. Today, depilatory creams continue to be an effective method of removing unwanted hair from the body.
is hair removal cream safe
Unlike other methods which destroy the follicle of the hair, depilatory creams work by removing the part of the hair above the surface of the skin.
The hair is made up of a protein called keratin, and depilatory creams contain a mixture of slightly caustic chemicals including sodium and calcium thioglycolate, which break the bonds that link the keratin together and give hair its strength. After several minutes the chemicals dissolve the keratin in the shaft of the hair at the surface of the skin causing the hair to fall out.
How to use Hair Removal Creams
Whilst using hair removal creams is a simple and straightforward procedure, there are certain steps which need to be followed in order to achieve optimum results. Firstly, a small test patch should always be performed prior to applying the cream to a larger area, as some people can be sensitive to the chemicals in the cream.
If an adverse reaction does take place, the skin tested will turn red and may itch and cause irritation. For the majority of people however, no such reaction occurs and they can continue to apply the cream.
Ensure that the area where the cream is to be applied is clean, dry and free from any oils or lotions, as these products can prevent the chemicals from working properly. Also always guarantee the area is free from any cuts or irritation, as hair removal cream applied to broken skin can be very uncomfortable. Apply the cream generously but without going overboard, ensuring that the whole area is covered.
It is important not to rub the cream in, instead use the spatula that is usually provided with the cream and gently dab it onto the skin. Leave the cream on for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Do not guess the time, use a watch and remove the cream when stated as leaving it on for too long can cause burning and irritation of the skin.
Remove the cream and the hair with the spatula provided, scraping the residue in a downwards motion. Rinse with warm water to ensure all of the depilatory cream has been removed and the area is clean. Dry the skin and if an after lotion has been provided with the cream, apply some liberally.
Alternatively, a mild body lotion can be used to help soothe and moisten the skin. Refrain from using any harsh products on the area for several days as they could irritate the skin.
Because hair removal creams work by chemically dissolving the hair, the chemicals have to be mildly acidic. Caustic chemicals are usually slightly pungent and although depilatory creams are perfumed, they have a distinct smell, which many people can find off-putting.
This hair removal method can also be quite messy, especially when using it on the bikini line. Unlike shaving, depilatory creams can cause an allergic reaction which can cause some stinging and discomfort. Hair removal creams are not suitable for all areas of the body and should be refrained from being used near the eyes or where there is any broken skin.
Similar to shaving, depilatory creams need to be used extremely frequently, because re-growth appears several days later. This method of hair removal is only temporary, and some people find having to repeat the process as often as every three days, tiresome and off-putting. Although these creams do usually thwart re-growth for a day or so longer than shaving does.
To adhere to the ever increasing quest for ultra-smooth and hairless bodies depilatory creams have gradually became harsher as more caustic ingredients have been added to become more effective tools in removing hair. The high PH level found in hair removal creams can have a negative effect on the skin, especially mature skin. As skin matures it becomes more susceptible to the harsh elements it has been relentlessly exposed to.
The caustic nature of hair removal creams can therefore have a negative effect on the skin, especially if the skin is mature or sensitive. It is therefore of paramount importance to carry out a patch test and follow the instructions provided with the depilatory cream package. If the procedure is carried out correctly, depilatory creams are an effective, versatile, inexpensive, painless and almost immediate method to conform to society’s expectations regarding body hair.
What are hair removers, and how do they get rid of unwanted fuzz?
Creams. Wax. Sugar. Lasers. We get to the scientific root of depilation
It’s almost summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures are rising, swimming pools are opening, and bare arms and legs are emerging from winter clothing.
For some people, the start of shorts-and-swimsuit season means it’s time to get rid of body hair. These sunseekers have an array of techniques to turn to: hair removal creams, waxing and sugaring, lasers, and even a good ol’ pair of tweezers. Knowing how the various options work might help you decide which one to use.
Getting rid of body hair is a billion-dollar industry and growing worldwide. But depilatories are nothing new. Evidence indicates that prehistoric cultures used stones and shark teeth as crude razors. Some ancient Egyptians removed hair with tweezers, razors, and pumice stones and ripped it out with wax or sugar pastes, leaving behind only their eyebrows.
Chemical removers have ancient roots too. People living 6,000 to 7,000 years ago in what is now Turkey used hair removal creams made with quicklime (calcium oxide). Likewise, American Indians applied lye to get rid of their body hair, a practice colonists adopted. Bases like lye and quicklime hydrolyze nitrogen-containing amide bonds in hair’s proteins, breaking bristles down. Drain-clog removers work the same way.
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Not every historical hair removal tactic has survived, and for good reason. Inventor Albert C. Geyser successfully marketed a machine in the first half of the 20th century that could permanently remove hair with a dose of X-rays. It was quickly banned once the detrimental health effects of the radiation became apparent. A study in the 1970s attributed a full third of radiation-related cancers in women to devices like Geyser’s.
Today, the hair removal options available at home or at professional salons are safe and—depending on your tolerance—relatively painless.
Creams are a popular option for at-home removal. To understand how these work, you first have to understand hair. Hair is made of fibrous proteins called keratin, twisted like yarn or rope into long bundles. Keratin strands are cross-linked by covalent disulfide bonds and weaker hydrogen bonds. These are depilatory creams’ targets.
The active ingredients in brands Veet and Nair are salts of thioglycolic acid like potassium thioglycolate or calcium thioglycolate in combination with bases such as calcium, sodium, or potassium hydroxide. The bases serve two purposes. They cause the hair to swell, opening its keratin fibers to allow thioglycolate to penetrate. The bases also remove the proton on thioglycolate’s thiol group. Once thioglycolate’s proton leaves, its sulfur atom is free to attack the hair protein’s disulfide bonds. Break enough of those, and the hair degrades completely and can simply be wiped away.
Because of this mechanism of action, chemical hair removers are remarkably selective, studies have shown. Researchers tested Nair on thin, thick, and medium hair, and on cotton, rayon, and polyester fibers. All three strands of hair broke within 10 minutes, but the remover had no effect on the other fibers, none of which contain disulfide bonds.
Other experiments have shown that cream hair removers should have a pH between about 12.0 and 12.5 to make sure the products work quickly but aren’t so caustic that they burn the skin, which has a pH of 4.5–5.5. Dermatologist Meghan Feely says cream hair removers can cause chemical burns for some people. They should be used according to their directions to minimize risk.
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Because these chemicals are so effective, the book is basically closed on finding new depilatory agents, says Heike Hanau, a marketing manager for Merck KGaA, which used to supply calcium thioglycolate for hair removers. But she says chemists are still working to improve depilatories’ smell. One by-product of thioglycolate’s reaction with disulfide bonds is hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.
Waxing is another common method for hair removal that can be done at home or by a professional in a salon. Wax, a mixture of lipids and long alkanes, can come from bees, plants, or petroleum products. The long alkyl chains make the wax a malleable solid at or just above room temperature. For hair removal, the wax is generally heated and spread across the skin. As it cools and hardens, it traps hairs, and when it’s yanked away, it pulls them out or breaks them off.
Sugaring has emerged in recent years as a trendy alternative to waxing. It works by the same principle: Spread a thick paste across the skin, then pull it off, along with some hairs. Sugaring wax, as it’s sometimes called, can be made at home with a recipe candy makers will recognize: Heat a mixture of water, table sugar, and lemon juice to about 120 °C until it turns golden brown, otherwise known as caramelization.
In this reaction, water hydrolyzes table sugar, known to chemists as sucrose, splitting it into glucose and fructose. The acid in lemon juice acts as a catalyst by protonating the oxygen that links sucrose’s two halves, encouraging addition of a hydroxyl group from water. The product, the mixture of hydroxylated glucose and fructose, is known as invert sugar in the food world, and it crystallizes at a higher temperature than sucrose alone, making for a spreadable wax.
Fans of sugaring typically offer two arguments for why it’s better than waxing. First, it allegedly penetrates more deeply into hair follicles for more complete removal. Society of Cosmetic Chemists President Perry Romanowski says there’s no evidence to support that claim. How well it works and how much it hurts mostly come down to the skill of the person pulling the hair, he says. The second claim is that the paste adheres only to dead skin cells, not live ones, reducing irritation when it’s yanked away. American University’s Matthew Hartings, who studies food chemistry and is also a member of C&EN’s advisory board, is doubtful. “I’ve got a lifetime of trying to clean caramel off my hands that calls shenanigans on that,” he says.
And then there are lasers, the newest entrant in the hair-removal game. Professionals train these instruments, tuned to an infrared wavelength absorbed by the pigment melanin, on the hair that needs removing. Melanin gives hair—as well as skin—its color. The absorption heats up the hair, frying it down to its roots beneath the skin. It works best on dark hair against light skin, but experiments have shown that neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet lasers, which can focus more tightly than the diode lasers commonly used, can be effective on dark skin.
Hair-removing lasers require approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration before people can use them. Other hair-removing products may also if a bill introduced in the Senate becomes law. The Personal Care Products Safety Act would give FDA many of the same powers to regulate cosmetics that it currently has to regulate food. Companies would be required to disclose the ingredients in their products and give the agency jurisdiction to evaluate whether those ingredients are safe for people to use.
Because hair removal has a long history and most of the methods around today have been used for decades or millennia, depilatory methods are unlikely to change. Which product you prefer to remove a little hair here or there is probably less important than getting out there and enjoying summer.
Hair Removal Creams 101
Some people just have more hair than they’d like. Long, flowing tresses may be appealing, but a full body of hair — on men or women — may not be. If you’re feeling too hirsute and looking for a way to remove unwanted patches of body hair, hair removal creams may be the answer.
Many people remove body hair by shaving, but the effect of razors may be too temporary. It can also be challenging to reach some of those difficult spots, like your back, and shaving too often in one spot can cause irritation and make you more susceptible to cuts. Other hair removal options include lasers and electrolysis, but these methods are time-consuming, expensive and perhaps too permanent. They also often carry many potential side effects. Depilatories, more commonly known as hair removal creams, offer a reasonable alternative. Depilatories work by breaking down the hair’s protein structure so that the hair comes out of the skin easily when you rub off the cream [source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration].
Wipe on, wipe off — it sounds easy, right? Hair removal creams may seem like a pretty simple solution, but as with any skin treatment, you should know your products before you run out to buy them and start slathering them on. Whether or not hair removal creams will work for you depends on your hair and skin type. The body part on which you’re applying cream and the amount of hair you have are factors, too. You should consider how often you are willing to apply cream, as most people need to use depilatories once a week. Hair removal creams also have potential side effects, some of which can be painful.
If you think depilatories might work for you, then read on to learn more about how they work, what ingredients they contain, and their advantages and disadvantages.Contents
- Chemistry of Hair Removal Cream
- Benefits of Hair Removal Creams
- Problems with Hair Removal Creams
- Choosing Hair Removal Creams
Before you put something on your skin, you might want to know what’s in it and what it does. The term “depilatory” actually refers to any method for removing hair. The hair removal creams discussed in this article are called chemical depilatories because they contain a few different alkaline chemicals, such as sodium thioglycolate, strontium sulfide and calcium thioglycolate, that react with the hair on your body.
So what exactly do these chemicals do? Depilatories are usually available as creams, but they also can come as gels, lotions, aerosols or roll-ons. Once rubbed or sprayed onto the skin, the formulation breaks down the chemical bonds that hold the protein structure of your hair together. These proteins are known as keratins. Once a depilatory dissolves the keratin, the hair becomes weak enough to fall loose from its follicle. The resulting substance is a bit like jelly, and it’s possible to rub or wash off patches of hair with ease [source: Cressy].
The combination of calcium thioglycolate and sodium hydroxide in most hair removal creams is the main chemical reaction that usually causes such a strong and often unpleasant odor. Some creams, however, now contain additional ingredients that mask the sulfuric scent, but it’s important to bear in mind that even these fragrances can be chemical irritants.
To choose the right cream, it’s important to consider the type of skin you have. If you have especially sensitive skin, you should consult your doctor or a dermatologist before picking out a product. When using hair removal creams or any topical ointment, it’s a good idea to test a small patch of skin before applying the substance to a large area. This way, if you do have a reaction, it’s localized and won’t affect large areas.
Now that you know how hair removal creams work, it’s time to consider the reasons for using one.PERM OR DEPILATORY?
If you’ve ever gotten a permanent wave, or perm, you know that smell. It’s the same smell that many chemical depilatories have, and this is because the same chemical reaction is occurring. During a perm, your hair stylist uses chemicals to break down the protein structure of your hair, so he or she can reshape it into curls. The difference is that instead of leaving the alkaline mixture in your hair, your stylist will neutralize it with something like hydrogen peroxide to stop the hair from breaking down completely.
The foremost benefit of hair removal cream, of course, is the removal of unwanted hair. However, there are several ways to remove body hair, so it helps to compare depilatories to other methods.
Consumers often look for cheap and easy fixes to just about every dilemma. Hair removal creams can be both. Prices range from $4 to $15 for most chemical depilatories, so you should have little trouble finding an affordable option. Moreover, if you pick a cream that doesn’t work well for you, you haven’t wasted a great deal of money, and you can probably afford to try another brand.
It also doesn’t get much easier than spreading cream over a patch of hair, waiting a few minutes, and then using a washcloth soaked in warm water to rub off the cream. Unlike waxing, this easy method is also pain-free if you follow the directions and avoid sensitive areas. Hair removal creams come in roll-on, rub-on and gel forms, each of which reduces the mess associated with application.
An added benefit to using hair removal creams is that when you rub off the cream and hair, you’re also exfoliating your skin. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells that build up on the surface of your skin — when you’ve finished rubbing, your skin will be not only hairless but also glowing, because you’ve revealed new cells.
Finally, and most importantly, chemical depilatories get under your skin. They remove hair from just below the surface, so you won’t feel stubble as soon. Hair removal creams usually get rid of hair for a week, which is less time than waxing but more than shaving. Studies have also shown that using creams can slow hair growth in affected areas.
So far, hair removal creams may sound like a pretty good option, but you should always consider the potential side affects. Find out the downsides to chemical depilatories on the next page.WHY ATHLETES GET RID OF HAIR
Swimmers and cyclists have a history of removing any hair not covered by their athletic wear. Some say that it makes them faster, which may be true for swimmers. Others say that it makes it easier to massage aching muscles. Cyclists also claim that hairless legs heal faster from cuts and scrapes. [source: Active].
Aside from the smell, you still might face a few small problems and one potentially big problem with hair removal creams.
First, you might make a mess. Creams can be messy before they start working, and getting rid of the cream plus broken-down hair is a challenge. Another problem results from uneven application. If you don’t spread the cream on smoothly over an entire area, such as your leg, then you might end up with a patchy look in which some spots are hairless and others are not.
The potentially big problem associated with hair removal creams has to do with chemistry. Depilatory creams contain harsh chemicals, and the alkalis that dissolve hair can irritate or burn skin and cause allergic reactions. Just like hair, skin contains keratin, the protein targeted by alkaline chemicals.
When using a hair removal cream, make sure that you follow the directions and read any warnings on the product. You should conduct a patch skin test at least 24 hours before applying the cream over a large area, especially if you have not used hair removal cream before. The skin test will indicate whether you have a reaction or are allergic to the chemicals in the cream. Depilatory users have reported suffering from burns, blisters, rashes, stinging sensations and skin peeling [source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration]. If redness or itching develops in the application area, throw out the cream and try something else. In the event of a chemical burn, you should wash the area thoroughly and remove all traces of the cream, then wrap the affected area in a loose, clean, dry cloth. You may want to consult a physician for further treatment.
If your skin shows no reaction to the cream, then examine the target area for cuts, scrapes and any other surface damage. Don’t use a depilatory if you’ve shaved recently. You may have razor nicks and cuts that you can’t see. If the cream gets into them, it will irritate your skin. Depilatories should not be used around the eyes, including on the eyebrows. Remember, above all, that hair removal creams are topical ointments meant for the surface of your skin.
So you’ve made up your mind to try a hair removal cream. Before you head to the store, read on to find out how to make an informed choice among the many available options.VANIQA
If you are a woman with excessive hair growth on your face, you may have considered using Vaniqa. This prescription drug works by slowing down enzymes that help hair grow. It does not stop hair growth, however. Doctors prescribe Vaniqa primarily for women who have excessive hair growth under their chins. Users spread the cream on the area where they want to inhibit hair growth after removing the existing hair [source: Mayo Clinic].
Deciding which hair removal cream to use depends on a number of factors. Believe it or not, your gender is the least important issue. Certainly, men tend to have coarser hair, and that may affect which product they buy, but there are several other issues to consider.
The most important factors in selecting a chemical depilatory are skin sensitivities and allergies. If you are prone to rashes and breakouts or have had reactions to other topical ointments and skin products, you should check with your doctor before trying any hair removal cream. Some creams are formulated specifically for sensitive skin, and they may include moisturizer and aloe to soothe irritated skin. Other creams contain stronger formulations for coarser hair that may cause greater skin irritation.
The next factor to consider is the area of unwanted hair. For example, you should never use hair removal cream designed for your back on your pubic area. You’re best off using a depilatory specifically designed for your bikini line, because the skin around your genitals is so sensitive. You also shouldn’t use a chemical depilatory on any area that your underwear covers, since this can cause additional irritation [sources: Segal].
You’ll also need to decide whether you prefer roll-on creams, gels or other types of products. It’s easier to apply roll-ons more neatly than other products, but they may not be as thick as you need them to be. If you don’t like the feel of creams, gels are a potential option.
When in doubt about your decision, ask a dermatologist for recommendations. Now that you know what to look for and what to ask, you’re ready to make the best choice possible for your hair removal needs.