Sugaring Hair Removal 101

Traditional sugaring using paste. Maskot / Getty Images

Sugaring hair removal, an ancient middle-eastern practice uses an all natural paste or gel made from ingredients like sugar, water, lemon juice, and sometimes honey, salt and essentials oils. It's made to remove the hair follicle from the root with results that can last up to six weeks.

While there are many recipes, only natural ingredients are used in real formulations. It's also been called sugar waxing because the gel is used very similar to waxing, although it's not a correct term as wax contains resins.

How Does it Work

The two types of sugaring, using the paste and gel are performed differently. Here's how:

  • The paste. Considered the traditional technique, a warmed thick mixture is applied first in the opposite direction of hair growth using the hands. It's then flicked off in the in the direction of hair growth. See this sugaring technique performed.
  • The gel. Performed similarly to waxing, the gel is applied in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite direction with a cloth or muslin strip. You should know about the differences between sugar wax and sugar paste.

    The Pros

    1. Someone experienced can do sugaring quickly with the paste. Large amounts of hair can be taken out at once and finished faster than waxing. With most waxes, you have to apply them to a limited area- remove, go to your next area- remove and so forth. With sugaring, you can speed things up by applying the paste to a very large area, and it won't dry out, even if you take it off in smaller sections.
    2. Easy cleanup. Both the paste and gel are water soluble, meaning you can clean off any residue left on the skin with plain water. Wax is not water soluble, meaning it needs an oil-based remover to get rid of all traces.
    3. Sugar right in your own home. Entire sugaring hair removal kits, supplies can be bought online, or you can whip your paste at home. (Be aware of conditions or circumstances in which you shouldn't sugar, and follow all instructions).
    4. Sugar paste can be applied over missed hairs. The paste is very gentle and can be put right over an area that was just sugared but missed some hairs, without fear of much irritation.
    5. Temporary results can turn into permanent. Over time, frequent sugaring can cause the hair follicle to become damaged, and stop growing hair.

    The Cons

    1. It's hard to find a pro that does the technique using the paste. Most salons and spas will have waxing on their menu. It can be more difficult to find a place that uses sugaring paste depending on where you live, but it has become much easier to locate with sugaring's increased popularity in the last couple years.
    2. Getting just the right consistency can be tricky. If you make your own paste at home, you'll have it get it just right for the paste to hold on to the hair.
    3. Some hair growth is needed. 1/16 of an inch is needed when using the traditional technique with the paste, which is about two to five days of hair growth after shaving. Using the gel requires 1/4 inch of hair growth.
    4. Lack of knowledge or cleanliness can lead to disaster. If contraindications (circumstances or conditions when you shouldn't get sugaring) are simply unknown or ignored, skin could end up extremely red, and even become scabby. Salons or spas not adhering to safe and sanitary procedures could give a client a skin infection, or even a disease.

    Ouch Factor

    Okay, it's still pulling out hair from the root, but most people find it less painful than waxing. Sugaring doesn't stick to the skin as much as waxing, which means less irritation. The upper lip, chest, bikini and genital areas rank as the highest pain offenders. If you find someone experienced that uses the traditional technique with the paste, the discomfort is less because hair is removed in the natural direction of its growth (as opposed to waxing, which removes hair against hair growth).

    Sugaring Hair Removal Costs

    At Home: Kits cost anywhere from $10 - $40. But you can make your own sugar paste for a couple of dollars with all natural ingredients..
    Professional: Sugaring hair removal is generally more expensive than waxing because it's not as commonly found. The price will also depend on where the facility is located, and type of salon or spa. A 15% - 20% gratuity on your total bill is the rule of thumb to leave.
    • Eyebrow (both eyebrows, including in-between) $10 - $50
    • Lip (skin right above upper lip) $10 - $25
    • Sides of Face (side burn area) $10 - $18
    • Chin $10 - $25
    • Underarms $15 - $40
    • Chest $35 - $120
    • Shoulders $40 - $55
    • Full Arm (wrist to shoulder- both arms) $35 - $80
    • Half Arm (wrist to elbow or elbow to shoulder- both arms) $40 - $60
    • Back $50 - $110
    • Bikini $30 - $75
    • Brazilian Bikini $60 - $110
    • Half Leg (ankle to knee or knee to thighs, not including bikini- both legs) $30 - $55
    • Full Leg (ankle to thighs, not including bikini- both legs) $55 - $100