What Is Sugaring? Everything You Need To Know About The Sensitive-Skin-Approved Service
Hair removal is a rather tricky world to navigate: With so many options out there (threading, waxing, and the conventional razor shave, to name a few), it can be difficult to know which service is best for your personal hair and skin type. But if you're looking for smooth, hairless skin using all-natural ingredients, may we suggest sugaring? Here, your crash course on the popular hair removal service, plus how to do it in the comfort of your own home.
What is sugaring?
You might regard sugaring as a relatively new player in the hair removal space, but it's actually been around for ages as an ancient Egyptian technique (even purportedly used by the Cleopatra, herself). The paste is made of 100% natural ingredients—just lemon, sugar, and water; after it's heated to a lukewarm temperature, the sugaring paste is able to extract the hair in the natural direction of hair growth. (Unlike a traditional hard wax, which goes against the grain of hair.)
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Which areas of the body can you get sugared?
You can get sugared pretty much anywhere you would expect a wax: There are your classic places, like the bikini line, arms, underarms, legs, back, chest, and stomach, as well as smaller areas like the upper lip, hands, and eyebrows. The only area that cannot be sugared, according to Kelly Vela, licensed esthetician at SUGARED + BRONZED, is men's facial hair—the scruff is usually way too coarse for the sugaring paste to pick up, and it typically grows in a crisscross direction.
How long do results last?
With the right prep and aftercare (more on that later), you can expect results to last for about three to four weeks. However, Vela recommends sugaring once a month to consistently see the best results: "It is important to sugar the hair in its anagen phase (or the active growing phase), which is about every four weeks, for optimal results," she explains.
Benefits of sugaring.
Sugaring has a plethora of pros (which you can read more about here), but its main praise is that it's great for those with sensitive skin. Especially if you have fine, sparse hairs, sugaring can effectively clean up those bits without stripping off the skin. "Removing hair in the same direction of growth significantly reduces the tension put on the hair, making it less likely to break during the removal process," says Amanda Mulea, another licensed esthetician at SUGARED + BRONZED. And because the hairs are less likely to break, it may reduce the number of ingrowns you experience—when a hair is broken off unevenly, it may curl or grow backward into the hair follicle and cause a gnarly skin bump (ouch).
Just be sure to assess your hair type: If you have coarse, thick hair, make sure the sugaring paste doesn't leave a few stray hairs behind. To find out which hair removal service is best for your hair type, be sure to reference our sugaring versus waxing guide.
Prep and aftercare.
For optimal results, you'll want to make sure your hair is at least a quarter-inch long—any shorter, and the sugar paste won't be able to extract the hair. That's why most sugaring studios will ask whether you've waxed or sugared in the last month (it takes some time for the hair to grow back once uprooted completely from the follicle), or if you've shaved within the last 14 days. Other than that, the prep is rather simple: Just arrive at your sugaring appointment with clean, dry skin without any oils or lotions, says founder of SUGARED + BRONZED Courtney Claghorn.
After the treatment, you'll want to refrain from exfoliating the area: "While we encourage exfoliating regularly, this regimen should be put on hold for the initial 48 hours post sugaring session," Claghorn explains. She also mentions you may want to avoid sweating for 24 hours after sugaring. ("Perspiring could potentially clog the hair follicles," she notes.) Other than that, go about your regular skin care maintenance: Exfoliate as needed, practice safe sun, and try not to use any topicals with harsh chemicals or fragrance.
How to DIY your own sugaring session: 3 easy steps.
Here's the thing: You should always visit a licensed esthetician if you can—a professional will be able to swiftly flick the sugaring paste without stripping the skin, and they'll be able to grab those sparse hairs you may have trouble lifting yourself.
That said, it is possible to learn the ropes (especially now, as salon doors remain closed). To do so, you can either purchase a natural sugaring paste or simply DIY your own. You likely have all the ingredients in your kitchen already, so why not make it an activity?
In terms of ingredients, all you'll need is—you guessed it—granulated sugar, lemon juice, and water. Just pour all the ingredients into a saucepan on medium-heat (be vigilant; it can burn quickly!). Lightly swirl the mixture to incorporate all the ingredients, and watch it turn into a warm, honey-colored caramel. If you're going to use it straight away, just wait for the gloop to cool to a lukewarm temperature. Otherwise, pour the mixture into a container and store (if you're using a glass jar, be sure to run some hot water in it first, so the glass doesn't shatter from the heat).
Have your sugar paste at the ready? Here's how to give yourself a sugaring session at home:
- First, pick up the sugar (it may sound obvious, but stay with us here): Use your pointer finger, middle finger, and thumb to grab the goop from the jar, rotating your fingers to work the tacky paste onto your fingertips, explains Vela. Keep rotating your thumb clockwise so the paste stays in a ball and doesn't move toward the palm of your hand. This keeps the mixture from going everywhere and making a mess.
- Next, apply the sugar: "Keep the sugar paste at your fingertips to most easily apply the sugar," Vela says. Place your fingers perpendicular to the area of skin, applying the paste at an angle. "Use the backs of your nails and mold it onto the skin, almost like you're scraping your skin," she adds. Layer the mixture multiple times on the skin (a minimum of three, according to Vela.)
- Finally, the quintessential "flick": With a flicking motion, pull the sugar paste forward in the direction of hair growth. Just make sure you're not pulling upward—according to Vela, flicking upward can cause the paste to get stuck, lift the skin, and can potentially lead to bruising. Rather, you'll want to flick the wrist in a swift, parallel motion: "It's almost like a parallel swat with your wrist," she says.
The bottom line.
If you're looking for a safe, all-natural hair removal service, sugaring may be a great option for you to seek out. Plus, it's incredibly easy to DIY—no cloth strips or applicators required for this home-friendly method. If you're new to sugaring, just be sure to do a patch test before slathering on the gloop; while sugar paste is sensitive-skin-approved, some people can still face some irritation if they're allergic to any ingredients. As always, consult your esthetician or derm if you have any lingering questions, or watch one of the numerous how-to sugaring videos online—that mold-and-flick motion is strangely satisfying to watch on repeat.
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Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.