Chemical depilation (hair removal) is almost always a do-it-yourself procedure, done at home with over-the-counter products. Its main advantages are in being inexpensive, convenient and quickly done. Its main disadvantage is that hair removal is temporary and must be frequently repeated.
The typical chemical depilatory contains a thioglycolate as the active ingredient. Thioglycolates attack the proteins (keratins) that provide structure and strength to hair (Click on Hair Science: How and Why Hair Grows and Hair as a Biologic Fiber). The structural proteins are effectively turned into a mush that is scraped off with the depilatory after the depilatory has done its job. Hair follicles are not affected by chemical depilation; they can begin to regrow hair immediately. Thus, chemical depilation is very temporary and must be repeated frequently to maintain its effect. Unless specifically labeled otherwise, chemical depilatories should not be used on facial skin and especially not near the eyes.
Eflornithine (brand name Vaniqa) is a newer medication that retards hair growth but does not remove hair. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for use in retarding growth of facial hair in women. Eflornithine is available only by prescription after medical examination and diagnosis by a physician.