This Easy Hair Removal Hack Made Me Rethink Shaving (2023)

Photographed by Leia Morrison.

My relationship with body hair, as is the case for many people, is long and complicated. For years when I was growing up, my mother (while she was still responsible for covering my CVS purchases) wondered aloud why I was “obsessed with being hairless.” In retrospect, I think she was more annoyed at paying the pink tax on razors, because she had no problem with my brother stealing my men’s razors years later. But it still planted a seed in my brain. (For the record, I am not obsessed with being hairless, and anyway, removing your body hair is a personal choice.)


For me, hair removal is less like a daily task and more a case of when I remember. My hair grows very slowly, so I can go a while without having to address it, but when it’s there, it’s there. As far as methods go, I feel like everyone has a personal experience with a hair removal cream (or “depilatory”), whether it’s accidentally removing too much of an eyebrow in high school or walking around with palms still reeking of a cream so pungent you’re worried it might even remove the hair in your nostrils. That rotten egg smell (courtesy of thioglycolic acid, the depilatory agent that helps break down the hair at the root and assist in hair removal) is a fundamental part of most of our upbringing, whether we like it or not.

Considering the negative associations with the stuff, the past few years have led me to rediscovering hair removal creams in a way that I never expected. I started mostly out of necessity during lockdown when I didn’t have access to my waxer, and I cut my top lip trying to wax my own face. But y’all: hair removal creams are good now. I may even go as far to call them chic. Brands you recognize like Flamingo, WooWoo (which just launched in the US after being a smash hit in the UK), or yes, even Nair, have gone above and beyond to redefine what it means to use a hair removal cream. They’re not as harsh — but if they are powerful, they’ve been reformulated to have ingredients to keep your skin looking lush and nourished while decimating every mustache or bikini-area hair in their path.


Why are hair removal creams better now?

Brands like Flamingo and WooWoo are more aware of the user experience than the brands of our youth, and we’re seeing ingredients that are just good for the skin in general. Take shea butter, for example, which eases dry skin and irritation. If you think back to the cheap dollar-store hair removal creams, they often lacked a single ingredient identifiable to the average user. “It’s necessary to get the balance right of creating an effective product that's strong enough to dissolve and remove the hair but contains lots of nice, natural oils that protect the skin,” explains Lucy Anderson, founder of WooWoo. “Nowadays, formulations are much kinder to the skin with oils and actives that leave your skin super smooth.”

As part of its product development process, the Flamingo team researched and tested different hair removal creams on the market, finding them to be both harshly formulated and guilty of an intimidating user experience. The brand, best known for its waxing kits and Instagram-friendly razors, just wanted to create an additional hair-removal option that would be gentle and safe for sensitive skin, while also thinking about how the experience could be improved on not only a tactile level but also in the formula by incorporating soothing, skin-conditioning ingredients like bisabolol, derived from chamomile. “After the use of a facial hair removal cream, the skin needs nourishing ingredients to help restore the natural skin barrier,” explains Ryan Nolan, Head of Innovation at Flamingo.


Again, I’m not necessarily a hairy person, but one "everything shower" would take at least an hour and have me go through a minimum of two razor blades. While my hair is minimal and grows slowly, it’s still as coarse as the other textures sprouting from my scalp. That meant I was constantly going over and over my skin to remove the hair, and still wound up missing spots and nicking myself — even with shaving cream. Razors and depilatory creams are basically two paths to the same goal, though they have different functions: hair removal creams weaken the hair's attachment, which causes the hair to shed, while razors cut through the hair shaft just above the skin's surface.

“Cutting hair with a razor usually leaves a sharp point on the hair shaft, which increases the likelihood for ingrown hairs and folliculitis,” explains Carmen Castilla, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Since using a depilatory cream removes hair below the skin’s surface, the hair-free time interval is typically longer after using a depilatory cream over shaving.” And it’s true: one good hair removal cream session has me as hairless as a baby seal for weeks, and I don’t have to worry about nicks and cuts (which I’m prone to, because I need a corrective lens to see, but I also refuse to wear my contacts in the shower. I don’t want keratitis!).


Who should be using hair removal creams?

My vision problems aside, I personally love a hair removal cream because it saves me a step, and therefore time, in my beauty routine. Dr. Castilla says that, while hair removal creams are great for people prone to ingrown hairs, folliculitis (infection or inflammation of the hair follicle), or razor bumps, they can potentially be irritating for those with sensitive skin. “If left on too long, they can cause irritation or a mild chemical burn,” she says. “Therefore, it is important to follow the package instructions.” If the packaging says not to leave it on for longer than 10 minutes, it’s not just the brand doing a CYA; it’s for your skin’s health and safety. Oh, and reminder: hair removal creams should never be used on any area with a rash or broken skin.

WooWoo in particular is formulated for those of us who want to maintain our, uh, most intimate areas but don’t want — or are uncomfortable with — a stranger’s professional intervention. Some of us don’t want to deal with making waxing appointments, let’s be real. The Tame It! Vegan In-Shower Hair Removal Cream includes lots of lovely natural oils, including soothing aloe vera and jojoba oil, which are gentle on our most delicate of locations.

What are the benefits of hair removal creams?

There’s nothing wrong with other forms of hair removal, and there truly is an option out there for everyone. I am not here to yuck anyone’s yum. Laser treatments can be costly and should only be performed by a specialist; waxing is painful, arguably traumatic and potentially damaging to the skin if done incorrectly. It's also pretty difficult to do yourself. (My poor lip took weeks to recover.) There’s just something about the ease of a depilatory cream. The improved sensory experience helps, too. All of Flamingo’s hair-removal creams, for example, have a scent with notes of iris and suede, not egg and sulfur.


My personal favorite part of the new Flamingo Body Hair Removal Cream is actually that it comes with a spatula to both apply and remove the cream, rather than just hopping into the shower to wash it off. That, to me, is the real game changer that takes the mess out of it all, and elevates a formerly lame and banal experience to one that at least feels a little luxe — even if I’m just removing my body hair.

I’m not rushing to throw out my razors or cancel my Joy & Glee subscription, but I’m all aboard the hair removal cream train. My only tips: always do a patch test first to rule out any irritation, and don’t use it while you’re distracted and mistake it for actual body lotion. Sure, it’s a testament to just how pleasant these new formulas are, but I miss my arm hair a lot right now.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by us. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, we may earn a commission.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Otha Schamberger

Last Updated: 25/10/2023

Views: 6169

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Otha Schamberger

Birthday: 1999-08-15

Address: Suite 490 606 Hammes Ferry, Carterhaven, IL 62290

Phone: +8557035444877

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: Fishing, Flying, Jewelry making, Digital arts, Sand art, Parkour, tabletop games

Introduction: My name is Otha Schamberger, I am a vast, good, healthy, cheerful, energetic, gorgeous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.