A chemical depilatory is a cosmetic preparation used to remove the hair from the skin on the human body. Currently, a common active ingredient is 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.
This break down reaction is affected by the calcium hydroxide (an alkali). The resulting combination of calcium hydroxide and thioglycolic acid is calcium thioglycolate(CaTG). The calcium hydroxide is present in excess to enable the thioglycolic acid to react with the cystine present in hair protein. The reaction is 2SH-CH2-COOH(thioglycolic acid) +R-S-S-R(cystine)-----> 2R-SH + COOH CH2 SS CH2 COOH (dithiodiglycolic acid).
As the epidermis is also rich in keratin, 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.
Chemical depilatories are available in gel, cream, lotion, aerosol, roll-on, and powder forms. Common brands include Nair and Veet.
- 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
- Can cause severe skin and/or eye irritation
- Some people have an allergic reaction to them
How to use
It is important that you carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions; failing to do so may have adverse effects on your skin. Test skin sensitivity first. Apply to a small area, remove and wait for 24 hours. If you're sensitive or allergic to the depilatory product then the skin will be red or broken. If there is no adverse reaction then proceed according to manufacturer's directions.
Keep away from eyes and other moist body areas. In the event of eye contact, immediately flush with water and seek prompt medical assistance. Do not use on irritated, inflamed, broken or hypersensitive skin. If the skin experiences a burning sensation immediately remove with cold water. 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.
Both before and after depilation you should take care to avoid direct sunlight, tanning beds, hot baths, hot showers, deodorants, and any form of perfume products.
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