Hair Removal Creams – Where Can They be Used?

A Bit About Hair Removal Creams

Pain Free

Hair removal creams, known as depilatories, have developed over the years so that the original eye-watering and offensive odours associated with them in the past have been much improved.

One of the biggest attractions of using depilatories for hair removal is that it is a pain-free alternative to shaving.

This coupled with the facts that they are inexpensive, quick working, very easy to use at home and the results last longer than shaving, makes them a popular choice nowadays.

How do Hair Removal Creams Work?

Depilatories contain chemicals, the most common of these being thioglycolic acid (TGA) (it is this that has a strong and pungent odour).

Illustration of internal structure of hair - the cortex contains the keratin

The TGA in the cream breaks down the Keratin in the hair (which is the protein element that forms its strength) ​to weaken and dissolve it, so that it can be easily scraped away from just below the skin's surface.

Keratin is also contained in the epidermis (the top layer of the skin)​ and if left on for too long, the chemical in the cream will start to work on the skin, which can cause severe chemical burns and blisters.

This is why depilatory creams must never be left on for longer than the maximum time recommended by the manufacturer.

Who do They Work For?​

Hair removal creams can be effective for any adult - male or female, and whatever the skin tone.

​Provided your skin is healthy, you are not being treated for a skin condition, circulatory disorder or diabetes and are not allergic to any of the ingredients in the cream, you can use them.

If you are being treated for any of the above you must seek medical advice.

​It is very important to carry out a patch test, as per the instructions provided, prior to any treatment to ensure that there are no adverse reactions.


There are many different facial hair removal creams on the market, but none are suitable for eyebrows and should never be used near the eye area.

They can be used for cheeks, jaw, upper lip and chin only.


Generally, depilatory creams are not suitable for male facial hair.

There is a shaving powder available nowadays which was originally developed for men with black skin, who tend to suffer from ingrown hairs (razor bumps), to alleviate the problem.

Magic Shave powder is mixed with water to form a paste and then used in the same way as a depilatory cream.  The Platinum version is recommended for first time users.


There are a number of depilatories on the market for female facial hair.

It is important to look for a cream which specifically states that it is suitable for the face as they will be more gentle on the skin, for fine hair.

Skin Guarding Balm Stick from Olay

As previously mentioned, these creams contain strong chemicals and the strength required to remove different textures and thickness of hair will vary between body parts.​

Some facial depilatories, such as Surgi Cream or Sally Hansen Duo Kit include a soothing post-treatment cream.

One that I particularly like is the Olay Facial Hair Removal Duo, which​ has a barrier stick that you put on before you use the cream, to give protection to the skin around the hair.


There are different creams, gels, sprays and lotions available for various parts of the body, you just need to make sure that you buy an appropriate one for the area you wish to treat.


Common usages for male depilatories include back, chest, legs and arms.

Photo of man with hairy chest

 ​There are some depilatory creams that are suitable for both men and women, but the ones specially designed for male hair tend to be stronger and more effective for thick male hair.

Nair or Veet ​for men are both popular choices and there are also some that are specifically for those with sensitive skin.

Some men use depilatory creams on their genital areas and seem to get along fine with it, but there are none that are specifically designed for use in this region and you do so at your own risk - so be warned, the side effects can be severe.


Depilatory body creams for women can be used for underarm hair, legs, arms and bikini area and there are specially formulated versions for sensitive skin.

​Veet carry a range of various different options for which we have carried out a full review.

Where NOT to use Them

There are some areas of the body that are simply not suited to depilatory creams because of their harshness:

  • On the Eyebrows or around the eye area
  • Not for nose hair
  • Not for the scalp
  • Not for ear hair - if using for hair just outside the ear, you can protect it by putting some cotton wool just inside the ear canal.
  • Not for genitals (just the bikini line - use a pair of old panties and use on the hair that you can see)
  • Not for perianal area or nipples
  • Not for use on moles or warts - if you are treating an area where a mole or wart is present, cover it to ensure that the chemical is not in contact with it.

When NOT to use them​

These are times when depilatory creams should not be used:

  • Do not use on sunburnt skin (avoid sunbathing for at least 24 hours before and after treatment or as per manufacturers instructions)
  • Do not use on broken, irritated or otherwise compromised skin
  • Do not use within 24 hours of other forms of hair removal such as shaving, tweezing, waxing etc.
  • Do not use without first seeking medical advice if you are being treated for any skin disorder, circulation problems or diabetes.
  • Do not use without first carrying out a skin test - this should be done even if you have used the product previously without adverse effect

Finally​ ..

If you choose depilatory creams for your hair removal, whatever you do, make sure to read the manufacturer's instructions thoroughly and carry them out carefully.

Remember that they do contain harsh chemicals that can cause severe chemical burns if not used properly.

But finally, remember that many, many individuals use them regularly and effectively and that, so long as you are ​diligent with your precautions, one of them may be you.


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:

  • Avatar Shaun says:

    Can you put beer hair removal cream on your head

  • Avatar Shaun says:

    Can you put veet hair removal cream on your head

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