Dark facial hair may become problematic when it crops up on the upper lip and chin, detracting from a woman's appearance. Conventional methods of eliminating hair by way of depilation and epilation conveniently resolve this cosmetic problem, post-haste. Manufacturers of numerous over-the-counter depilatory brands even include a specially formulated facial hair remover for women in their product lines. Before you decide this method of hair removal is for you, be aware the downsides of depilation.
Depilation v. Epilation
Depilation and epilation are terms used to describe the way hair is cosmetically removed using traditional, do-it-yourself techniques. Epilation involves taking hair follicles out by the root and includes methods such as waxing, sugaring, tweezing and threading. Depilation, on the other hand, involves removing the hair follicle right where it meets the skin's surface. Shaving and sanding/buffing are two methods of depilation, as is "chemical shaving" -- another way to describe cream depilatory use.
Depilatory Creams: How They Work
A depilatory cream or gel contains an agent that dissolves the protein structure of the hair. Depilatories are applied in a uniform, thin film to the area of the face to be treated, after which you wait for a certain amount of time -- usually between four and eight minutes -- as the hair dissolves. The hair is then wiped off or rinsed away. Some of the advantages to using cream hair removers to get rid of facial hair are that they're inexpensive, expedient, usually painless and can be used in the privacy of your own home, says consumer reviewer Andrea James, who maintains HairFacts.com.
Cream depilatories can have a harsh, strident smell, making them unpleasant to use. They can also burn and tingle while on your skin and result in temporary redness post-use. If your skin is sensitive, you may have an allergic reaction to the product that results in rash or inflammation, cautions KidsHealth. Manufacturers of facial cream depilatories advise taking a "patch test" on a small part of the face before using the product to make sure that it works for you. Depilatories should not be applied to chapped, broken, irritated or sunburned skin.
Facial hair remover creams may yield results that aren't impressive. Hair may remain absent for up to a few days but sometimes only a few hours -- roughly the same amount of time it takes for hair to regrow after shaving. Women with dark, coarse facial hair may appear to have a "five o'clock shadow" under the surface of their skin. Finally, some cream depilatories may not be strong enough to dissolve facial hair that's particularly coarse.
If using a topical cream to remove facial hair is appealing, James suggests looking into Vaniqa, a medication that's available with a doctor's prescription. While technically not a depilatory, Vaniqa acts as a hair growth inhibitor that curbs hair regrowth on the face that's been epilated or depilated. It may take up to two months to see results, and this topical must be used on a continuous basis for it to work appropriately. Vaniqa is approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for facial use only in women over the age of 12.
Many consumer products claim to inhibit facial hair growth. Coasting on the reputation and popularity of Vaniqua, herbal hair growth inhibitors attract many customers with the promise that they're just as effective as the real deal. However, these "snake oil" products, which have been around since the 19th century, didn't work then and don't work now. Beware of any nonprescription product that claims to do the same thing as an FDA-approved medication.