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Hair removal methods are a bit like the seasons—everyone has a favorite. To be perfectly honest, there is no perfect way to be rid of unwanted hair. Shaving doesn't last quite long enough, depilatories are hit or miss, and waxing hurts like hell. But if there were anything close to an ideal way to remove hair, sugaring just might be it.
According to the "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History," the practice of sugaring originated in ancient times in the Middle East. Ah, the ancients—they've always known how to do the things so many of us perceive to be modern innovations, haven't they?
What Is Sugaring Hair Removal?
Sugaring uses a sticky, gel-like paste made from sugar, lemon juice, and water for hair removal. The paste is applied in a similar way to how wax is often used for the same purpose, only the paste is organic, biodegradable, and hypoallergenic. This sweet substance removes the hair from the root without sticking to or pulling at live skin cells, so it tends to be gentler than waxing.
Sugaring can be done anywhere from your eyebrows to your bikini area to your legs. So, how does it work? With gloved hands, an esthetician spreads the warm sugar paste onto skin in the opposite direction of hair growth. After letting it harden for a few seconds, they then pull it off in the direction of the hair growth. They use the same ball of sugar paste until it's no longer grabbing the hair.
The end result: smooth, hairless skin, which lasts for three to five weeks.
The Pros and Cons of Sugaring
When it comes to sugaring vs. waxing, it's really a matter of personal preference. Here are some of the pros and cons of sugaring so you can decide if it's worth a try for you.
- An experienced esthetician can do sugaring quickly—faster than waxing. Since the sugar can be applied to a large area, more hair can be removed at once.
- The sugar is water soluble, meaning you can clean off any residue left on the skin with plain water. Wax is not water soluble, so it needs an oil-based remover to get rid of all traces.
- Sugar paste is very gentle and can be put right over an area that was just sugared without fear of much irritation. This makes it easier to go over an area again where hair was missed.
- Over time, frequent sugaring can cause the hair follicle to become damaged and stop growing hair.
- Most salons and spas have waxing on their menu, but depending on where you live, it can be more difficult to find a place that offers sugaring. However, because of the method's trending status over the last few years, it has become much easier to access it as a spa treatment.
- If you do it yourself, getting the right consistency can be tricky; it involves some trial and error.
- You need about bout an eighth- or a quarter-inch of hair growth in order for the sugar to be able to catch the hairs. Just like with waxing, you'll have to be OK with a little fuzz in between appointments.
- You should not have sugaring done if any of the following apply: you're using retinol or vitamin C on your skin; you're taking steroids; you're using Accutane; you have bruising, swelling, rashes, open sores, a sunburn, or cold sores. These are the key factors to consider, but there are other conditions that would make you a poor candidate for sugaring. As always, consult your dermatologist before trying a new treatment.
Does It Hurt?
Sugaring doesn't not hurt. But many people do find it less painful than waxing. As mentioned, the sugar paste doesn't stick to live skin cells like wax does, so that means less irritation. That being said, if you're transitioning from shaving to sugaring, you'll probably find it more painful than someone who has been waxed before. Over time, the procedure will be less painful, as your hair growth can become thinner the more you use this method.
Post-sugaring, you should treat your skin similarly to how you would after a wax in order to avoid ingrown hairs. Refrain from working out, taking hot baths—and if you've sugared the bikini area, having sex—for a couple of days so that you don't create a buildup of sweat, which can lead to ingrowns.
Exfoliate a few times a week with a body scrub or a chemical exfoliant to remove dead skin cells that can clog your pores. And if you like the results, go ahead and book your next appointment for about three to five weeks out.
How Much Does It Cost?
Costs vary among salons, but at sugaringLA, prices range from $16 for the upper lip to $126 for the full legs. It does tend to be more expensive than waxing, since it's not as common. But you can make your own sugar paste for a few dollars with all natural ingredients (but proceed with caution; as with waxing, there are some inherent hygiene and safety risks that an esthetician is more well-versed about).
How to DIY
Just like with waxing, for best results, you should definitely leave sugaring to a professional, at least at first. But if you're adventurous (and DIY-adept) enough to try it at home, the ingredients and steps are relatively simple:
- Add two cups organic cane sugar, a quarter-cup lemon juice, and a quarter-cup water to a heavy pot or saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 25 minutes.
- Once it reaches a dark amber color, remove it from the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes, then transfer it into an airtight, heat-safe container. Let it cool to room temperature before using.
- Once it's cool, with clean hands, take a handful of the paste and warm it up between your hands.
- Spread it on the area, opposite the direction of hair growth.
- Let it harden for a few seconds, then quickly peel off the paste in the direction of the hair growth.
- Repeat until you remove all the hair from the area. However, if it's not working out and you start to notice any redness or irritation, stop immediately.