The 6 Best Hair Removal Creams of 2023

For a smooth, bump-free finish.

Low angle shot of a young woman's bare legs
(Image credit: Getty Images )

Hair removal can be a tricky, and often painful, process. Using a laser hair removal device at home comes with its own slew of precautions, not to mention expenses. And if you’ve already run through all of the best razors and wax strips at the drugstore, finding a hair removal cream can feel like the best remaining option. We tapped dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal, a dermatologist at Affiliated Dermatology, to talk all things hair removal cream, including how to use them and what to look for.

How Do Hair Removal Creams Work?

Unlike razors, epilators, or waxing kits, hair removal creams, also known as depilatory creams, offer a relatively painless way to remove hair in the comfort of your own bathroom. But how do they work? Dr. Lal explains that hair removal creams “contain chemical ingredients that break down the tight bonds in our hair proteins, causing the hairs to break off.”

It’s critical to understand the differences between hair removal methods before we dive into the best hair removal creams. Classic razors remove hair by cutting it off as close to the skin as possible; wax strips pull out strands by ripping them from the follicle. (For more information, check out Marie Claire’s guides on how to use wax strips, as well as our guides on how to shave your legs and how to shave your bikini line.)

Should I Use a Hair Removal Cream?

If shaving or waxing works perfectly for you and for your needs, great! Dr. Lal says hair removal creams can be a good alternative to either option, though, especially if you’re someone who gets razor bumps. Also, creams are good for anyone whose skin is too sensitive for waxing or if you’ve “had skin tearing or ripping” during that process.

Risks

Like many hair removal processes, using a cream comes with its own set of risks—although I should note that they’re very minor. For one, Dr. Lal says that you should not "use hair removal creams on the face, neck, or private areas.” These tend to be more sensitive than other parts of the body, so irritation can happen more easily. Also, it’s important to leave the cream for only the allotted amount of time, so read the directions carefully. “If you leave the cream on for too long, you can develop a chemical burn, which can present with redness, blistering, and/or pain,” says Lal. 

The products on this list have been vetted by Marie Claire's Commerce Editor, Julia Marzovilla (aka yours truly), and Beauty Director Deena Campbell. Each and every one is highly rated by reviewers. While the *best* hair removal cream for you will vary based on personal preference, you truly can't go wrong with one of the items on this list. For a more personalized recommendation or if you have any concerns, check with your board-certified dermatologist. 

The Best Hair Removal Creams

How to Use Hair Removal Creams

  1. Perform a Test Strip: Rather than jumping in and using your preferred cream on your entire leg or underarm area, Dr. Lal suggests testing out the product on a smaller area on the skin first. He specifically recommends trying it out “on your upper thigh to make sure you aren’t allergic or sensitive to the cream you are trying.” 
  2. Apply The Cream To The Rest Of Your Desired Area: If the test strip doesn’t cause any irritation, it’s time to apply the cream to the rest of the area. Dr. Lal says to apply a thin layer in the direction the hair grows.
  3. Leave The Cream On: Dr. Lal says that the hair removal cream should be left on for “no more than five minutes.” 
  4. Remove The Cream: Using a microfiber towel will help gently remove the cream. To get the best results, move the towel in the opposite direction of hair growth. 
  5. Rinse The Area and Moisturize: Keep your skin feeling healthy, cleanse the area with soap and water. Follow this up with a moisturizer. Dr. Lal also says that you should wait three weeks between using a hair removal cream. 

Preparation

“Make sure you don’t have any active rash or irritation prior to applying your hair removal cream,” says Lal. He also says that you shold  “make sure you are not allergic to any ingredients in the hair removal cream.”

Aftercare

“Moisturize right away and for a few days after treatment,” says Dr. Lal. “If you have redness or irritation, use 1% hydrocortisone (opens in new tab) two to three times a day until the redness and irritation is gone.” 

Meet The Expert

Dr. Karan Lal
Dr. Karan Lal

Originally from New York City, he grew up in Queens and attended Hunter Science High School in Manhattan. He graduated summa cum laude from the New York Institute of Technology, where he completed a rigorous seven-year accelerated combined medical program. He was selected to be an academic medical scholar, during which he received a Master of Science in neuroscience and a scholarship for three years of medical school and graduate training. He was elected to the Sigma Sigma Phi and Psi Sigma Alpha medical honor societies. He completed his internal medicine internship at the University of Connecticut Medical Center where he was elected intern of the year. He completed a three-year dermatology residency at the University of Massachusetts, where he was elected chief resident. He continued at the University of Massachusetts to complete a pediatric dermatology fellowship, where he gained an interest in vascular anomalies, pediatric laser, and dermatologic surgery of pediatric patients. Dr. Lal specializes in pediatric and adult dermatology, laser surgery, soft tissue filler augmentation, body sculpting, melanocyte keratinocyte transplant surgery for vitiligo and hypopigmentation, pigmentary abnormalities of the skin and enjoys treating patients from birth onwards. He is an expert in atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, melasma, psoriasis, and hidradenitis and has worked in specialty clinics among experts. He is the only board-certified pediatric and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist in the country.


Julia Marzovilla
E-Commerce Editor

Julia Marzovilla is the E-Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she covers everything from the latest beauty and fashion launches and sales to celebrity outfits and news. She also creates shopping guides that span every vertical on the site. Prior to joining the Marie Claire team, she contributed similar shopping stories to sites such as Bustle, InStyle, The Zoe Report, Who What Wear, and STYLECASTER. In her spare time, Julia can be found creating shopping guides for all of her friends, spending too much money on yet another pair of black boots, and cooking in her far-too-small kitchen.