What Every Woman Should Know About Hair Removal Creams

You might have thought hair removal was a modern thing, but humans have been getting rid of body hair for a really long time now (think centuries). Ancient Egyptians got rid of their hair with crude razors, pumice stones, and tweezers. Even hair removal creams aren't new, because people living in the area we now call Turkey used hair removal creams with calcium oxide or quicklime, while native Americans used lye to clean off their body hair (fun fact: European settlers did the same thing too). We'd like to think that Albert Geyser had good intentions when invented a machine that could remove hair with a dose of X-rays during the first half of the 20th century, but the machine was banned when people discovered radiation could have lethal side effects (via c&en).

X-ray machines aside, the possibilities open to us with regards to hair removal (if we want to get rid of our peach fuzz, that is) are endless. You may be deciding between more expensive treatments like laser, and more simple spa treatments like waxing or sugaring. And then there are hair removal creams, which are easy enough to use at home.

Hair removal creams use strong chemicals that break down the keratin in our hair

Hair removal creams work by breaking down the protein bonds of our hair (keratin), turning those into a jelly-like substance so we can wipe the hair away afterwards. The creams rely on chemicals like sodium thioglycolate, calcium thioglycolate, and strontium sulfide, and take anywhere between five and ten minutes to work, depending on the thickness of the hair, and of the manufacturer's formulation (via Byrdie).

Unlike the short-term effect of razors, hair remover cream manufacturer Veet says its product works by dissolving hair located just below the skin's surface, which means you can go stubble-free for up to four days. Hair that's been removed with cream (also known as a depilatory) is left with tapered ends, which means hair grows back more finely versus shaving. Using creams also means the hair removal process is quick, easy, and can be accomplished while you are taking a shower.

But like all good things, hair removal creams have a downside, namely a distinctly chemical odor. While manufacturers have been able to add scents that might make it less unpleasant, the chemical smell is still under there. The creams also contain strong chemicals, so some people may not want to use them on their skin.