If you're the DIY type, donning egg yolk in your hair or avocado on your face is likely as routine as slathering on an in-shower body wash. Pulling out body hair, though? Not so much. While there are some things we prefer to leave to the pros (ahem, microneedling), sugaring is one that—if done correctly—can be added to your DIY arsenal. But first, let's talk benefits. Sugaring is said to be the primary method of hair removal in ancient Egypt (Cleopatra may have even been a fan), and for good reason. For one, the ingredients in the actual paste are all-natural, making them a dream for sensitive skin types. Then there's the fact that sugaring pulls from the root of the hair, and less on the skin (re: it's less painful).
If you're sporting thick hair, waxing may be a better fit, but sugaring is lauded among fine-haired folks for its ease of use and promising results. We spoke to two waxing pros, Cindy Barshop, founder of VSpot Medi Spa, and Rachael Gallo of Exhale Spa, to get the lowdown on how to make sugar wax at home.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling to learn an expert-approved sugar wax recipe.
What Is Sugar Wax?
"Sugar wax is an all-natural waxing solution that has been used for many years," says Gallo. "The benefits of sugar wax are the exfoliating and hydrating results, which are not typically found after waxing or shaving." While shaving can cause ingrown hairs in coarser hair types and hair grows back quickly, sugaring pulls from the root, leading to longer-lasting, more permanent hair reduction. According to Gallo, the results can last up to 28 days and can be done with ingredients you likely already have in your home.
Click Play to Get an Easy DIY Sugar Wax Recipe
Waxing vs. Sugaring
There are a few differences between traditional wax and sugar wax, and the process to use each. For one thing, sugaring tends to be less painful. That's because waxing utilizes a strip to remove hair in the opposite direction of the follicle's growth pattern (which leads to pain). With sugaring, though, the hair is pulled in the natural direction of the follicle's growth pattern.
Wax can also be more painful because it uses hotter wax, which can lead to burns. Sugaring utilizes more room-temperature wax (and it tends to be more natural than traditional waxing).
DIY Sugar Wax Ingredients
You'll only need three ingredients for an at-home sugar wax recipe, according to Gallo.
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/8 cup lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1/8 cup warm water
- Place a medium-sized pot on the stove and add all ingredients to the pot.
- Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, making sure to stir frequently to avoid burning.
- Once the mixture starts bubbling, reduce to medium heat and continue to stir frequently.
- Remove the pot from heat when the mixture turns golden brown. The consistency of your sugar paste should be similar to hot syrup. If it's thick like honey, it might not stick to the skin—so heat it a little longer.
- Transfer to a bowl and let the paste cool for 30 minutes. The wax should still be warm but easy to manipulate.
Gallo recommends using white sugar (versus brown) for a sugar paste, as it's hard to see the color change with brown sugar and it hardens too quickly.
How to Prep Your Skin
Barshop recommends cleansing the area to be sugared with a natural soap like Cetaphil's Ultra Gentle Body Wash ($6) as well as lightly exfoliating. Both experts advise that the area should be clean and free of lotions and oils—if your skin is prone to oiliness, you can remove excess oil with a body wipe or witch hazel, suggests Barshop. If you're sporting sunburned skin or irritated, open sores, avoid sugaring those areas. Also, Barshop notes that you should stop using oral or topical acne or retinoid medication at least six days before sugaring.
How to Use Your DIY Sugar Wax
Your DIY sugar wax can be applied on the face or body, so long as the length of the hair is at least one quarter inch. Sugaring gets bonus points as there's no need for cloth strips but note that sugar wax can still be somewhat painful. It's also more cost-effective than other options, like visiting a wax specialist or buying waxes and strips since it utilizes ingredients you likely already have on hand.
Here's how to use the paste, according to Barshop.
- Hold the wax with the tips of your fingers and thumb.
- Spread the wax in the direction the hairs are growing.
- Pull the skin taught with the other hand and pull off the wax in a fast movement in the opposite direction.
- Always rip off the wax parallel to the skin (never in an upward motion).
- If you have extra paste, store it in a plastic container at room temperature.
In a hurry? Barshop says to speed up the cool-down process of the paste by spooning it into a ball and placing it in a bowl of room temperature water for a few minutes.
"After the hair is removed, remove any wax residue with a skin wax remover or warm water and a washcloth," says Barshop. "You can also apply an antiseptic cream regularly for one to two days post-sugaring." Gallo recommends using coconut oil to reduce the acidity from the lemon juice and soothe the skin (try this one from Kopari for an unrefined, organic option). Also, if you're sugaring your bikini area or underarms, avoid working out or taking hot baths—these areas may be sensitive to heat.
Coconut oil, also known as lauric acid, is derived from coconuts. The lauric acid found in coconut oil can have antimicrobial properties, which can help kill bacteria on the skin and reduce inflammation. It is also known to help remove makeup, exfoliate the skin, and lock in moisture.
How long does sugar wax last?
Depending on how fast your hair grows, you can expect your results to last somewhere around five to six weeks.
Is sugar waxing better than shaving?
It is ultimately up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each. Sugaring will last longer than shaving, and since it pulls hair directly from the root, regular sugaring could lead to reduced hair growth over time. Shaving, on the other hand, is less painful (and messy) than sugaring, and usually more convenient. However, you have to shave much more frequently, with stubble usually re-emerging within one to three days.
Can you shower after sugaring?
According to Alexandra Accardo, a licensed esthetician, you're good to shower after sugaring. You should avoid the gym, however, as well as anything with high heat (think saunas or hot tubs) and any other form of skin-to-skin contact for 24-48 hours.
Lim V, Simmons BJ, Maranda EL, Afifi L, Kallis PJ, Jimenez J. Sugaring-modern revival of an Ancient Egyptian technique for hair removal. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(6):660. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.4864