One of the first alternatives to razor shaving, a depilatory is a cream or lotion for removing unwanted hair. The two main types of depilatories are Sulfide (sulfur based) and Thioglycolate (Thioglycolate acid based) depilatories.
Both types of depilatories work to remove hair in the same fashion. The active chemical ingredients in the depilatories interact with keratin in the skin, the primary protein from which all hair is made. As a result of different chemical reactions, the hair becomes like a gel resting on the surface of the skin and can then be wiped or rinsed away. Always check with your dermatologist.
Unwanted facial and body hair detracts from your appearance and can make you less confident in social situations. Decades ago, shaving was the biggest option for removing unwanted facial hair, as it allowed men and women to remove hair over larger areas at once, unlike tweezing, which requires pulling out one hair at a time. However, as the personal care industry continued to evolve, people began to look for alternatives to razors to produce better results.
Depilatories were one of the first alternatives to razor shaving to become widely available on the market. These products are creams, gels or liquids that use chemicals to remove unwanted hair. The instant popularity of depilatories led to numerous skin care companies producing their own versions of these powerful hair removers.
Today, there are two main types of depilatories:
Sulfide depilatories use compounds that contain the element sulfur as their active ingredient. The most common compound is barium sulfide, which produces results very quickly when used in depilatories. Since sulfur has a pungent odor, sulfide depilatories usually have a very intense odor of chemicals, similar to that of perm solution.
Thioglycolate depilatories contain a form of thioglycolic acid as their base ingredient. The most common version of the acid found in these depilatories is calcium thioglycolate, which takes longer to reach the maximum effectiveness than sulfide compounds. Because thioglycolic acid is an organic compound, depilatories that contain it can be perfumed to provide a more pleasant scent.
Both sulfide and thioglycolate depilatories work to remove hair in the same fashion. When applied to the skin, the active chemical ingredients in the depilatories interact with keratin, the primary protein from which all hair is made. Through different chemical reactions, both types of depilatories break down keratin and cause the hair fiber to lose its structural shape. As a result, the hair becomes like a gel resting on the surface of the skin and can then be wiped or rinsed away with the depilatory.
Both types of depilatories offer a distinct set of advantages to shaving and other hair removal techniques:
Despite their many advantages, depilatories also have some disadvantages to shaving and alternatives to razors, mostly due to the presence of the chemicals in their formulas.
In recent years, a new type of depilatory has emerged on the market that is something of a hybrid between traditional depilatory products and waxing. Traditional waxing involves applying a layer of hot wax to the skin, which traps hairs in its surface. Then, strips of fabric or other materials are applied to the area and affixed to the wax. With a forceful pull, the strips are then yanked quickly away, removing the wax and the hair with it.
Wax depilatories are like traditional depilatories in that they are cream or gel formulations when applied to the skin; however, once on the surface of the skin, they dry to form a wax-type substance. Rather than waiting for the hairs to dissolve, you simply pull off the wax once it is dry and remove the hair in the treated area.
Unlike traditional depilatories, wax depilatories remove the entire hair follicle and they do not contain chemicals that irritate the keratin in the skin; however, using wax depilatories is far more uncomfortable than relying on traditional formulations. Minor redness is common with wax depilatories and usually fades within 24 to 48 hours.
To have the safest and most effective hair removal session using depilatories, keep the following tips in mind: