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Sugaring | Hair removal

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Sugaring is a method of temporary hair removal.



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What is sugaring?

Sugaring is a method of temporary hair removal. This hair removal technique has ancient roots utilizing natural ingredients that tend to be a combination of sugar, lemon juice, and water. A paste is created, applied to the skin in the direction of hair growth, and then pulled in the opposite direction using a cloth or fabric applied to the paste.

How does sugaring work?

Sugar tends to harden when exposed to moisture. When sugar is added to just water alone, depending on the amount of water, the mixture can be sticky or crystallize in a way that breaks apart too easily without grasping the hair itself. By adding lemon juice, the citric acid in the lemon breaks apart the sucrose molecules into glucose and fructose which do not crystallize as easily. This is the same concept when making caramel, if you are a cook, to soften the caramel. Lemon juice softens the mixture to reduce its tendency to crystallize or harden and break apart.

By applying this mixture to the skin and allowing it to settle into the hair-bearing area, the heat from the skin will allow it to penetrate around the hair follicles. According to a medical article, sugaring can capture hairs at a much shorter length than traditional waxing. Sugaring has the ability to remove hairs as short as 1/16 of an inch compared to traditional waxing at ¼ of an inch.

Sugaring has been considered less traumatic and less painful than traditional waxing although skin irritation is still possible.

How long does sugaring last?

Sugaring and traditional waxing last about the same length of time. This time frame varies widely based on individual factors such as hormonal and genetic influences, however, 2 to 4 weeks is a reasonable estimate.

What areas of the body can be sugared?

Sugaring is safe for any part of the body. It is often favored for larger surface areas given cost benefits, safety, and less irritation.

What is the difference between sugaring and waxing?

Traditional waxing uses combinations of beeswax, essential oils, resins, and other preservatives. It requires heat to soften and relies on cooling upon application to harden the product. The heat softens the wax for ease of application while also dilating the follicular opening helping the wax to penetrate deeper to grasp the hair as it hardens. This heat has been linked to thermal injury to the skin. The more aggressive hold on the hair can cause follicular trauma because hairs are removed from the root. The heat of the wax allows it to grasp superficial layers of skin and keratin. This can be pulled along with the hair. The use of acne products and/or anti-aging products is also triggering exfoliation in these layers which will be more susceptible to trauma if using wax. Many people who have been waxed while using these products have learned the hard way that their skin can appear as though they had a burn afterward with the superficial layers of skin denuded along with hair removal.

Sugaring is warm, not hot, with less of a risk of thermal injury upon application. Although it can capture shorter hairs, it may not be as aggressive to traumatize the follicle.

Are there pros to sugaring?

Sugaring is:

  • Cost-effective

  • Uses natural ingredients

  • Less traumatic to the skin

  • Less painful

  • Hydrating for the skin

  • Can be used on large surface areas

What are some cons of sugaring?

Sugaring has the potential to cause irritation to the skin.

How should someone prepare for sugaring?

The challenge our skin faces with hair removal is quite simply that in order for the sugar or wax to firmly grip the hair it may also grip the skin. When the product is stripped to remove hair, superficial skin cells may follow and leave the skin feeling raw, sensitive, or uncomfortable.

Ideally prepping the skin in advance to get it ready for the “trauma” can help.

Glycerin is a humectant that can draw moisture into the skin. A pre-wax product containing glycerin can help prime the skin and add moisture to make it better prepared to withstand the effects of hair removal.

Shea butter and argan oil can also serve to trap moisture into the skin while also forming a protective barrier for the skin to hopefully protect it from the impact of hair removal.

Can you safely sugar at home?

Sugaring is safe to perform at home. Bear in mind that the temperature of the mixture is warm, not hot.

Where is the best place to have sugaring performed?

If you have sensitive skin, consider having the process performed at a salon.

Are there safer/more effective body hair removal options available?

There are two methods of hair removal.

  1. Epilation. Epilation is the removal of the hair shaft (visible part of hair), the hair follicle (a portion of the hair underneath the surface), and the hair bulb (base of the hair).

  2. Depilation. Depilation is focused on the removal of the hair shaft alone.

Epilation includes waxing, plucking, threading, sugaring, hair laser, and electrolysis.

Depilation includes shaving and chemical depilatories.

Of these methods, electrolysis is considered permanent hair removal, and hair laser is permanent hair reduction. The rest are temporary hair reduction processes.

Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. In general, depilation techniques tend to be fast, convenient, and inexpensive. Epilation techniques can be more irritating to the skin or follicle, and risk traumatic injury. Certain methods can be tedious and difficult for larger surface areas.


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