Go to AAD Home
Donate For Public and Patients Store Search

Go to AAD Home

How to remove unwanted hair using a cream, lotion or gel

Tips from board-certified dermatologists

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Sept. 14, 2021) — As temperatures remain high across the country, removing unwanted body hair is still top of mind for many; however, shaving may have started to feel tedious. Fortunately, there are options besides shaving or waxing. According to board-certified dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, people can dissolve unwanted hair using products called depilatories. These are creams, lotions and gels that are applied to the skin, and the results can last longer than shaving.

“Hair removal creams, lotions and gels are quick and easy to use, but they can sometimes irritate the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Andrea Mabry, MD, FAAD. “Before applying the product to a large area, like your legs, it’s a good idea to test out the product first.”

To test a hair-removal cream, lotion or gel, Dr. Mabry recommends the following tips:

  • Apply a quarter-sized amount to an area on which you want to remove hair.

  • Keep it on your skin for the time stated in the instructions (or until your skin starts to burn or sting).

  • Rinse the product off after the time stated or if your skin begins to burn or sting.

  • Wait 24 hours.

  • If you experience any pain, redness, burning or itching during the test, don’t use the product. Find another depilatory to test.

  • If after 24 hours, you don’t experience any irritation, you can go ahead and use the product.

To use a hair-removal cream, lotion or gel, Dr. Mabry shares these tips:

  • Apply a thick, even layer over the hair you want to remove. Make sure not to rub in the cream, lotion or gel, and avoid applying it on top of irritated skin or skin with a cut, scar or mole.

  • Wash your hands as soon as you finish applying the product.

  • Gently wipe the product off your skin after the amount of time listed in the instructions.

  • Rinse your skin with lukewarm water after the product has been removed. Then, gently pat your skin dry.

After using a hair-removal product, Dr. Mabry says it’s important to be gentle with your skin:

  • Use “fragrance-free” skin care products to avoid irritation.

  • Protect your skin from the sun for at least 24 hours after using a hair-removal cream, lotion or gel and every time you’re outdoors to prevent skin cancer, the most common cancer in the U.S. You can protect your skin outdoors by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. “Hair-removal products can make your skin more sensitive for a short while after using them,” says Dr. Mabry. “If you develop skin irritation after using a hair-removal cream, lotion or gel, or if you have questions about at-home hair removal or other options for hair-removal, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.”

These tips are demonstrated in “How to Remove Unwanted Hair Using a Cream, Lotion or Gel,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

# # #


Rhys Saunders, rsaunders@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

6 ways to remove unwanted hair

How to shave

How to wax

Laser hair removal

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.