There are countless ways to tackle hair removal these days. From cutting-edge razors to laser hair removal, your options for kicking unwanted hair to the curb are endless. But two hair removal techniques have stood the test of time: sugaring and waxing. Although these techniques are similar because they lift hair from the root, don't get it twisted: sugaring and waxing are different.
We tapped experts to explain how each hair removal technique works and break down the pros and cons of both sugaring and waxing. Find everything you need to know about sugaring vs. waxing below.
What is sugaring?
As its name suggests, sugar is one of the primary ingredients used in sugaring. The rest of the mixture is simple: just water and lemon juice. Because of its short, all-natural ingredient list, sugaring is great for people with sensitive skin, skin allergies, or conditions like eczema, PCOS, and psoriasis. Plus, the technique dates back to ancient Egypt, so the fact that it's still a fool-proof method is pretty impressive.
"Sugaring is the best kind of exfoliation you can give your skin," Salome Sallehy, founder of Sugar Sugar Wax, tells HelloGiggles. "When you're sugaring, you're taking dead skin along with any hair and fuzz off, but the live skin cells stay intact. This is also why sugaring isn't as painful as waxing." (For a comprehensive breakdown of sugaring, read our guide here.)
"The best way to prepare your skin for sugaring is to clean it, and especially so if you're prone to breaking out," Sallehy says. "The second cardinal rule of sugaring prep is to keep the skin dry. If you put oils and lotions on your skin, it creates a barrier between the sugaring mixture and the hair, so you won't get the results you want."
If you'd rather try sugaring at home, Sugar Sugar's Glow Goop is easy to use yourself. Sallehy has some tips for the at-home hair removal technique: "You don't want to sugar in the bathroom when it's hot and steamy after a shower," she says. "Find a spot that's warm enough to wear a T-shirt in, but not so warm that you're sweating."
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A word to the wise: "If you're removing virgin follicles that have never been removed before, you're more likely to see some reaction from your skin," Sallehy says. "The pores will also stay open longer, so it's important to protect that skin for the first 48 hours after sugaring." (For example, if it's the bikini area, wear loose clothing and abstain from sex, working out, and any activities that might irritate the area.)
Another at-home sugaring option is available from popular hair removal brand Nair. "Nair Spa Sugar is designed to give you salon quality results right from home," dermatologist and Nair spokesperson Dr. Mona Gohara tells HelloGiggles. "It's made with just five 100% naturally derived ingredients plus water, and is gentle enough for legs, arms, underarms, and the bikini area."
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What is waxing?
"Waxing is essentially the modern day version of sugaring," Dr. Gohara explains. "Waxing removes the hair follicle, which means it will take longer for the hair to grow back and therefore extends the time in between hair removal treatments."
There are a wide variety of waxes used at salons for hair removal. Between hard and soft waxes (the latter are paired with a strip), a plethora of different ingredients can be included in waxes (honey, beeswax, lavender, etc.), meaning you're not always sure what's being used on your body. For those with sensitive skin, certain ingredients could cause reactions such as redness or rashes.
However, waxing is ideal for those with super thick hair, as it removes both dead and live skin cells all the way down to the hair follicle. (Read: why waxing is more painful than sugaring.)
Dr. Gohara offered her tips for prepping the skin pre-waxing: "I recommend exfoliating with a loofa or washcloth at least 24 hours before waxing," she says. "This helps prevent ingrown hairs once you complete the hair removal process. Additionally, always wash the area with a non-soap cleanser and water before waxing and ensure the area is dry pre-waxing."
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Sugaring vs. waxing:
According to doctors and hair removal experts, both techniques are effective in removing unwanted hair on all areas of the body. However, they recommend considering your skin and hair types before opting for sugaring vs. waxing.
"Some people prefer sugaring over waxing since sugar mixtures are more natural and typically have fewer ingredients," Dr. Gohara explains. "But some prefer waxing if their hair is thicker and harder to remove. You can't go wrong with either if you are looking for an easy and efficient hair removal option."
Benefits of sugaring:
It's gentle on the skin. "Removing hair from the follicle elicits different reactions from different skin types," Sallehy explains. "If you normally experience redness or irritation from waxing, you'll find that with sugaring your usual reaction is far less."
It can improve certain skin conditions. "If you have strawberry skin with the little red bumps or chronically dry skin, sugaring it regularly will help heal your skin," Sallehy explains. "By gently exfoliating the scar tissue that builds up around the follicles from shaving, the strawberry skin heals and the bumps disappear."
Results are ultra smooth. "Your skin will be as soft and smooth as a baby's bottom," Sallehy says. "Plus, it won't feel over-stripped like after conventional waxing, which tends to take off more skin than your body wants to let go of."
Common hair removal side effects are less likely. "Ingrown hairs, folliculitis, damaged skin, discoloration, and more side effects disappear with sugaring permanently," Sallehy says. "I used to get ingrown hairs often, but since I started sugaring, I haven't had one."
Benefits of waxing:
It works better on thick hair. Waxing is ideal for areas with thicker hair, such as the ones found on your legs and armpits, while sugaring could be better for highly sensitive areas such as the bikini line and face.
It's fast and efficient. Although it's more painful, waxing is a faster process than sugaring, so you can efficiently remove the hair and be on your way.
It's more affordable. While prices vary depending on the area getting waxed, the thickness of the hair, and salon you go to (or at-home product you use), waxing tends to be less pricey than sugaring.