What do you do when you have body hair you’d rather live without (which, btw, is 100 percent your choice and is not something you should feel obligated to remove) but have tried and hated all the popular DIY hair removal options? Answer: You turn those lemons into
lemonade sugar paste. Unlike shaving (which is annoying, IMO), waxing (painful), and laser hair removal (how rich do you think I am?!), sugaring hair removal is semi-permanent, only semi-painful, and also super-cheap, especially if you already have lemons and sugar laying around.
I first heard of the less invasive alternative to waxing when one of my beauty editor friends mentioned it, and I was all ears. Would sugaring be the solution to my body hair-removal woes? After booking an appointment immediately afterward and giving it a try, I’m happy to report back that it is, indeed, my new favorite removal method. If you also want to get rid of your body hair and you’re now interested in trying it yourself or having it done professionally, here’s everything you need to know about getting sugared, along with a few expert-approved tips and product recs from derms and estheticians.
What is sugaring?
Before we jump in and start throwing around jargon, let's take a sec to go over the basics of sugaring to catch everyone up to speed. As esthetician Natalya Aleksandrova of Daphne Spa in NYC (the very person who gave me my very first sugaring treatment) explains it, sugaring is an ancient form of hair removal that originated in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece—so no, it's not at all ~new~, even if it's been trending.
During sugaring hair removal, a sticky golden sugaring paste (made up of only three ingredients: lemon juice, sugar, and water) is molded onto the area of skin you'd like to be hair-free, then gently removed with a fast flicking technique. I decided to remove preeeetty much all of my body hair, but the quick and somewhat painless process still only took about 30 minutes. Now about that pain…
What hurts more waxing or sugaring?
Both sugaring and waxing involve ripping your hair from its root, so you're definitely going to experience some level of pain with either one. That said, I've regularly waxed my underarms since college and can confidently say my sugaring appointment was way more comfortable than waxing—I didn't experience any of the stinging or burning I was used to getting with waxing.
Between the all-natural formula and the gentle technique, sugaring is pretty much the sensitive skin-friendly alternative to waxing. Personally, I found sugaring to be way gentler than waxing—and derms agree. "Waxing removes hair, but it can also remove the top dead layers of skin,” says dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD. “In contrast, sugaring paste doesn't stick to the skin at all—it only grabs your hair and removes it without exfoliating your skin." Since it's is less invasive, Dr. Marmur suggests those with sensitive skin choose sugaring over waxing.
Why is sugaring so painful?
Au contraire! Pain is, of course, subjective, but sugaring is the less-painful hair removal option, at least when you’re comparing it to other semi-permanent methods that remove the hair from the root. Of course, sugaring would hurt a lil' more than say, shaving with a razor or trimmer, but on a scale of one to ten, I’d rank the pain level of sugaring at a four, with the back of my thighs and my arms being the most uncomfortable part of the hair removal process.
I also skipped taking a pain reliever ahead of time, which would undoubtedly be a must for me if this was a full-body wax. Side note: If you've got sensitive skin, keep in mind that you may have some bruising after your appointment. I personally noticed a couple of (painless) bruises on my arms, but they faded in a little less than a week.
Does sugaring permanently remove hair?
Because sugaring removes your actual hair follicle (i.e., it isn't just surface level), you can expect your hair to grow back noticeably thinner over time. "As you sugar, you're pulling the hair out by the root, and each time you do this, it causes damage to the hair follicle," says Dr. Marmur. "Eventually, this hair follicle will stop growing hair altogether, so the longer you continue to sugar, the less hair will grow back."
Can you do sugaring hair removal at home?
You can totally try this at home, but we're not gonna sugarcoat (heh) things here—DIY sugar waxing is hard for a beginner. Between getting the right consistency when making your own sugar wax and nailing the tricky flicking technique, your first try isn't going to be a smooth process, and your skin probs won't be all that smooth, either.
But if you've got some time on your hands and some hair on your legs that you want to get rid of, by all means! Just make sure you're prepared with all the right supplies (see below) before you go drizzling anything on your body, such as pre-made sugar paste for when you inevitably burn your DIY version, an exfoliating toner, a soothing ingrown hair solution, and some strips in case you can't quite get the hang of the wrist flick motion. And if you get stuck along the way, use a little water to loosen up the sugar paste because unlike wax, which requires an oil-based cleanser or remover, sugar paste is water-soluble and easy to clean.
Can sugaring be done on the face?
Yup, it’s totally fine to book a sugaring appointment for facial hair removal. “Any body area with unwanted hair can be treated with sugaring, including the face,” says dermatologist Hadley King, MD. “The sticky sugar paste sticks to the hairs, which then can be removed without disrupting the surrounding skin. It's similar to waxing, but many report that it's more comfortable and gentle on the skin.”
There's one caveat, though: If you use retinoids or chemical exfoliants on your face, you risk damaging your skin during a sugaring appointment (aka, you'll definitely want to cancel your appointment and talk to your derm before you do an-y-thing). Dr. King also suggests skipping your sugaring sesh if you have open sores, rashes, bruises, swelling, sunburns, or cold sores because the warm formula can burn your skin, cause irritation, folliculitis, and ingrown hairs. And no one wants that, right? Right.
What do I need to know before sugaring?
Two days before your treatment, exfoliate with a gentle body scrub to prep the area, then when you take a shower the day of your appointment, avoid super hot water, body lotion, and body oil—your esthetician will have to wipe all of it off anyway before the sugaring paste is applied. Lastly, show up to your appointment in comfortable, baggy clothes, since freshly sugared skin will need some room to breathe.
Can you shave between sugaring?
While it's definitely super tempting to shave in-between sessions, it's best to resist the urge if you want the long-term effects of sugaring to ~really~ work. Smooth-AF skin takes patience, so let your hair do its thing for about four to six weeks while it grows out to the minimum length needed for sugaring (according to Aleksandrova, that's about the size of a rice grain for the best results), or you'll just have to wait longer to schedule your next sugaring session.
What to avoid after sugaring?
If you want the smoothest results possible, you'll need to wait at least 24 hours to shower, work out, or have sex. Think about it: Freshly sugared skin is super sensitive and exposed, so you definitely don't want to introduce any sweat or bacteria as your skin is calming down. You'll also want to re-consider your shower temperature in the days following your appointment—hot-as-hell showers are too harsh on sugared skin, so go for something warm.
In-between sugaring appointments, it's crucial to take extra care of your skin. That means you'll want to load up on body oils, moisturizers, and sunscreens to prevent irritation, ingrown hairs, and sunburns.
The bottom line
As long as your hair is long enough and you're not using strong exfoliators, sugaring is an excellent and non-permanent (but eventually permanent) way to remove excess body hair. Even better, if you have sensitive skin, this method is a gentler and less painful alternative to waxing, according to derms, estheticians, and most importantly, me. You can try sugaring at home, but the process is faster and easier with a professional—just make sure you're seeing a certified esthetician at a salon that doesn’t skip out on sanitary practices, like gloves and clean applicators. Dr. Marmur suggests reading reviews of any salon you’re planning to visit and to “keep a close eye on reports about cleanliness and professionalism,” she says.
All in all, if you're like me and you're committed to having super-smooth skin, sugaring is a total game-changer, trust.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.