Removing body hair is far from a new idea. Women in classical Rome used tweezers, creams, and pumice stones to eradicate the majority of their body hair. Ancient Egyptians used both razors and a sugar mixture, much like the one used in sugaring today. Removing much of one’s body hair was seen as a sign of cleanliness, status, and attractiveness in both cultures, though where and how much body hair was removed fluctuated through time.
Like ancient cultures before us, people of today often remove what they consider to be excess body hair for cleanliness, comfort, or aesthetic appeal. There are several ways to remove body hair, from shaving to electrolysis. This article explores two very similar and effective methods of removing body hair—sugaring and waxing.
Sugaring is the older of the two options, and it hasn’t changed much since Egyptian times. This process involves creating a paste made from a combination of sugar, lemon, and water. A 2:1 ratio of sugar to liquid creates a sticky paste with a thick, honey-like consistency. This sticky paste is first molded to the skin opposite the hair growth, where it clings to the unwanted hairs, then it is quickly flicked off the skin, taking the excess hair with it.
Waxing to remove body hair became popular in the 1960s, much more recently than sugaring. The wax used in this process can be made with a number of ingredients, not all of them natural. Beeswax, resins, essential oils, and other additives are common components of hair removal wax. The wax is heated and then applied in the direction of the hair growth, either with the hands or using an applicator strip. The wax is then quickly removed from the skin, taking any excess hair with it.
Sugaring and waxing are popular techniques for longer-term body hair removal. In most cases, both are safe and effective on any part of the body where hair grows, including the legs, arms, underarms, and bikini area. Each process involves using a sticky substance that adheres to unwanted body hair and pulls it out at the root. The effects last three to five weeks, longer than shaving, but less time than electrolysis. Regularly using either of these techniques typically leads to softer, thinner, and lighter regrowth in treated areas.
It’s important to note that individuals who are also using Retin-A or other acne treatment medications should consult a medical professional before using either technique. Combining these medications and either sugaring or waxing can sometimes result in skin damage and infection.
While these hair removal processes appear very similar, there are some significant differences between the two. When selecting which one to use, you’ll want to consider differences in application, effectiveness, side effects, and cost.
There are a number of differences in how these two substances are applied. Both the sugar paste and the wax are warmed before applying them to the skin, but while the wax needs to be heated to around 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit, the sugar should only be warmed to between 90-105 degrees to keep it from getting too runny. The sugar paste is typically applied with the hands opposite the direction of hair growth. The wax can be applied by hand or with disposable wax strips and is applied in the same direction as the hair growth.
Waxing has a slight edge over sugaring when it comes to the overall effectiveness of the treatment. Both sugaring and waxing effectively remove hair and leave the skin smooth for approximately three to four weeks. That being said, waxing is slightly more efficient, removing even thick or coarse hair on the first pass. Sugaring may take two or even three passes to remove all of the hair. For those with particularly thick or coarse body hair, sugaring may break the hair off rather than pulling it out of the follicle, leading to faster regrowth and the occasional ingrown hair.
Probably the most significant differences between waxing and sugaring lie in the aftereffects of the process. Although waxing is ultimately more effective than sugaring in most cases, it is also typically much harsher on the skin. Both methods often involve at least a small amount of pain as the hair is pulled from the follicle. The sugar paste tends to be less irritating to sensitive skin than wax treatments. While the sugar paste used to remove hair during sugaring attaches mainly to the hair itself, the wax often adheres directly to the skin. Hot wax frequently strips off a layer of dead skin while pulling out the hair, sometimes resulting in red or inflamed skin.
When done at a professional salon, sugaring tends to be more expensive than waxing due to the greater time commitment. In most cases, the difference is fairly minimal, around 10-30 dollars more per session for sugaring than waxing. However, those who complete the process at home may find that preparing the sugar paste is less expensive than procuring a wax kit.
Both waxing and sugaring are safe and effective hair-removal treatments for most individuals. Which one you choose will depend on several factors. While either option can be done at home or a salon, the ingredients for a sugar paste are likely already in your pantry. A sugaring session is likely to take longer to complete than waxing, however, and may require more clean-up. Those with thick, coarse hair may find that waxing is more effective and less likely to lead to ingrown hairs. People with sensitive or damaged skin may prefer using the gentler sugaring method.