Do Hair Removal Creams Actually Work?
Hair removal creams like Nair and Veet promise quick, no-fuss hair removal. Simply put, the strong chemicals in the removal creams burn your body hair until it falls out on its own. Seems simple and effective, right?
Well, it all depends on the type of cream you use, as well as your body hair. Hair that is very thick, coarse, and long may not be as effectively removed as short, thin, and delicate hairs. If you're not careful, the creams can irritate or even burn your skin.
The good news is that the latest versions of the more popular hair removal creams no longer have such an overpowering odor, thanks to the removal of two chemicals (sodium hydroxide and calcium thioglycolate) from the formula. They're paired with milder, often pleasant scents that can make the removal process safer and less nauseating. However, the chemicals used in the new formulas are equally effective and can remove hair in anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. There are even water-resistant and hydrating hair removal creams that improve skin health while eliminating body hair.
To answer the question: yes, hair removal creams definitely work!
Hair Removal Creams vs. Shaving
Hair removal creams are quick and easy, but shaving is one of the cheapest and most reliable methods for getting rid of body hair. Both only remove the visible hairs, leaving the roots intact. So which is better? Should you shave or use Nair/Veet to get rid of body hair?
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each:
Pain – We've all nicked ourselves shaving, no matter how careful we are. With hair removal creams, however, it's a relatively pain-free process—provided we follow the instructions precisely. Hair is dissolved in a few minutes, leaving you hairless with minimal risk of pain.
Winner: Hair removal creams.
Results – Shaving will keep you smooth and hair-free for around 2-3 days, depending on your hair growth rate. Hair removal creams give you results that last a little longer, around 3-5 days.
Winner: Hair removal creams.
Ease of Use – We don't know about you, but we at Faveable would be VERY wary about bringing any sort of blades near our private parts. Shaving armpits and other body parts is no problem, but the truth is that hair removal creams are much easier to use. Simply apply, let it sit, and wash off after the required time.
Winner: Hair removal creams.
Side Effects – With shaving, the worst side effect you can expect is a bit of razor burn or the occasional nick. Hair removal creams, sadly, have a few more effects. People with darker hair may end up with a dark shadow (five o'clock shadow) as well as dark spots on the skin. The chemicals may also irritate very sensitive skin, leading to rashes and skin irritation.
Cost – I pay about $15 for a 5-pack of Gillette Mach-3 razors, which can last up to 3 months. Compare that to a bottle of Veet, which costs close to $10 and lasts for 3-5 applications.
Odor –This is one where shaving wins hands down thanks to the simple fact that razors don't have a strong chemical odor. There are hair removal creams that don't have an overpowering chemical odor, but even the "mildest" options have a strong smell.
Winner Overall – I'd have to give the edge to hair removal creams. Though I'm not a huge fan of the high costs and strong smell, the ease of use, longer-lasting results, and reduced risk of pain make it the better short-term hair removal choice.
Other Hair Removal Methods
Hair removal creams and shaving are just two of the methods you can use to get rid of body hair. Below, we've listed a number of other hair removal methods from most to least effective.
Laser Hair Removal – As expected, laser hair removal ranks at the top of this list. Not only does it eliminate all body hair, but it's a fairly efficient and quick-acting hair removal method. There's minimal pain and you may even see skin rejuvenation benefits (depending on the laser).
On the downside, not all lasers work for all skin and hair types. Some people are ineligible for laser hair removal because they have grey, red, or blonde hair. Lasers can also leech pigment from the skin, leading to visible white spots. It's also VERY expensive!
Epilating – Epilators are designed to pluck all your body hairs out by the roots, and the machines can power through your body hair with surprising efficiency. It's one of the cheapest hair removal methods, one that slows hair regrowth and keeps your body hair-free for longer than shaving and hair removal creams.
It can be slightly painful, but the body adapts to the pain over time. However, the hair will regrow after a few days/weeks, and the en masse plucking can be exceptionally painful around your private parts.
Waxing – It may seem odd to find waxing ranked so highly, but the truth is that it's one of the most efficient hair removal methods. With just one or two passes of wax strips, you can yank all the hairs out by the roots. Waxed hairs take much longer to grow back.
In some places, waxing can cause skin damage, as it removes the top layer of skin. It's definitely safe for body hair removal, but not so much for dealing with facial hair. It can also be fairly painful, especially if done incorrectly!
Eflornithine Hydrochloride Cream – This is a prescription cream that is highly effective at dealing with unwanted facial hair specifically. The chemicals in the cream can actually slow down hair growth, and it can reduce the need for other hair removal products.
Sadly, it's a pricey cream, and the risk of side effects—including temporary redness, folliculitis, and skin rashes—is fairly high.
Threading – This method of removing hair using threads has been around for millennia, and it's one of the most tried and true options. The risk of skin damage is minimal and hair removal, though time-consuming, can be very thorough.
However, it can be pricey to undergo regular threading sessions, and it's really only suitable for small patches of hair at a time. The pain level is also much higher than with other hair removal methods!
Electrolysis – Electrolysis is the ONLY hair removal method that can be considered permanent, as it causes damage to the hair follicles to prevent them from regrowing hair. For those who are ineligible for laser hair removal, electrolysis provides a back-up option for getting rid of their unwanted body hair.
However, modern lasers have replaced electrolysis, and they're much safer, cheaper, and less painful. The risk of scarring, hyperpigmentation, and even skin infection is much higher with electrolysis.
And, of course, down at the bottom of the list (read: the least effective overall), we have hair removal creams and shaving. The above-mentioned hair removal methods offer longer-lasting results, as well as more efficient hair removal. In the case of epilators, the cost of removing hair is even lower than with razors and hair removal creams!
Tips for Safe and Speedy Hair Removal
Hair removal creams, also known as "depilatory creams", are easy to use to get rid of body hair, but you run the risk of damaging your skin if you're not careful. It's vital that you know how to use it correctly, so we've come up with a list of tips to help you:
Know your Skin and Hair Type – Always know what you're working with before you shop for hair removal creams. Some creams are formulated for coarse, thick, and dark hair, while others are better for light, fine, blonde hairs. If you have sensitive skin, you'll need to buy a cream made with a gentler formula. In some cases, people with very sensitive skin should just stick with shaving instead of risking irritations! The hair also needs to be between stubble length and a quarter inch for the hair removal cream to work effectively.
Read the Instructions THOROUGHLY – Don't rush into the hair removal process, but take the time to read each line of instructions on the bottle/package carefully before applying the hair removal cream. Trust me, it can save you a lot of pain and discomfort caused by leaving the cream on for too long, or multiple applications because you washed off the cream before it had a chance to work.
Try a Patch Test – Use different creams on your skin to find out which will cause the least/greatest amount of irritation. Daub cream onto a patch of your skin, and monitor it for any irritation or redness. You can also test various hair removal creams like this to find out which will deal with body hair more effectively.
Exfoliate First – Exfoliate no less than 24 hours before applying hair removal creams, as that will help to eliminate ingrown hairs.
Get the Right Type – Hair removal creams aren't a "one size fits all". The creams you use on your legs or underarm may be too harsh for your bathing suit area, and facial creams may not be as efficient for body hair. Buy creams according to the body locations you're going to use them.
Apply in the Direction of Hair Growth – This may be easier said than done on body parts where hair grows in both directions, such as your underarms. Try to go with the hair growth direction, as that will maximize the cream's effect.
Wipe Gently – When you're trying to remove the hair removal cream, don't rub, as that will push the chemicals into your skin. Instead, use a warm washcloth to wipe the cream from your skin as gently as possible. Move in the opposite direction of hair growth.
Rinse and Pat – Rinse off the last of the cream, and pat your skin gently dry with a clean, soft towel to get rid of any traces of water and cream. Rubbing your skin or toweling off roughly will only increase skin irritation.
Give Your Skin a Break – Do NOT apply hair removal creams on a daily basis. It's recommended you wait at least 24 to 48 hours between applications, as that gives your skin time to recover. All bottles come with a recommendation of how long to wait before using again.
Take Care of Your Skin and Hair – Wear loose, flowing clothing for 24 hours after applying the creams in order to reduce skin irritation and ingrown hairs. Avoid tanning, sunbathing, or swimming for those 24 hours as well, and stay away from scented deodorants, creams, and other beauty products.
Using Hair Removal Creams on Your Privates
We've all heard the horror stories of people burning their privates with hair removal creams intended for use on their legs, back, and underarms. So, the question has to be asked: should you use hair removal cream on your sensitive body parts? Can you give yourself a Brazilian with Veet or Nair?
The answer: yes, but you have to make sure it's the RIGHT cream.
There are certain hair removal creams formulated specifically for use on your private parts—such as Nair Bikini Cream or Nair Glides Away Moroccan Argan Oil Hair Cream. They are made with less potent chemicals and contain more soothing, hydrating, and moisturizing ingredients than other body-oriented creams. They will be less harsh and gentler on your private parts. The leave-on time will also typically be shorter—3 to 7 minutes, depending on hair type.
Don't worry guys: bikini hair removal creams can work for your "Down Under" as well. You'll find the gentler formulas can protect "the gentlemen" and reduce the risk of burns, irritation, and redness.