Sugaring vs. Waxing for Hair Removal

Differences in Techniques

Woman with an aesthetician
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Sugaring and waxing are often put in the same category of hair removal because they’re somewhat similar in the way they get rid of hair. Both are designed to lift hair out from the follicle. Since the hair is removed by the roots, it doesn't regrow for two to six weeks.

However, they are different from one another in a couple of ways. The two methods use different ingredients and you may have a preference for sensitive skin.

While both sugaring and waxing are painful, some people say that sugaring is less so and may be better for the areas of the body that are more prone to pain.

Ingredients for Waxing vs. Sugaring

There is a difference between the substances that are used for the two processes.

  • Sugaring uses natural food-grade ingredients like sugar, lemon juice, water, and sometimes essential oils, salt and/or honey.

  • Waxes are made primarily of resins, which may be natural ingredients like beeswax, honey, and essential oils. But you'll also find artificial fragrances, dyes, chemicals, and preservatives in most of the waxing formulas on the market today.

Although you can be allergic to any given ingredient, natural or not, it’s more common for people to be allergic to artificial fragrances and ingredients like those found in waxes. Allergic reactions can make skin red, irritated, and break out into a rash. Even if not allergic, you may have skin irritation.

Sugaring paste is water soluble, meaning you can wash it off with plain old water. Because of the chemical structure of wax, it needs something containing oil to break it down and remove it. You will need a special wax remover, baby oil, or petroleum jelly.

Waxing Technique 

Waxing is best done if hair is 1/2 inch in length, as it needs to be gripped securely and can't be too short.

The wax is heated to liquefy it and then applied warm to the skin, carrying a risk of a burn if you aren't careful. Wax is applied in the direction of hair growth. It is covered with a cloth and allowed to solidify. Then it removed against the grain of hair growth. Some think that this is more painful than sugaring. Because longer hair is needed for removal, waxing can only be done every three to four weeks.

Sugaring Technique

There are two types of sugar for hair removal—paste and gel. The paste is just as it sounds, it's very thick and has that type of consistency. It's applied with the hands in the opposite direction of hair growth. A strip of cloth is then applied over the sugar and removed the same direction the hair grows. With hair being removed in the way that it grows, there is less pulling on the skin, which makes it less painful. It's applied at room temperature and because it removes hair in the direction it grows, it can remove hair as short as 1/16th of an inch.

Sugaring gel is a similar consistency to wax. It's heated up in the microwave or a warmer and is applied just like wax—in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite way with a muslin or cloth strip.

Sugar paste is never hot. Sugar paste is used lukewarm so there’s no chance of burning the skin. Sugaring gel, however, can get overheated with the risk of a burn.

Sugaring can be done every eight to 10 days as the hair does not have to be longer to remove it. Some people claim that sugaring will only take away dead skin cells, unlike waxing which also removes live skin cells. If your skin isn’t already over-exfoliated (using glycolic, Retin A, or peels) you don’t have to worry about the sugar accidentally removing skin.

Where to Use Sugaring or Waxing

Certain areas of the body are just more sensitive than others. The highest pain offenders are the upper lip, chest, bikini, and genital areas. Sugaring, especially with the paste, comes in extra handy when ridding hair in these zones. If you have tried waxing and it was too painful, you may want to try sugaring for those areas.