Depilatory products (including for example Veet®) are used to remove unwanted hair on legs and underarms, for example. Present day trends in fashion and beauty seem to demand the removal of hair from certain parts of the body. This is so much so that there was amazement when actor Julia Roberts appeared at a film premiere showing underarm hair, Figure 1.
Figure 1: Julia Roberts at the premiere of the film Notting Hill. Her display of underarm hair caused much comment.
There are different opinions about hair removal, but there is a demand for depilatory products from many women and an increasing number of men. The most common method of hair removal is, of course, shaving. However, this leaves behind a sharp edge on the end of each hair. These sharp ends lie right at the surface of the skin. As soon as the hair starts growing (within hours), these sharp edges are exposed, producing stubble which is unsightly, rough and uncomfortable, Figure 2.
Figure 2: Shaved hair (left) and hair after chemical removal (right)
Here we look at chemical means of removing hair - these work at the surface of the skin to dissolve the protein that makes up hair, leaving rounded ends on the hair shaft, Figure 2. The result is a smoother feel for longer.
To understand how these hair proteins can be dissolved, we must first understand the chemical makeup of hair.