Popular depilatory creams such as Nair and Veet remove hair by essentially melting the hair away. The creams contain chemicals that attack hair and break down its natural structure. After the proper amount of time has passed, the cream and what’s left of the hair slide down the drain with the rinse water. While easy and usually painless, the process is not without risk. The use of depilatory creams involves putting harsh chemicals on your skin.
Skin irritation and sensitivity are common with depilatory creams. During the application, the skin tingles and stings mildly. The sensations usually stop after rinsing, but people with sensitive skin may continue to have unpleasant sensations for hours after application. Dryness, itching, rash and sensitivity are common. Also common is the feeling of having a slight sunburn. To avoid irritation, always use the correct cream for the job. Creams are formulated according to skin type, hair type and the removal area. To minimize irritation, use the mildest formula that will get the job done.
Severe chemical burns can occur with the use of hair-removal creams. Both hair and skin are made up of the same proteins and amino acids. Hair breaks down muck more quickly than skin, which makes it possible to remove hair without removing skin. However, if the product is allowed to remain on the skin for too long, or if it is not rinsed away completely, the skin will begin to break down, resulting in a chemical burn.
In rare circumstances, an allergic reaction can occur. An allergic reaction is identified by swelling, redness and intense pain or burning at the application site. All depilatory products recommend that a patch test at least 24 hours before application. To perform a patch test, apply a small amount of product to an inconspicuous area. Follow the instructions and rinse the product away. Check your skin the next day for irritation and signs of allergic reaction.
Although companies have taken great measures to sweeten the smell of their hair-removal products, most products still have an unpleasant odor. The odor, caused by the chemical component of the product, often lingers after application, much like the smell of a permanent wave. While you can apply lotions, creams and body sprays to cover up the smell, your skin will continue to have a peculiar odor for a few hours after treatment.
- Hair Removal Forum: Hair Removal Products
- "Milady's Standard Textbook of Cosmetology"; Milady, Diane Carol Bailey and Margrit Attenburg; 2008
Kathy Mayse began her writing career as a reporter for "The Jackson-County Times Journal" in 2001. She was promoted to assistant editor shortly after. Since 2005, she has been busy as a successful freelancer specializing in Web content. Mayse is a licensed cosmetologist with more than 17 years of salon experience; most of her writing projects reflect this experience.