So here's the thing. In a perfect world, I would traipse around with immaculately hairless legs, underarms, and yes, everything in between, on a consistent, 24-7 basis. To each her own, but it's my personal preference to feel baby-bottom smooth from little toe to upper lip, and I find it rather annoying to be anything but. However, here's the rub: The mere thought of waxing makes me break out in hives, and if there were an award for World's Worst Shaver, it would inarguably go to moi (ask my friends, I have the prickly knees to prove it). Suffice to say, my hairless aspirations and I have found ourselves at a bit of a crossroads over the years, and I've ultimately settled for haphazard shave job after haphazard shave job—le sigh.
Lately, though, I've been increasingly inclined to find a solution, preferably an all-natural one at that. Enter sugaring: a natural hair-removal technique only involving sugar, lemon, and water. And although the process has roots in an ancient Egyptian beauty ritual, sugaring hair removal still manages to fly under the radar as a comparable, and perhaps superior, alternative to waxing, shaving, and lasering. So, after doing my research, asking around, and listening to plenty of positive (and negative) experiences, I decided to give it a try.
Keep reading to find out how my first-ever appointment went and the most important takeaways about sugaring hair removal.
Although sugaring is somewhat similar to waxing in that yes, you're applying a paste to the skin before quickly ripping it off in the name of sleek and smooth body parts, it's also very different. "Sugaring is actually much more hygienic than waxing, it's less irritating to the skin, and it can be less painful if done regularly," explains Courtney Claghorn, founder of Sugared + Bronzed. The opposite of waxing, sugaring removes the hair (recommended to be at least 1/8 of an inch long) in the natural direction of hair growth, which discourages, and can even correct, in grown-hairs—the ultimate nemesis.
Plus, unlike wax which can have some nasty and artificial ingredients lurking within, the sugar paste used during sugaring hair removal is solely composed of lemon, sugar, and water. Additionally, as Claghorn explains to me, the sugar paste mixture can only be heated to room temperature. In other words, it will never burn you, which can be another danger of wax.
One last perk? It's also 100% hygienic if you go to a credible sugaring location like Sugared + Bronzed: "Our Sugaristas only use the individual balls of sugar on one person and they're disposed of immediately following the treatment. There's no chance of 'double-dipping' as can happen with wax pots, sticks, and strips."
Just be careful not to mistake "sugaring" for "sugar waxing," which Claghorn warns are two completely different treatments: "With sugaring, a specially mixed paste is molded on to a client's skin and is removed using a flicking motion, there's no sticks or strips involved at all, whereas sugar waxing still involves waxing strips and has higher likelihood of ripping the skin along with the hair and encouraging ingrown hairs."
Since a few of my co-workers and friends have had admittedly negative experiences with sugaring (and I had read some slightly terrifying reviews online), I wanted to ensure that I'd be entrusting my legs (I was too chicken try anything above the thigh for my first go-round) to the best of the best, and I ultimately landed on Sugared + Bronzed, a well-known sugaring and airbrush tanning location with a great bicoastal reputation (they have locations in L.A., O.C., NY, and Philly) and a luxe, spa-like ambiance.
"I was inspired to create Sugared + Bronzed because I realized the only options for a sugaring service or custom airbrush tan in L.A. were incredibly expensive and/or in the back of a spa, salon, or hotel. The few places that were affordable seemed run down, had bad reviews, or didn't feel welcoming," Claghorn tells me. "I wanted to offer services that were not only affordable but enjoyable as well. I wanted to create a salon atmosphere that was inviting and fun, not snobby or serious like places I had witnessed in the past. And since we specialize in sugaring and tanning, we're able to ensure that our staff is incredibly well trained."
So, somewhat appeased, I booked an appointment at their W. 3rd street location in L.A. and hoped for the best. I have very sensitive skin and since I've only ever had negative experiences with waxing (think itching, breakouts, rashes, and prolonged, abnormal redness and inflammation), I was slightly nervous.
However, soon after my arrival, my anxiety slowly began to dissipate. Not only was my "sugarista" exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable (girl does a mean play-by-play), she also answered all of my burning questions along the way. I immediately explained my initial trepidation and my less than favorable history with waxing, and she quickly countered that although the sugaring would still feel slightly uncomfortable (and yes, it was), it's typically more tolerable than waxing and less irritating and inflammatory in the hours and days afterward.
Spoiler: She was right.
After crafting a very aesthetically pleasing ball of sugar (envision a brilliantly sized and sparkling hard candy that's not actually hard), she slowly began to apply it to my skin before quickly flicking it off. She explained that she was using a soft/medium sugar strength for my legs on account of my super-soft, light hairs. As it turns out, this completely depends on the person and an individual's hair type, but having three different strengths (soft, medium, and hard) ultimately creates a more customized and efficient sugaring experience.
And though the process was still a tad uncomfortable, it supposedly gets better with each and every session and had noticeably less afterburn compared to waxing (there was no limping, wincing, or Advil involved post-treatment).
From start to finish, the treatment took a little over an hour, which included the post-sugaring ritual of wiping down my legs with cool, soothing cloths and the application of multiple glow and health-promoting elixirs. The first: a lovely mix of tea tree oil, witch hazel, and aloe to help soothe. The second: a rich coconut oil to add some moisture back into my skin. Though sugaring doesn't rip away new skin (as waxing can), it is an efficient means of lifting away dead skin and thus doubles as an epic exfoliating treatment—something my admittedly dry, flaky legs needed.
All in all, I would say I'm now a member of the sugaring fan club. And as long as the location is highly reputable, I would recommend the process to anyone in the market for an all-natural, slightly less painful alternative to waxing. I left Sugared + Bronzed with smooth, glisteningly, hair-free legs and was already planning my next trip en route back to the office.
"It's ideal to have 14 days of growth since the last time you shaved or one month since your last waxing session," Claghorn advised. "It's also worth noting quite a few clients seem to think they'll notice the benefits after the very first session, but you really need a few appointments to work out all of the in-grown hairs beneath the surface that regular waxing or shaving may have caused."
When I asked Claghorn if I'd stay hairless as long as I would after a wax, she told me that it truly depends on the person, but often the results and grow-back periods are comparable. In fact, my sugarista, Britney, told me many clients eventually cancel their memberships since the hair stops growing back, period—a big win in my book, at least.
Ultimately, I'm excited to continue my sugaring journey, and as a beauty obsessee who's constantly trying to naturalize her approach to skincare and beauty treatments, I'm officially a fan. (And yes, for the record, I can't get the lyrics of Sugar, Sugar out of my head for the life of me.)
Next up, four expert-approved bikini wax tips.