It's impossible to keep up with the hair removal world when a new device is popping up every other day. However, waxing and sugaring are hair removal techniques that have been around since the beginning of time. Research shows that although hair removal is increasingly the norm in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, it has been documented as early as ancient Egypt.
Waxing and sugaring are often grouped together because both techniques lift hair from the root and have a longer effect on the skin than shaving. But truth be told, they're two very different techniques. With waxing, sometimes a strip is used to remove your hair in the opposite direction of your follicle's growth pattern. The opposite happens with sugaring, where the hair is pulled in the natural direction of your follicle's growth pattern. Wax also tends to be hotter than sugaring, which is normally room temperature.
To get the lowdown, we tapped Shobha Tummala and Enrique Ramirez.
Meet the Expert
- Shobha Tummala is the founder and CEO of Shobha, a full-service hair removal salon in NYC. With over 18 years of experience, Shobha has brought the beauty traditions of her home country India to her extensive list of clientele.
- Enrique Ramirez is a wax expert, esthetician, and the founder of Face to Face spa in NYC. His nearly fifteen years in the industry have brought clients such as Ellen, Alanis Morisette, and Lindsay Lohan.
"Sugaring is an organic way of removing hair using a sugar paste mixed with lemon juice and sugar," says Ramirez.
"Sugaring is a form of hair removal that resembles waxing but is gentler on the skin and is all-natural (only sugar, lemon juice, water, and glycerin)," explains Tummala. "It dates back to the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. Sugaring tends to hurt less than waxing because it pulls less on the skin while still effectively removing the hair. This also means that you will have a lot less irritation and redness. In addition, the weight of the denim cloth used in our salon for the sugaring gel helps reduce some of the pain." While the recipe described above is the standard recipe, some technicians may put essential oils or honey in their sugars, too. If you're worried about allergies, just ask.
Glycerin is a natural occurring compound in the body; in topical skincare, it is derived from plants. It functions to draw water to the skin and continue hydrating it, making it a great ingredient for extreme dryness.
"Waxing is a tried-and-true method for getting rid of unwanted body hair," Tummala elaborates. "Some benefits of waxing are super-smooth results—it effectively removes hair from the root. Our formula contains azulene oil, a natural anti-inflammatory derived from the chamomile plant, to soothe the skin during the treatment. Waxing is also fast and efficient, meaning large areas can be waxed at once."
Sugaring vs. Waxing
"Sugaring is an organic paste made for those who prefer organic, natural, and gluten-free approaches to life," says Enrique. "The waxing offered at Face to Face is close to organic with a touch of aromatherapy from scents of lavender, rosemary, and chamomile. The level of pain depends on the pain threshold of the individual—no hair removal is left unnoticed or not felt unless you're unconscious. Some tolerate either technique well, and others can't even look at sugaring without breaking out. Results really depend on each individual and their specific skin type. In terms of technique, sugaring paste is molded onto the skin using a gloved hand then removed, while wax can be used with a strip or alone." Sugaring is also able to remove shorter hair—it only has to be 1/16th of an inch—than waxing can, as to get waxed your hair has to be at least a half-inch.
"Sugaring is all-natural, which is great for folks who may have allergies to certain ingredients or just want only natural ingredients on their body," explains Tummala. "Sugaring is also a lot less sticky than traditional wax, so usually the redness and irritation that a lot of people see with wax will not be seen with sugaring. You're also able to wash the sugar off with water, whereas may waxes have to be washed off with a special cleanser or natural oil."
Consider Your Skin Type When Deciding on Sugaring vs. Waxing
According to Ramirez, each technique depends on the body area, hair thickness, and length. For fine hair, he suggests sugaring, and for thicker hair, he recommends waxing. "Clients tend to comment that smoother results last longer with sugaring than waxing," he says. "I personally prefer sugaring, as results last longer and it's less redness left afterward." If any part of your body is particularly heat-sensitive, stick with sugaring, which is done at room temperature. Wax has to be warm to work.
"It's the most gentle and natural option for the skin," Tummala reiterates. She also notes how it's important to consider different methods for different body parts. "If people tend to break out or have adverse reactions to waxing, sugaring would also be a better option. I also have more sensitive parts of my body that I sugar, like my bikini area and my arms. For legs, I wax, as it tends to be a faster process because when you sugar, you might have to go over an area two times because it is less sticky."
There you have it. If you've found that your skin feels aggravated after waxing, you may want to give sugaring a try, which is better for sensitive skin. Either way, both techniques remove hair for an extended amount of time.
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
Milani M, Sparavigna A. The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and Centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: an intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:311-315. doi:10.2147/CCID.S144180