What is Sugaring?
Sugaring is a method of hair removal that has been used for centuries. The Ancient Egyptians developed the sugaring technique to remove unwanted hair! So yes, we are talking super duper ancient method here. That means it’s got to be fantastic, right?!
Sugaring involves the use of a sugar paste made of just lemon juice, sugar, and warm water to remove unwanted hairs at the hair follicle. The sugar itself looks like a glob honey or a gel, but it is not sticky. In case you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I’ve included the image below 😊.
The sugar (paste, but it is usually just referred to as “sugar”) is applied at room temperature, which is great if you have sensitive skin. Another reason sugaring is great for sensitive skin is that the sugar cannot bind to live skin cells. Unlike wax, which will remove both hair and layers of live skin, sugar is water soluble and cannot bind to any live skin cells. This means that the sugar will not stick to your skin as wax would (making it less painful in my opinion). Also, because of its water-soluble composition, any residual sugar will simply wipe off with water. No sticky mess or globs of wax stuck on you as you leave the salon (I speak out of experience).
So the sugar cannot bind to live cells, but it can however, bind to dead cells. This is an advantage because essentially the area you are getting sugared will be exfoliated as you are having the hair removed. By leaving the live cells and removing the dead ones, there is less irritation and less chance for ingrown hairs to occur post-treatment.
How Long Does Hair Need to Be to Get Sugared?
It is generally recommended that the hairs are at least 1/8” (about the size of a grain of rice) for optimum results with sugaring. That being said, I’ve seen various studios quote numbers from a minimum of 1/16” (for the paste to be able to grab the hair) to ¼” for optimum results. I go in about once a month, so I’d say mine generally gets to the ¼” mark. I will say that it is MUCH less painful when the hair is shorter. My recommendation would be to stick to the 1/8”-1/4” guideline. While sugaring is significantly less painful (and quicker!) than waxing, I will not lie to you by telling you it is pain-free. This is in part due to the method of removing the hair during sugaring.
How Does Sugaring Work?
While waxing uses hot wax and fabric strips to rip off the hair, sugaring does not employ any type of strip. A literal glob of sugar is used for each individual client (there is no pot of wax used for every client – double dipping kinda freaks me out to be honest). This glob is smoothed over part of the area of hair to be removed (this is known as “moulding”) and the esthetician will then flick her/his wrist until the sugar paste and hair are both removed from the area. This is a fairly quick process, and sounds more complicated than it actually is. Advanced sugarers (I think I made that word up, but let’s run with it) will mould the sugar, then flick the sugar, finally placing their hand on the area that was affected in order to help with the pain. To be honest, I’m not really sure of the physiological reason behind this, but I do know that holding the area helps! So expect this when you get sugared, or you may be wondering why the sugarer (yes, that word again) is cradling you ever so gently.
Now that you understand the process, you can see how the longer the hair is, the more painful the sugaring process would be. Due to the fact that the esthetician is moulding the sugar directly on the skin, the longer hairs will pull with the sugar as it is spread. This is only for a brief moment until the paste is pulled off, however, it can be uncomfortable (especially in the erm, nether regions). This is not meant to scare you off by any means, just don’t wait too long in between sessions and you will never have to experience this. [I say this and I can never take my own advice so I always experience this and I STILL think it’s WAY less painful than waxing. ]
Other Differences Between Sugaring and Waxing
A final difference I wanted to note between sugaring and waxing, is the direction of hair removal. While wax is often pulled against the direction of hair growth, sugar is pulled in the same direction of hair growth. In waxing, the pull against the hair growth can cause hair breakage and will not always pull the hair out from the follicle. The sugar paste will almost always pull out the hair at the follicle, as long as the hair is long enough to be grasped. The difference in direction when pulling the hairs out in sugaring vs. waxing is another reason why sugaring is often cited as less painful and the results last longer.
Check out this great chart from Novo Esthetics on the benefits of sugaring over waxing!
Hair Regrowth and Sugaring
The more often you get sugared, the thinner/less coarse the hair will grow in. Some report that hair growth all but stops after getting sugared for a significant period. I have not experienced this yet, but I have definitely noticed less ingrown hairs and thinner/sparser hair growth.
Sugaring Hair Removal and Pain
If you are really concerned about the pain (you shouldn’t be, but I totally understand newbie jitters), you can take an Advil or two before your first appointment to help. One thing to note about this is that women’s pain thresholds can be different depending on menstrual cycle stage. Studies have shown that women rate pain higher in the menstrual and premenstrual phases, and show less pain sensitivity during post-menstrual and ovulatory phases (1). Bottom line…. DON’T get sugared before your period. If you do, I applaud your bravery.
Sugaring and Exfoliation/Ingrown Hairs
One word of caution for those prone to getting ingrown hairs post hair-removal. It is super important to exfoliate the area regularly to avoid ingrown hairs. I get them like crazy because my hair is so coarse (THANKS TESTOSTERONE, MUCH APPRECIATED). I literally cannot shave in certain areas because they are so bad and I have scars all over those specific areas JUST from ingrown hairs. Again, thanks testosterone. So, I only sugar those areas and have been sugaring them for about 2 years now. About 2 days post-treatment, I will start exfoliating and continue to do so about 3x per week with a scrub. I’ve also started moisturizing the areas with non-scented lotion or coconut oil because of the sensitivity. If you already have ingrown hairs, you will need to treat them with something in order to kill the bacteria. Tea tree oil is one effective and natural solution for this. One of the sugaring studios in my area also offers a solution called PFB Vanish. I was doing some research on it and came across a really interesting review of the serum specifically regarding PCOS and hirsutism. One cyster found that the darkening of her skin and ingrown hairs on her chin were all but gone when she started using this serum. You can find it online or find a link on my Resources page. There is also a version without the “chromabright” (lightening complex) if you do not have any areas/spots that need to be lightened.
Pricing for Sugaring Services
Pricing can vary depending on where you go to get sugared. I’ve found that most sugaring studios/salons are comparable to waxing. I have read that depending on whether the salon makes the sugar vs. buys it can impact the pricing due the fact that buying the sugar is more expensive than buying wax by several dollars. This will make sugaring slightly more expensive than waxing at those salons, however, do recall that sugaring will last longer. I think this is still worthy investment.
The pricing will also depend on the area you are getting sugared. Some sugaring salons will offer membership deals if you plan to come in monthly, which can cut the costs. This may be a good option for women with hirsutism who know that hair removal will be an ongoing issue.
Here is a pricing scheme at a local sugaring salon in California.
Tips for Your First Sugaring Appointment
Some other random thoughts that may be helpful to you in your hair-free journey…
- Generally, you cannot get sugared in places you are using topical acne medications, a retinoid, or while taking Accutane
- You CAN get sugared in the nether regions while on your period, just wear a tampon (however, you’re likely going to have a lower pain tolerance during this time!)
- Don’t exfoliate the day before or the day of your sugaring appointment
- Don’t wear any lotions, oils, creams, etc. in the area that you are getting sugared. Make sure the area is clean and dry.
- Sugar paste is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, so you will not break out/have clogged pores
- Many sugaring studios offer services for men if you wanna take your man along too!
- Don’t work out, go in extremely hot water, the pools, or the jacuzzi for 24-48 hours after sugaring. Sweat can clog pores that are open after being sugared. Avoid friction to the area, as it can cause a higher propensity for ingrown hairs. Applying coconut oil to the area will help with this!
- Wait 1-2 days after sugaring to start exfoliating, but go ahead and moisturize and treat (if needed) the area for any pre-existing ingrown hairs
- Stay out of the sun the day before your sugaring appointment. Sunburned skin can be too sensitive to sugar.
Sugaring and DIY
If you are a Pinterest fanatic like me and keep seeing sugaring DIYs all over your feed, you may be tempted to give it a whirl. My advice on this…. avoid the temptation! While I am all for DIYs and would say “You go for it!,” at just about any other DIY project out there… sugaring is one that I would say to leave to a professional. Both the sugaring paste and the removal of the hair are best left to someone who knows what they are doing. Trust me on this one, you’ll be happy you did.
If all of this talk about the sugaring method has got your head spinning… have no fear! I’ve added a video below to show you how the method works. Enjoy!
Good luck to you on your journey to bare skin! I bid you farewell for now!
(1) Hellström B, Anderberg UM. Pain perception across the menstrual cycle phases in women with chronic pain. Percept Mot Skills. 2003 Feb;96(1):201-11. DOI: 10.2466/pms.2003.96.1.201.