Have You Heard of Sugaring? This Ancient Hair Removal Technique Is Making a Comeback

With warmer weather on the horizon, you might be thinking about body hair removal. While shaving is the most accessible way to remove fuzz, it can cause painful nicks and ingrown hairs. You've probably heard about other hair removal techniques out there — from waxing (ouch!), to depilatories, to lasers. But you might not know about one especially strange-sounding hair removal method. Sugaring is an effective, all-natural fix for unwanted hair, and while it's becoming increasingly popular, it's actually been around since ancient Egypt. Here’s everything you need to know about this novel use of sugar.

What is sugaring, anyway?

Sugaring is becoming more and more prevalent thanks to salon chains like Sugared + Bronzed and Sugaring NYC — but it’s hardly new. For as long as there’s been body hair, there have been techniques for removing it, and sugaring is one of the oldest. The method originated in ancient Egypt, and it's an epilation technique; this means that it removes hair by the root (rather than from above the skin, like shaving) and allows for more time before it grows back.

Unlike ancient beauty treatments that used crocodile dung, swan fat, or donkey milk, sugaring thankfully doesn’t involve any gross or potentially dangerous components. Rather, it requires only three simple, all-natural ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen right now (though we recommend going to an expert rather than attempting a DIY): sugar, lemon, and water.

How does the sugaring process work?

The sugar, lemon, and water form a paste that is molded and applied to the skin. The paste is then taken off with a flicking gesture — the flick is difficult to master, and can cause pain if not done properly, which is why it’s best to go to a salon. Think of sugaring as the most minimalist of hair removal techniques — the only tool is the three-ingredient concoction. While sugaring is similar to waxing, it doesn’t require a strip for removal (the paste does all the work) and many women report that it doesn’t hurt as much as waxing (though it can still cause some discomfort).

Is sugaring expensive?

It tends to be as expensive as waxing — if not more so. While the ingredients are cheap, the expertise required to wield them effectively for hair removal is not. According to Healthline, a session for the full legs averages $100, with results lasting three to four weeks. So making consistent sugaring appointments definitely adds up.

Should I try sugaring?

Maybe you’re planning to stick to shaving, and that’s okay! However, if you’re the type who likes to experiment with your beauty routine, or have heard talk of sugaring and felt curious, it's certainly worth a try. Sugaring doubles as an exfoliation process for the area being treated, and is less likely to cause irritation and ingrown hairs than other forms of hair removal. If you have sensitive skin, you may be interested in trying it for these reasons.

As with any aesthetic treatment, you should speak with a medical provider before trying sugaring if you have any concerns. Certain medications can make your skin more prone to irritation, causing hair removal to be more painful. The change in body hair growth that comes with age (as estrogen levels drop, body hair becomes thinner) may also be a factor in whether or not you want to try sugaring. While body hair may become sparser during menopause, facial hair may become more prominent, and sugaring can work wonders on an unwanted mustache.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the hair removal method you prefer is a personal choice rooted in your specific skincare needs and budget. While sugaring is an ancient technique, the growing interest in natural skin care has made it feel more relevant than ever. Even if you don’t plan on trying it, you have to admit — those ancient Egyptians came up with a pretty clever way to use three simple ingredients!