Calcium Thioglycolate Side Effects

Hair removal products, also called depilatories, are creams and gels which dissolve the protein structure (keratin) of hair so it separates from the skin. Calcium thioglycolate is an active ingredient in some hair removal products, including Nair and Andre For Men. These products can be convenient if you don't like to shave, and the skin surface usually stays smoother a bit longer than after shaving. Calcium thioglycolate is a harsh chemical, but is included in very low amounts to prevent side effects.

Product Use

Using a hair removal product involves spreading a thick layer on the skin and leaving it there for between 5 and 15 minutes, the longer time for coarser hair. Warming the area first with a washcloth opens pores and makes the product more effective. You can then use the washcloth to rub off the cream or gel along with the hair.


The main side effect of hair removal products is the unpleasant smell, caused by sulfur in the thioglycolate chemical. Product manufacturers have tried hard to mask this smell with fragrance, but it only works to a certain extent. Even if you wash the area with soap and water afterward, the odor can linger for several hours.

Skin Irritation

Skin stinging and irritation is a relatively common side effect of products containing calcium thioglycolate, a reason they are not intended for use on the face. Applying a soothing hydrating lotion afterward can help.

Skin Reaction

Although uncommon, a person can experience a sensitivity or allergic skin reaction to calcium thioglycolate hair removal products, even if she has used the substance before with no problems. The effect is a chemical dermatitis rash, and is more likely in people with sensitive skin. Manufacturers recommend testing a small patch of skin before each use, and waiting 24 hours before applying to a larger area.


Product instructions warn users not to get the substance near or in the eyes, or it will cause irritation. If it does reach your eyes, rinse them thoroughly with warm water, and seek medical attention if irritation persists or is severe. Calcium thioglycolate products also should not be used in the nose or genital area, or on inflamed or broken skin, to avoid skin irritation.

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