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Sugaring Is the Clean, Vegan Ancient Art of Hair Removal

Sugaring Is the Clean, Vegan Ancient Art of Hair Removal

In recent years, sugaring salons have become popular as a less-painful alternative to waxing (yes please!). 

But the art of sugaring actually goes back thousands of years. 

This might sound surprising because when we typically talk about the history of body hair removal, it’s through the frame of shaving as a “necessity” of the feminine beauty standard for modern-day middle- and upper-class white Americans. 

However, humans have been removing body hair since ancient times—and many of the techniques they used way back when are still in use to this day. Take ancient Egypt: both men and women removed their body hair using pumice stones, tweezers made from sea shells, beeswax, and an early form of sugar paste.

As the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But, what, exactly, is sugaring? And is it vegan?

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What Is Sugaring?

Sugaring is a form of epilation, meaning a process during which the whole hair—root and all—is removed from the skin. Sugaring is similar to waxing, but there are some key differences. 

Wax for hair removal tends not to be vegan since it often contains beeswax. Paraffin wax is another common waxing ingredient, and while this is technically vegan, it is a petroleum byproduct and is not considered “clean.”

Sugar paste, on the other hand, typically consists of just three natural ingredients: sugar, lemon juice, and water. It sometimes contains guar gum, a polysaccharide obtained from guar beans that acts as a thickening agent in food and cosmetics. But more often than not, sugaring paste is made from just three clean, vegan ingredients—and because of this, it’s safe to use almost anywhere on your body, from your eyebrows to your bikini area to your big-toe hair.

Woman holding a jar and applicator for sugaring

Unlike waxing, sugaring doesn’t require the use of cloth strips to pull the sticky substance off of your skin. It’s also used at room temperature, so there’s no need for an electric warmer and it won’t potentially be too hot as some waxes can be. Some people also find sugaring to be less painful because sugar paste doesn’t adhere to the skin in the same way that wax does, so it can be better for sensitive skin. But ultimately the amount of pain you experience from sugaring and waxing comes down to your individual pain tolerance. 

How long does sugaring last? 

Sugaring and waxing are similar in terms of how long results last. 

Depending on how fast your hair grows, the results from sugaring should last for up to six weeks. But you’ll likely begin to see some new hair growth after about three weeks.

Tips for Sugaring

Sugaring can be done at a salon or in the comfort of your own home. Regardless of where you get it done, there are a few things you should be doing beforehand. It should be noted that if you’re pregnant or undergoing chemotherapy, your skin might be especially sensitive, so it’s best to talk to your doctor before moving forward.

Before booking an appointment, do your research by reading online reviews or asking local friends for recommendations. Reputable salons will also have you fill out a survey ahead of time to ensure that you’re not currently on any medications that could impact your experience and results, such as hormone replacements, hormonal birth control, antibiotics, or Accutane. 

You should ensure that the hair is at least half-an-inch long before heading to the salon. Your skin should be clean and the area should be free from deodorant, lotion, or other types of moisturizer, and perfume. Piercings should be removed from any areas where your skin will be sugared.

Close up a sugaring hair removal

Sunburned skin cannot be sugared, as it could irritate the area, so you should allow the burn to heal for at least one week. And do not exfoliate the day before or day of the appointment, as this irritates the skin. 

Discontinue the use of tanning products and skincare that contains retinoids, lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA), and glycolic acid on the area that will be sugared at least one week ahead of the appointment. 

Lastly, wear loose-fitting clothing made out of a breathable fabric, like cotton or linen, to your appointment. Tight clothing can cause friction that will irritate the skin.

These rules apply to sugaring at home as well. Ensure your skin is clean, dry, and free from lotions, deodorant, and fragrances. Lightly dust the area with cornstarch, which helps the sugar paste adhere to the skin. Then, apply a dollop of sugar paste to the area and spread it out against the direction of hair growth, and wait about 10 seconds to let it stick to the strands. 

Removing the paste—along with your unwanted hair—is as simple as quickly pulling it off in the direction that the hair grows (not against the grain). You may have to repeat this a few times, especially if you’re new to at-home hair removal. It may help to have sugaring done at a salon first, so a professional can show you how it’s done.

Sugaring After-Care

After sugaring, there are a few steps you can take to keep your skin healthy until your next appointment. 

In the first 24 hours, continue to wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid exercise or anything that might cause friction or make you sweaty. You should also avoid exfoliating, using lotions or moisturizers, sun exposure, and tanning, as all of this could irritate the skin. Do not submerge yourself in water for 48 hours after sugaring.

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You may experience redness or tiny red dots on the skin shortly after sugaring—don’t worry, this is normal! If you’re experiencing pain, you can apply a cold compress by wrapping an ice cube in a clean, wet washcloth and apply it to the area in 20-minute intervals.

Ingrown hairs can be common after sugaring. To prevent these annoying and unsightly bumps, moisturize daily with a light, fragrance-free oil and do a dead sea salt soak as soon as 48 hours after hair removal. Allow your hair to grow back to at least half an inch before sugaring again.

Vegan Sugaring Products

Everist Compostable Konjac Sponge

Exfoliation is key to preventing painful ingrown hairs (but remember not to do this until 48 hours have passed after sugaring!).

This exfoliating sponge is made from the fibers of the konjac plant instead of plastic, so it’s fully compostable and gentle enough to use on your potentially sensitive post-sugared skin. 

Fur Bare Necessities

This duo moisturizes and soothes the skin while also helping to prevent ingrown hair. The Fur Oil contains vitamin E-rich grape oil, which helps soften the skin and protects the moisture barrier, plus tea tree oil to soothe redness and swelling. 

The Ingrown Concentrate, meanwhile, is made with moisturizing coconut oil and soothing chamomile extract to reduce redness and of course, ingrown hairs.

Persepolis Body Lemon Sugar Wax

Suitable for both face and body, this sugar paste is made with just three ingredients: organic sugar, organic lemon juice, and filtered water. Its four-and-a-half star rating out of nearly 700 reviews is a testament to just how well it works.

Buck Naked Soap Company Dead Sea Salt Soak

A warm sea salt-infused bath using this soak can help prevent ingrown hairs and soothe bumps. Not only that, but it’ll also leave your skin feeling softer and more luscious.

In Conclusion …

Sugaring is a clean, vegan form of hair removal that lasts longer than shaving and is generally safe for sensitive skin or people with lower pain tolerance. It’s also easy to DIY at home and is available in many professional salons across the country. 

So give it a shot and see what you think! 

Kat Smith is a New York City-based writer and editor who loves digging deep into sustainable fashion, beauty, food, and other lifestyle-related topics.

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