An alkaline wash is a method that removes peach fuzz or downy hair from the skin. Unlike other hair removal techniques, this treatment eliminates large patches of hair without discomfort. Alkaline wash is pain-free and takes about 3–4 minutes.
In this treatment, a paste is applied to the skin for a few minutes. Chemical depilatories are made into creams, powders, pastes, or lotions, (1) and clinicians sometimes use them in combination with electrolysis (2) and laser (3) but mostly it is used separately to remove downy and coarse hair.
After the first treatment session, you can see drastic skin clarity, and as the treatment progresses, the hair growth will slow down, resulting in a permanent reduction of hair.
The cream increases the pH of the hair and skin within 3–4 minutes. The higher pH level dissolves the hair and a portion of the hair follicles. The treatment is quick, and the chemical depilatories are effortless to use and are more effective in reducing hair regrowth than shaving but result in hair stiffness post-treatment.
You may notice unpleasant odors during the treatment, and irritant contact dermatitis may cause an allergic reaction in some people due to fragrances. (1)
Scroll down to learn more about this hair removal method.
What Is Alkaline Removal and How Is It Done?
As discussed, alkaline hair removal involves the use of chemical depilatories for hair removal. These depilatories are made into cream, pastes, and lotions and are used for different body areas and the face.
Examples of depilatories are detergents, hair shaft-swelling agents, adhesives, pH adjusters, and bond-breaking agents, which interrupt the disulfide bonds in keratin and lead to temporary inhibition of hair growth.
The most common chemical depilatories are replaced with mercaptans 2% to 10%. They have an active ingredient, thioglycolates, when blended with 2% to 6% sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide to increase the pH level.
Sulfide depilatories and sodium hydroxide depilatories are not so popular because they cause irritant dermatitis that leads to skin damage. Depilatories, when used on your skin for 3–15 minutes, dissolve the hair shaft, after which you can rinse your skin with soap and water. (1)
This formula works because the depilatories change their pH level to 12 when the skin is alkalizing; they dissolve and soften the hair and reduce hair growth. After the initial alkaline wash, you may experience dryness or swelling, which will go away with time.
Side Effects of Alkaline Treatment
The side effects of alkaline wash include the following:
- A higher pH can impact the skin drastically. Though alkaline wash is a pain-free way to get rid of unwanted hair, if your skin is sensitive, the areas will appear red, warm, and, in some cases, dry.
- If your skin is oily or prone to acne, you might experience an outbreak that may lead to skin damage. Clinicians recommend a patch test before starting the treatment. (4)
- Harmful ingredients such as detergents, mercaptans (2%–10%), and thioglycolates are blended with 2%–6% sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide, which increase the skin’s pH level. Constant exposure to these ingredients can cause health disorders. (5)
- While chemical depilatories are easy to use and painless and reduce hair regrowth in contrast to shaving, it does not stiffen the hair. After treatment, you experience an unpleasant odor, and irritant contact dermatitis can develop due to the fragrance used in chemical depilatories. (2)
- Few people find this application endurable.
- Chemical depilatories are ineffective in treating dark-pigmented coarse hair. (1)
Points to Remember After an Alkaline Wash
Some people believe that after an alkaline wash, the hair will grow coarser than before, but this is a myth because the chemical dissolves the follicles.
The clinician will not necessarily advise you to stay away from UV rays, but it is recommended to avoid them for at least 48 hours. Moreover, refrain from using makeup for 12 hours.
The clinician will suggest hair after-care products that prevent hair growth and reduce the after-effects. (1)
General Queries Related to Alkaline Wash Treatment
Is alkaline wash a permanent solution for fuzzy hair?
After the alkaline treatment, hair regrowth will become slow over time. Many people are satisfied with its result and find a significant reduction in hair growth with time. When it is combined with other complementing hair reduction treatments, it provides long term permanency.
Is a consultation necessary before undergoing the treatment?
A consultation of just 10–20 minutes is necessary before undergoing an alkaline wash. During this, the practitioner will assess whether you are a good candidate for the treatment, suggest alternatives, and provide information on the results you can achieve.
Is alkaline wash suitable for all skin types?
An alkaline treatment is quite comfortable. Many clients report a subtle pricking sensation during the treatment. It may be harmful for overly sensitive skin and may cause contact dermatitis, so a patch test is recommended.
Who should not undergo the treatment?
You should inform your practitioner if you are pregnant or taking any medications or vitamin supplements as there may be interactions and contraindications.
Will the treatment stimulate hair growth?
No, the treatment will dissolve and damage the hair follicles and will not stimulate hair growth.
Alkaline wash or chemical depilatories have several benefits and gradually eliminate the regrowth of hair.
Keratinous debris is removed from the mouth of the hair follicle, leading to effective hair removal. However, the treatment involves the use of chemicals, which might cause side effects.
- P; KCNSMLCF. Hair removal practices: A literature review. Skin therapy letter. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34524781/.
- [pdf] energy based hair removal – researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283178489/.
- Chemical depilatory. Chemical Depilatory – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/chemical-depilatory.
- Kuo S-H, Shen C-J, Shen C-F, Cheng C-M. Role of ph value in clinically relevant diagnosis. Diagnostics (Basel, Switzerland). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7167948/. Published February 16, 2020.
- Hair removal products 2017 – Inflibnet Centre. https://epgp.inflibnet.ac.in/epgpdata/uploads/epgp_content/S000833PL/P001869/M031294/ET/1527678323P11M32Text.pdf.