Sugaring is an epilation technique that involves removing unwanted hair with the help of an adhesive paste composed of sugar, water and lemon.
In terms of mode of execution, sugaring is similar to hot waxing: the sugar paste acts as a wax and manages to capture even the shortest hairs with the difference that the tearing seems to be less traumatic for the skin. In addition, the lower temperature of sugar paste – lukewarm and comparable to body temperature – also respects parts where there are fragile capillaries or delicate regions, such as the bikini area. At the same time, sugaring removes dirt and skin cells that prevent hair from regrowing normally, minimizing the problem of ingrown hairs and folliculitis.
Hairs are spread over the entire body surface, with the exception of the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, free edge of the lips and some areas of the genital area. Their characteristics (number, shape, length and type) may vary from person to person.
Anatomically, there are two main parts in the hair: stem (evident outside the skin plane) and root (contained in the hair follicle at the level of the epidermis). In the deeper part, the follicle swells to form the hair bulb, containing, in turn, the dermal papilla; the latter structure consists of a group of actively proliferating cells that give rise to the hair (matrix). Hair is not produced continuously by the follicle, but follows a life cycle in which periods of activity alternate with periods of rest: anagen (growth), catagen (transition) and telogen (rest).
What is meant by Sugaring
Sugaring is an epilation technique inspired by ancient Middle Eastern tradition: it seems that this practice dates back as far as the Egypt of the pharaohs and Cleopatra made use of it (it is speculated that honey was used instead of sugar, which at that time was common only in the regions surrounding Persia).
Also known as Arab waxing, sugaring takes advantage of natural and commonly used substances in the kitchen: the main ingredient is sugar ("sugar" in the Anglo-Saxon lexicon, from which the practice's term is derived) to which water and citrus juice, usually lemon, is added.
The actual hair removal procedure is similar to waxing: sugaring not only removes the superficial part of the hair, visible above the epidermis, but also extracts the hair bulb. At the same time, sugaring performs the function of a natural scrub, which immediately gives the skin a silky appearance.
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Epilation or Depilation with Sugaring?
Sometimes, there is a tendency to confuse the two terms, but hair removal means the removal of the apical portion of the hair, that is, the superficial and visible part beyond the epidermis. Unlike epilation – which extirpates the hair in its entirety, including the hair bulb – the "vital" part that remains in the skin is not affected in any way, so regrowth occurs after 2-7 days.
Differences with traditional waxing
In general, sugaring is gentler than waxing for the following reasons:
- The sugaring paste does not stick to the skin, but captures the hairs, reducing discomfort during epilation (note: since it is a tearing method, the perception of pain depends on individual tolerance, but is not excluded). In practice, sugaring only pulls out the hairs and does not "disturb" the surface of the epidermis; hot wax adheres more tenaciously to the skin, dragging it along with it when it is pulled out, stressing and reddening it.
- If the wax is too hot, it can also burn the skin, especially in sensitive areas. Sugaring is a gentler method and application is also suitable for sensitive skin, as the sugar paste is applied when it reaches room temperature or when it is warm, minimizing the risk of burns.
Procedure: How Sugaring is performed
Sugaring is a method of "tear-off" hair removal. Sugar paste components are melted with the heat of a small stove. Once it has cooled or reached room temperature, the resulting paste is spread over the area to be epilated with fingertips and worked to capture and remove hair (even the finest and shortest hairs), essentially without adhering too much to the epidermis.
The gesture of applying and removing the sugar paste adhered to the skin is reminiscent of a kind of massage. In fact, traction should be exerted in the direction of hair growth to minimize stem breakage, which we remember to be a cause of ingrown hairs.
After epilation, the skin is washed with a neutral liquid cleanser (no soap!) and the application of a gel with soothing action or an emulsion based on vegetable oil completes the treatment (e.g., sweet almond oil, aloe, calendula, chamomile, etc.) to accelerate the skin repair process.
Results and duration of Sugaring
Sugaring is a practice best suited for removing shorter hairs and can also be used with confidence for sensitive areas. If the procedure is performed correctly, the hair is removed from the root and needs up to 3-4 weeks to regrow, lengthening the frequency of hair removal.
Sugaring seems to be a more "gentle" method, but it still involves pulling the root of the hairs out of the follicle.Compared to hot waxing (which is more adhesive), sugarpaste pulling may be less traumatic as it goes along with the direction of hair growth, but this is always a subjective matter.
What areas of the body can be Epilated with Sugaring?
Sugaring is used for hair removal on the entire body: eyebrows, underarms, arms, legs, pubic area, etc. Sugaring epilation is so gentle that it can also be performed on the abdomen, breast areola, and groin. In addition, sugaring is generally preferred to waxing when it comes to removing hair from larger areas of skin.
Before Sugaring: how to prepare the skin
Sugaring epilation involves an initial preparation, which involves cleansing and exfoliating the skin of any impurities and dead cells. This allows for the removal of residual dirt or any substance that may affect the outcome of the treatment. In other words, the area to be epilated must be clean and thoroughly dry.
Exfoliation: why it is important
Before sugaring, exfoliation allows a layer of new skin to be shed on the surface and allows the hairs to regrow in the right direction, preventing them from becoming ingrown or other inconveniences such as folliculitis. Ideally, exfoliation should be performed about 2 days before epilation.
At least a couple of days before sugaring, it is good to exfoliate the skin with specific products, such as a scrub. This operation removes the layer of dead cells and helps prevent ingrown hairs. If the skin is very sensitive, opt for the scrub you usually use for the face. Horsehair or loofah gloves should be avoided, however, as they can scratch the skin.
Before proceeding with sugar epilation, it is most important to ensure that the skin is always clean, dry and free of oily substances, oily creams or alcohol-based products.
Pros and Cons
Advantages of Sugaring
- Sugaring is fast, inexpensive and simple, suitable if you want to remove hair very precisely without traumatizing the skin too much. Sugaring is, in addition, hypoallergenic.
- If the procedure for sugar epilation is done correctly, the hair is removed from the root and needs more time to regrow (about 3 weeks) than is expected for hair removal.
- Sugar epilation results in smooth skin free of unwanted hair, as it helps eliminate dead skin cells, with a scrubbing effect on the epidermis.
- Sugaring can be used on any area of the body.
- Sugaring paste is applied to the skin when it reaches room temperature or when it is warm, minimizing the risk of burns; plus, because it is not applied hot, it minimizes capillary rupture.
Disadvantages of Sugaring
- In more sensitive areas, sugar epilation can still be uncomfortable. In general, skin reaction tends to decrease considerably with repeated use of sugaring. To practice sugaring requires some dexterity: for those who are new to sugaring, it is best to use a professional.
- Like other methods of hair removal, the use of this device can cause irritation (e.g., itching, discomfort, and reddening of the skin) depending on the condition of the skin and hair. This reaction is normal and should disappear quickly within a few hours, but it may be stronger if you are epilating for the first few times or if you have particularly sensitive skin. If after 36 hours the skin still appears irritated, it is recommended that you consult your doctor.
Alternatives to Sugaring
- Hot waxing: consists of resins that melt with the heat of a small stove. Waxing is applied to the skin, then strips are applied over it, which are removed with a clean, quick, counter-peeling tear. If the procedure is done well, the hair is removed from the root and needs more time to regrow (about 3 weeks).
- Epilator strips: the wax is ready to use and arranged on strips, which must be made to adhere well to the skin, then ripped in the opposite direction to the growth of the hair. Again, if the procedure is done correctly, some roots are eradicated.
- Electric epilator: this is a device that can be used in various areas of the body, such as groin, legs, armpits, arms and face. In most cases, just select the lowest speed for the most sensitive parts; otherwise, models with specific heads are available. The electric epilator is the ideal solution for those who want a long-lasting result and have easily irritable skin that "fears" the razor blade.
- Pulsed light epilation: during the treatment, a high-intensity polychromatic light (IPL) is transformed into heat when it hits the melanin (pigment that gives the hair its dark color). This generates a sharp rise in temperature that is transferred to the hair bulb, which undergoes degeneration. The principle of action is comparable to that of laser hair removal, the difference being that the latter technology operates at unidirectional, monochromatic wavelengths. Pulsed light hair removal has a number of advantages: in addition to being painless, in fact, it promotes a reduction in the amount and diameter of hairs, as well as slow, if not non-existent, regrowth due to the elimination of the hair bulb.
- Laser hair removal: can be performed in certified beauty salons or medical offices. Using wavelengths specific to different skin types, the laser emits a beam of light that selectively targets the melanin contained in dark-colored hairs on fair complexions, overheating the hair shaft and its root and denaturing its vital structures. Session after session, there is progressive thinning and thinning of the hair, and regrowth is greatly slowed. This type of procedure is particularly recommended for people with conditions that can be exacerbated precisely by continuously shaving, including irritative folliculitis and pilonidal cysts.
Sugaring: some general advice
Observe optimal hygienic conditions to avoid infection or other problems. If your skin is irritated or sensitized for various reasons, postpone your hair removal appointment (whichever method you choose).
Although "do-it-yourself" is more convenient and economical, before opting for sugaring it is advisable to consult your dermatologist, so as to avert possible side effects and opt for the method for epilation that best suits the characteristics of your hair and skin.
To avoid irritation, before and immediately after sugaring, alcohol-based products (e.g., deodorants) and soaps should not be applied for at least 12 hours.