Sugar waxing, also known as sugaring, is a type of epilation. This is a method of hair removal that pulls out the hair root. The practice originates in the Middle East and involves only natural ingredients.
Sugar wax contains sugar, lemon juice, and water. A person heats these ingredients, mixes them, and applies them to the skin in a similar way to cosmetic hair wax. Then a person places strips of cotton over the top and pulls back firmly to remove the hair.
For those who are sensitive to cosmetic hair wax, sugar wax can be a good alternative. It offers comparable results to waxing, but unlike synthetic waxes, sugar wax is fully biodegradable. A person can also use sugar wax on any part of the body, whereas cosmetic wax is only suitable for some areas.
In this article, we look at what sugar waxing is, whether it is better than waxing, how it works, its safety, and risks. We also explain how to make sugar wax at home and some other natural hair-removal methods.
Despite the name, sugar wax does not contain any wax. Instead, it is a combination of sugar, water, and lemon juice. These ingredients form a paste when someone heats them together. A person can use this mixture in a similar way to the hair wax that companies sell for hair removal.
To use sugar wax, a person applies the cooled paste to the skin and layers strips of fabric over the top. They then pull off the strips in the direction of the hair growth.
Waxing and sugar waxing have few differences. The method of application and the results are very similar.
However, there are a few key differences:
- Ingredients: Most waxing kits and products involve using synthetic wax. Some people can be sensitive to ingredients in these waxes, such as colors or fragrances. Because people make sugar wax from little more than sugar and water, it can be a better option for these individuals.
- Temperature: To use synthetic waxes, the mixture has to be warm. By contrast, sugar wax works best at room temperature. This can be both more convenient and safer as there is less chance of a person burning themselves.
- Application: Due to the heat and harshness of cosmetic hair-removal wax, it is only safe for people to use it on some areas of the body. By contrast, a person can use room-temperature sugar wax on any part of the body where hair typically grows.
- Environmental impact: Sugar wax consists of biodegradable ingredients that break down easily once someone throws them away. By contrast, synthetic waxes are not biodegradable and so are more harmful to the environment.
- Cost: People can make sugar wax at home using inexpensive, widely available ingredients. This can make it a cheaper and easier option than waxing, which typically involves purchasing premade cosmetic waxing kits or visiting a salon.
Both sugaring and waxing are forms of epilation, which removes the hair from the roots. Both work via a sticky substance that adheres to hairs on the skin and holds onto them. When someone pulls the substance off, the hair comes with it.
In sugaring, the sticky substance is a sugar paste, not a wax. However, it works in the same way.
Epilation differs from other hair-removal methods, such as shaving, which only involves cutting the hair rather than pulling it out. Shaving is pain-free, but the results do not last as long.
If a person uses sugar wax correctly, it poses few risks. There is some pain involved in the process, but this is temporary and does not indicate it is harming someone’s health.
However, there are some people who should avoid any type of waxing. This includes people who have:
- used isotretinoin in the past 6 months
- used retinoids in the past 2–5 days
- sunburn in the area they want to wax
- moles, warts, or varicose veins in the area they want to wax
People with preexisting skin conditions should speak with a dermatologist before sugaring.
It is also worth noting that any form of epilation can cause side effects, such as:
- Ingrown hairs: This occurs when hair grows back but in the wrong direction. Rather than growing outwards, the hair curls back into the skin. This causes a raised, itchy spot on the skin, which may have a white head.
- Folliculitis: This refers to inflammation in hair follicles. Folliculitis often presents as tender bumps on the skin. It can be deep or on the surface of the skin and can occur anywhere on the body where hair grows.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This occurs when the skin darkens following an injury. Although sugar waxing is gentler than waxing, it can still cause a small amount of trauma to the skin, which can result in inflammation. Sometimes, this may result in discoloration. People with darker skin tones are more likely than those with lighter skin to experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
- Infection: If a person does not sugar wax correctly or does not practice proper hygiene in the setting and tools they use for waxing, skin irritation and infection can occur.
To make sugar wax at home, a person needs sugar, water, and lemon juice. A person should use a 2:1 sugar to liquid ratio. The exact measurements will vary depending on how much wax a person needs.
As an example, if a person uses 1 cup of sugar, they should add one-quarter of a cup of water and one-quarter of a cup of lemon juice.
To make the wax:
- Mix the ingredients together in a bowl.
- Pour the mixture into a saucepan, then place on the stove.
- Heat the mixture slowly, eventually getting it to a medium-high heat. Do not let it boil.
- Use a food thermometer to measure the mixture’s temperature. When it reaches 230–260°F (110–126°C), remove it from the heat. The warmer the mixture gets, the harder it will become, so the exact temperature depends on the consistency a person prefers to work with.
- Pour the mixture into a glass container to let it cool. Make sure it is room temperature before using it on the skin.
To try sugar waxing at home, first make the wax and cool it. It is also important to make sure the hair is the right length for waxing – if it is too short, the sugar paste will not adhere to it. Wait until the hair is one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch long.
- Cleanse and dry the skin thoroughly. If it is damp, the wax may not stick.
- Scoop some sugar wax from the container and warm it in the hands, rolling it into a ball.
- Spread the wax in the opposite direction to hair growth and mold it against the skin.
- Either quickly lift and flick the wax in the direction of hair growth to remove hair, or press a strip of cotton to the sugar wax before sharply lifting in the direction of hair growth.
- Repeat steps 2–4 across the area of skin a person wants to remove hair from until they are satisfied with the results.
- When finished, clean off excess wax, or dissolve any sugar wax left on the skin with warm water. Pat dry.
After sugar waxing, a person may wish to apply aloe vera gel or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to cool and soothe the skin. Avoid hot baths and showers for the next few days, as well as tight clothing that could irritate the area.
In addition to sugar waxing, there are other methods of hair removal that involve no synthetic ingredients and create minimal waste. They include:
- Shaving: This is a popular and pain-free option for hair removal. However, shaving with plastic razors can involve waste. By contrast, safety razors allow a person to keep the same handle for a long time and only throw away the blades. Many of these razors are plastic-free.
- Tweezing: This method of hair removal involves using tweezers to pluck hairs one by one. It is best for smaller areas, such as the eyebrows. Aside from tweezers, it involves no special equipment or products.
- Threading: This is another form of epilation and involves someone twisting and rolling fine cotton threads over an area of skin to remove hair. It is very precise and especially useful for shaping eyebrows.
- Exfoliation: Some forms of exfoliation can also remove hair. For example, some people find that rubbing a pumice stone gently on the face can remove fine, downy hair, sometimes known as ‘peach fuzz.’ However, it is important not to over-exfoliate when trying this method.
Sugar waxing is a method of hair removal that works by pulling out hairs from the skin using a sticky sugar-based paste. It is easy to make sugar wax at home, making it an inexpensive option that does not involve buying special equipment.
Unlike cosmetic waxes, sugar wax only contains natural, biodegradable ingredients. It is also best to use at room temperature, meaning a person cannot burn themselves. A person can get sugar waxed by a professional or do it themselves at home.
Other eco-friendly hair-removal options include tweezing, threading, and shaving using a reusable razor.