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Is Sugar Waxing Really Worth the Hype? Here’s the Honest Truth

If you’re considering the more common hair removal treatments such as traditional waxing and laser, the first barrier to entry is most likely your pain threshold. As both beginners and regulars know, the universal truth is that these methods can hurt. A lot. So when something like sugar waxing starts to become more and more popular, with experts touting it as the less painful hair removal alternative, it will naturally pique anyone’s interest. But what is it exactly?


Vogue Arabia, April 2020. Photo: Alice Rosati

To answer that, we turned to the experts. From how it works to all the pros and cons, they break down everything we need to know about this gentler and more natural alternative to removing unwanted hair. Read on to learn more.

What is sugar waxing?

Sugar waxing, a.k.a. sugaring, involves the use of a sugar paste that holds onto the hair and removes it completely from the root. “Sugaring is an ancient method of hair removal using a mixture of sugar granules, lemon, and water,” says Alita Terry, esthetician and founder of Organic Skincare New York. “The mixture is heated to a specific temperature and cooled down into a sticky paste. The paste is then warmed up and used to spread across the area of the body that needs hair removed.”

Results can last anywhere from three to four weeks, depending on the person. Terry says that prices for treatment depend on where you get the service done and which part of the body you want hair removed, but you can expect smaller areas like your brows or upper lip to cost less than sugar waxing a large part or multiple parts of your body. As for the pain, though it most likely won’t hurt as bad as a regular wax or laser, you can still expect to feel a bit of a pinch. “I think there is a bit of a sting, but it subsides quickly,” she says.

The benefits

Sugar waxing is known to be less painful and more tolerable—especially for those with dry and sensitive skin. Terry explains that sugar and water are humectants and bind moisture to the skin. So when applying the sugar paste, she says you are simultaneously depositing moisture onto the skin to give your skin a smooth, soft, and hydrated finish post-treatment.

The downsides

When done correctly, the negative side effects of sugar waxing are minimal. But Marisa Garshick, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, says that some people may experience sensitivity to treatments. She recommends that those with already irritated or inflamed skin avoid this treatment completely just to be safe.

Parts you can and cannot sugar wax 

You can sugar wax on your bikini area, face, underarms, legs, etc.—basically on most parts of your body. Terry says the only exceptions include full beards, moles, and the hair on your head. She adds that you’ll also want to avoid sugaring on already sensitive or irritated skin, such as sunburn, active herpes, and acne breakouts.

How sugar waxing works

The sugaring hair removal process is fairly simple. You’ll want to make sure that your hairs are at least 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch long before going in for treatment so that the paste has enough hair to latch onto. Then Terry says that you can expect your technician to sprinkle a sparse amount of talc-free powder to form a barrier between the paste and your skin.

The sugar paste is then applied to the desired area, away from the hair growth pattern so that the hair is bent backward. Once the paste is on, it will sit for about five seconds before it is flicked off in the same direction of hair growth. After all the unwanted hair is completely removed, a wet cotton pad is used to wipe any residual paste that might be stuck on the skin. As a last step, she says you can apply a soothing balm on the treated area or allow your skin and open pores to breathe.

Sugaring vs. waxing

Though both sugaring and waxing have the same end goal of removing hair from the skin, there are many differences between the two methods. Garshick explains that sugaring removes hair in the direction it grows, whereas traditional waxing does it in the opposite direction. This makes sugaring less painful and gentler on the skin.

Terry adds that waxing can cause inflammation in treated areas. Because the wax hardens around the hair, she explains that wax can pull moisture from the skin and pull it, causing irritation. The sugar paste, by comparison, bends with the hair and won’t pull on the skin as much. “Sugaring is healthier for the skin,” she says.

Waxing does have one benefit over sugaring: it’s a quicker process. “Waxing may be completed in one area with one pass while sugaring may require multiple passes,” explains Garshick.


Terry recommends being very gentle with the newly sugared area. For about three to four days following treatment, you’ll want to avoid the use of any harsh soap or scrubs and avoid activities that may introduce bacteria to open pores (e.g. using a jacuzzi or sweat-inducing workouts).

Garshick recommends sticking with gentle cleansers and moisturizers to minimize irritation. We like the Cerave Salicylic Acid Body Wash or Aveeno’s Skin Relief Body Wash to soothe dry and itchy skin. Terry agrees and says to moisturize skin with nourishing ingredients such as shea butter and gently exfoliate once a week. Use something like the Fur Silk Scrub or DeoDoc Ingrown Hair Exfoliator to prevent ingrown hairs and for smooth skin.

The best hair removal process for you is all dependent on personal preference. But if you’re looking for something less painful and irritating, then sugar waxing might be the right method for you.

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