Nair, the brand name for an alkaline-based, depilatory lotion, works by breaking down the chemical bonds of hair, thus allowing hairs to be removed by wiping them away.
Depilatory creams typically include alkaline chemicals such as strontium sulfide, sodium thioglycolate and calcium thioglycolate. Nair's active ingredients are calcium hydroxide (lime) and sodium hydroxide (lye). Nair also includes mineral oil, which softens the effects of the strong chemical ingredients.
Depilatories work by breaking the chemical bonds of the protein structures, or keratin, in the hair. Keratin holds the individual hair strands together. Once the bonds break, the hair resembles jelly, which can then be wiped or washed away. Depilatories take between five to ten minutes to work.
Nair makes a variety of depilatory products including lotion, bikini cream, face cream, upper-lip cream, formula for sensitive skin, products for men and spray on depilatories.
While the process is considered easier than traditional shaving, using Nair or other depilatories has downsides. A strong chemical smell is usually associated with the product. Plus, putting a strong chemical directly on the skin can result in burns, blisters and rashes if left on too long or if the user has an allergic reaction to the product.