Cream depilatories

Basic facts

A chemical depilatory is a cosmetic method of depilation used to remove the hair from above the skin surface on the human body. The active ingredient is commonly calcium thioglycolate, which breaks down the disulfide bonds in keratin and weakens the hair so that it is easily scraped off where it emerges from the hair follicle. Chemical depilatories are available in gel, cream, lotion, aerosol, and roll-on forms.

As the epidermis is rich in keratin, too, the skin may become irritated and sensitive if the preparation is left on for too long. Chemical depilatories are used primarily for the arms and legs. They should not be used on the face unless specifically listed for that purpose on the product’s label.

Common, but some consumers find the caustic ingredients cause skin irritation or even chemical burns.


A chemical dissolves hair at the skin’s surface.


  • Inexpensive
  • Fast
  • Various strength products available to dissolve even the strongest of hairs
  • Can be done at home
  • Available over-the-counter


  • Effect lasts a short time. Regrowth appears generally within 2-5 days.
  • Dark-haired users may be left with a visible “shadow” of dark hair under skin.
  • Chemical depilatory creams are generally smelly and messy to use.
  • Can cause severe skin irritation or allergic reaction.


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