WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…See full bio
The art of sugaring has been around for centuries and is one of the oldest forms of hair removal; in fact, it has origins in ancient Egypt and the Middle East. Traditionally made with a sugaring paste called moum, the mixture is comprised of all-natural ingredients: sugar, water, and lemon.
Hair removal was very important in many ancient countries such as Greece, where women removed the majority of their hair aside from eyebrows, and Egypt, where women even removed hair from the top of their heads. Sugaring was the go-to treatment because of the availability of its ingredients, but it is still a viable technique today due to its easily prepared ingredients, lack of additives and cloth strips, and long-lasting nature. Since sugaring removes the hair follicle from the root, it lasts up to six weeks, just like waxing, but it is less painful because it does not attach to live skin cells. The use of hot wax allows the solution to attach to skin as well as hair, leading to higher pain levels and potential swelling, redness, and inflammation—all of which can be avoided by switching to sugaring paste.
Sugaring was the go-to treatment because of the availability of its ingredients, but it is still a viable technique today due to its easily prepared ingredients.
Although sugaring is sometimes referred to as sugar waxing, that term is not accurate; wax contains resins, but sugaring solutions—both traditional and modern—do not. Some contemporary techniques use a slightly altered recipe that includes honey, salt, and essential oils, while others turn the ingredients into a gel rather than a paste. The hair-removal process varies greatly for these two types of sugaring.
The traditional use of paste requires a thick, warm mixture to be applied in the opposite direction of hair growth and to be removed in the same direction as hair growth. This reduces the negative effects and irritation felt from other hair-removal methods such as waxing. The gel, however, acts much more like wax in that it is applied in the direction of hair growth and removed in the opposite direction with a cloth strip. Since the paste is gentler on skin, it is the preferred method.
Along with the benefit of reducing pain, the paste is malleable and soft enough to penetrate the skin’s pores, allowing the individual hairs to be pulled out at the root and thereby decreasing the likelihood that the hairs will break off at the skin’s surface. Since the solution can seep into the pores on the skin’s surface, sugaring also picks up dead skin cells and residue that may otherwise clog the pores, helping to prevent ingrown hairs.
Along with the benefit of reducing pain, the paste is malleable and soft enough to penetrate the skin’s pores, allowing the individual hairs to be pulled out at the root.
So what does the sugaring process look like? First, the technician will clean the skin with a gentle, (ideally) natural cleanser and place powder over the areas that will undergo hair removal. The powder protects the skin by acting as a physical barrier between the sugaring paste and the living cells. Then, the technician will warm the paste in his or her hands, carefully spread it onto the skin, and pull it off—leaving smooth skin.
As with all hair-removal methods, sugaring has a downside. Luckily, unlike many other alternatives, the only true drawback to sugaring is that the treatment requires the hair to be at least one-eighth of an inch long, so make sure to schedule an appointment about two to five days after you notice hair sprouting again. For the first several months of regular visits, schedule the hair removal every four to five weeks. After prolonged use, sugaring makes hairs grow in lighter and sparser, allowing longer windows of time between appointments. Pain tolerance and skin irritation are different for everyone, but for many switching from waxing or even daily shaving, sugaring is indeed as sweet as it sounds.
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