Unilever has launched a deodorant that it claims is the first to reduce underarm hair growth.

The Sure and Dove Hair Minimising deodorants will be available in both aerosol and roll-on formats and Unilever predicts it will be so popular with women that they will generate £10m sales in the first year.

Researchers at the company have spent three years developing the pro-epil complex, which gradually makes underarm hair finer and noticeably slows down the rate of growth. While the Sure and Dove Hair Minimising ranges are not designed to replace waxing treatments - or be used ­anywhere else on the body - Unilever claims they will reduce skin irritation caused by hair regrowth.

"We are really excited to be opening up an entirely new segment in the deodorant category," said Murray Bisschop, senior deodorant category manager. "This gives women all the efficacy of Dove and Sure deodorants with an advanced added beauty benefit that no other deodorant brand currently offers."

The range arrives on shelf in January, and Unilever expects sales of the standard Dove and Sure deodorants to drop by about a third as the target audience of young females try the new variants.

The launch will be supported by a £6.4m marketing push in March, consisting of television adverts, outdoor and consumer press. It was vital the adverts reassured consumers over any health concerns they had about how the products worked, said Bisschop.

"The pro-epil complex contains natural extracts and it is critically important for Unilever not to launch anything that is potentially risky," he said.

Unilever would have to gauge consumer reaction to the launch before adding the complex into other Unilever products such as its Lynx brand, he told The Grocer, but said there were "huge opportunities" for the new technology.

The Hair Minimising range will feature across the Dove Wild Rose and Nature Fresh and Sure Skin Friendly variants.