Everything You Need to Know about Depilatory Hair Removal

What is Depilatory Hair Removal?

Depilatory hair removal products offer a non-permanent solution to get rid of unwanted hair in a cheap and quick way. It is very popular, easy to use and is suitable for home use. 

How Does it Work?

Depilatory hair products contain chemical components that disintegrate the hair.  The solution is applied to the treatment area, left for a certain period of time (during which the hair is weakened by the chemical compound), and finally the hairs are removed by rubbing the treatment area.

For areas where the hair is coarser, for the best result, it is recommended to use a product with stronger chemicals - this is why most types of chemical depilatory are specific to certain body parts. 

Who is Depilatory Hair Removal Suitable for?

Chemical depilatories can be used by everyone as long as all the safety rules are observed.

Teenagers under 16 should be supervised by an adult. Those who have super-sensitive skin are more likely to be irritated by this kind of hair removal - they are advised to do a patch test on a small area of skin at least 24 hours before full treatment to ensure there are no ill effects from the product.

How Permanent is it?

Chemical depilatory hair removal is one of the least permanent kind of hair removal as it doesn't last more than 2-5 days. However, the procedure can be quickly and easily repeated when needed.

The Pros and Cons of Depilatory Hair Removal


  • You can do it yourself - Depilatory products are very easy to use and designed for home use.  You can easily learn how to use it even if you have no experience in hair removal.
  • Inexpensive - You can purchase a chemical depilatory product for $6-15 on average. You don't need to spend money on any other special equipment.
  • Painless - unlike many other hair removal methods, the user of chemical depilatories is completely painless, because the hair is not pulled out of the follicle.
  • No ingrown hairs - unlike shaving, the hair that grows back doesn't have a sharp edge that can cause in grown hairs.
  • Widely available - you can purchase a product in any drug stores, health stores or online
  • Fast - once the depilatory product is applied to your skin, you only need to wait a couple of minutes before you start removing the unwanted hair.


  • Possible skin damage - the chemicals can cause irritation and in the worst case scenario can burn your skin or cause an allergic reaction.
  • Smell - most depilatory products are smelly and breathing in the chemicals is not very healthy - it's important to use depilatory in an area with good ventilation
  • Hair regrowth - chemical depilatory products only offer very temporary results with the hair growing back usually within 2 - 5 days (sometimes even less if the hair is coarse).  
  • Messy - Depilatory products can be quite messy, which is a nuisance.

How to Use Depilatory Products at Home 

Depilatory is mainly designed for home use, therefore it is very easy. ​In this section you can read about the basic steps of chemical depilatory use. No matter which type you choose, they all work nearly the same way. For more specific instructions, you can always find a guide written on the chosen products.


Before you start, make sure that you cleaned properly the target body parts. Having a body scrub is not advisable, because if you do it too hard, your skin can get irritated and will be more likely to burn, when the chemical depilatory is applied. 


​Apply a thin layer of the depilatory on your skin in the direction of hair growth. Make sure it covers the whole area you wish to treat. You should see your hair under the cream/gel. Depilatory products are usually sold with spatulas that helps you in a more easy application. 


​Now you need to wait a few minutes - the time range will always be written on the product (e.g. 3 to 6 minutes). Unless your skin feels irritated, don't remove the depilatory before the minimum time is over.


Then gently scratch your skin on a very small area - if the hair comes off, you can start the the removal of the hair from the opposite direction of hair growth. If not, wait until the time expires. Never leave it on your skin for longer than it is prescribed! 


When you removed all ​the hair, wash it with cold water first. Taking shower in a very hot water can be dangerous for the skin. 

Different kinds of Chemical Depilatory Products

Chemical depilatory doesn't only exist as creams, there are many other kinds such as lotions, gels, roll-ons, sprays and even powders. Their effect and result are the same, choose the one the use of which you like the most. 

Recommended Depilatory Products

Nair for Men 8oz

One of the most popular depilatory brands of hair removal specifically for men.

Veet Gel Sensitive Formula 13.50 oz

Gel depilatory product suitable for legs and body

Olay Smooth Finish Duo for Face 

Two-step system designed to remove unwanted hair from your face

Risks of Depilatory Hair Removal

If you have never used chemical depilatories before, we recommend you to do a safety test. Apply the product onto a very small area of your skin and remove it when the time expires. If you feel irritation or an kind of discomfort within the next 24 hours, you shouldn't use this type of hair removal. 

​The number one side effect is skin irritation. The reasons for it can be that:

  • You are allergic to one of the ingredients of the product
  • You have super sensitive skin
  • You left the product on your skin for too long

Depilatory, if not used correctly, can be dangerous, due to the chemicals that these products contain so be careful to follow the product guidelines closely.

General Guidelines


The 72 hour rule - ​There is no absolute guideline for how often you should used depilatory, however it is highly recommended to wait at least 72 hours between sessions.


Stick to recommended durations - The worst injury depilatory can cause is burning. Never leave the ​chemical on your skin for longer time than prescribed in the product instructions.  Chemical burns can cause scarring and be quite unpleasant.


Remove if Irritated - Even if you don't break the rules by​ exceeding time limit, if you feel some tiny irritation when the depilatory is on your skin, you need to wash it off immediately with cold water.

In the 24 Hours Following Treatment

It is highly recommended to wait at least 24 hours after the depilatory session before using sunbeds or sunbathing to avoid skin burn.


For the past 12 months, I have been testing and playing with all sorts of hair removal products for Hair Free Life. My goal is to provide the most accurate and up-to-date hair removal consumer information on the internet. When I'm not photographing, reviewing and researching hair removal products I play the drums in a samba band and am a volunteer for the Swindon Lions! Got any questions? Write to us below: