If your budget won’t allow for an expensive laser or IPL treatment, then the fight for a smooth body is going to be a lifelong one. Most of the time, this means a trip to the waxing salon—although fortunately, today’s market includes other options for those with a lower pain threshold.
For homebodies or those looking for do-it-yourself hair removal products, razors often seem like the easiest option—at least until the first ingrown hairs arrive, or razor bumps make you lose patience. Depilatory creams, on the other hand, tend to be scary and have acquired a bad reputation: a combination of their chemical smell and the possibility of skin burns or irritation can quickly turn many off.
However, there are many ways to ensure a safe experience with depilatory creams, so don’t give up on the dream of smooth legs just yet!
Step 1: Understand the Science At Stake
As high-tech as most new hair removal creams may be, they have actually existed for millennia. In Roman times, highly caustic solutions, mostly based on lime or arsenic, were used by Roman ladies to dissolve their armpit hair. Sound dangerous? That’s because it was—but modern times have brought us better methods that are less likely to appear on an Agatha Christie novel.
Modern hair removal products are still based around the same concept: a very high pH (or alkaline) solution that can dissolve the hair’s keratin away. This is why most old school depilatory creams tend to have such a strong odor, and more importantly, why it’s vital to keep their application to the recommended time on the box. After all, while the keratin on your upper lip hair may be more susceptible to alkalinity, if left long enough, your skin will suffer too.
Step 2: Make Sure Your Tools Are the Right Ones
The basic mode of action for all hair removal creams may be the same, but their add-ons are not. Before you buy a big bottle on discount and slather it on legs, armpit, and upper lip indiscriminately, it’s best to research your options. If you have sensitive skin, look for a product fortified with shea butter or aloe. If you are looking for something to apply on your face, your best bet is to look for a product that was specifically designed for it.
Step 3: Run A Tolerance Test First
If you are using hair removal products for the first time, or even if it’s the first time you are using a particular brand, it’s important to run a tolerance test first before you apply it all over yourself. Choose a small patch of skin that is completely scrape free and apply the cream for the recommended time. After you’ve rinsed it off, wait at least 24 hours to ensure no strange reaction develops, such as redness, hives, or persistent itching.
While delayed reactions to depilatory creams are rare, this exercise is not a waste of time: the potential consequences of skipping it may leave you unable to wear that cute mini skirt for more than just a day.
If used safely, hair removal creams can be a very easy and budget-friendly option to keep your legs, armpits, and upper lip smooth and hair-free. With an ever growing variety of brands, scents, and moisturizing action, they continue to be a great option for those who can’t be bothered with daily shaving or can’t stand waxing.