Nair is generally safe to use to remove unwanted face or body hair. However, there are some dangerous side effects to be aware of—particularly if you have sensitive skin.
Nair is one of the most commonly used hair removal products on the market. It’s been around since 1940 and has successfully positioned itself as a fast, easy alternative to shaving and a less painful proxy to waxing.
Nair uses chemicals to break down hair follicles. The active ingredients (calcium hydroxide along with sodium hydroxide) increase the pH of the hair, effectively dissolving portions of the follicles. There are many different formulations of Nair—lotions, creams, in-shower treatments. Some formulas also use the ingredient potassium thioglycolate, a chemical which attacks the hair's keratin. The hairs are then diminished enough to simply be wiped away.
But if these chemicals are powerful enough to essentially melt away hair... what harmful effects could they have on your skin?
Nair’s active chemical ingredients can cause skin irritation, particularly for those with sensitive skin. There are many degrees of skin irritation, and it usually depends on your sensitivity level, where you placed the product and how long you left it on. The effect could be as mild as a slight tingling sensation to a more uncomfortable burning followed by the appearance of a rash. Mild skin irritation can usually be treated at home with aloe vera gel, but more serious cases (including allergic reactions) will require medical attention.
Nair use also carries the risk of chemical burns. The mix of Nair’s calcium hydroxide and potassium thioglycolate ingredients results in a potent chemical reaction that can burn the skin if it is left on longer than directed. Nair always includes the recommended time for application on the package; it’s usually somewhere between three to ten minutes.
To avoid skin irritation, allergic reactions or even a chemical burn, be sure to read the package carefully. Remember: every formulation is different and thus may require its own distinct steps. Next, do a small test patch on your arm or hand. If your skin becomes red, irritated or painful, discontinue use immediately and seek an urgent medical attention doctor—you may be having an allergic reaction. If your test patch went without incident, proceed with the application... but avoid placing Nair in any sensitive regions such as the underarm or bikini area.
Finally, do not leave Nair sitting on your skin for longer than the directions recommend. Ever. It doesn’t matter how much of a Nair expert you consider yourself or how stubborn you feel a certain patch of hair is: using Nair for longer than the recommended time can result in a serious chemical burn.
Possible short-term side effects
- tingling/burning sensation
Ingredients to be aware of
- calcium hydroxide
- sodium hydroxide
- potassium thioglycolate
- smooth skin
- effective hair removal