Everything You Need to Know About Sugaring Hair Removal

In the wise words of Champagne Papi, it’s almost the season of “wearing less and going out more,” and for many, increasing temperatures also marks the start of warm-weather grooming: Bare legs for mini skirts and dresses, baby-smooth bikini area for all the high-cut, booty-baring, Huji-filtered swimsuit photos, and stubble-free armpits for sleeveless tops.

As a frequent DIY-er (and self-proclaimed lazy girl), my grooming habits were solely limited to my all-time favorite depilatory cream, Nair Lotion with Cocoa Butter, and a disposable shaver to catch any hairs left behind. I dealt with painful cuts, discoloration, and prickly hair after each shaving session. Then, I found out about sugaring, an alternative hair removal technique, and nothing was the same again.

My first experience with sugaring happened in the summer of 2018. During my daily scroll on Instagram, I came across a company called Sugaring NYC. The brand’s carefully curated millennial pink Instagram feed theme immediately drew me in because, as we’ve seen with brands like Glossier or restaurants like Pietro Nolita, everything the rosy hue touches turns to gold. Sugaring NYC was no different. I started sugaring my legs regularly, but sadly returned to my usual shaving routine afterwards (sorry, Aisha!).

Now, with spring and summer on the horizon and a laundry list of travel plans, I put my big girl pants on and returned to Sugaring NYC, this time for a Brazilian wax. As a Brazilian wax newbie, I understood this process wouldn’t be a breeze in the park but my esthetician Priya assured me its far less painful than a regular wax and way better for your skin. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shriek in pain, squeeze the hand of another esthetician assisting Priya, and yell out a heap of swear words, but the clear, baby smooth skin I walked away with was well worth it.

If you hate wax and are on the hunt for an alternative method, sugaring is the way to go. But, before you book your first appointment, learn what you need to know from Andrea Schwartzman, licensed esthetician and manager of operations at Sugaring NYC.

Sugaring is actually a really safe and organic alternative to traditional waxing.

The sugar paste is made of just three simple ingredients: sugar, lemon juice, and water. “There’s nothing inorganic in the sugar paste. It tastes like a citrusy cotton candy and it’s edible,” Schwartzman explained to me during my visit.

The difference between sugaring and waxing is the direction in which the paste is applied.

“Sugaring gets the hair out at the root every time. We applied the paste using our fingers—in gloves of course—that way, we’re able to get the substance right to the root,” Schwartzman said. “Then, we flick it off and the hair taken out in the direction of growth, so there is no breakage. We get a nice, easy removal.”

What is the entire process like?

Schwartzman broke it down below:

Step One: Once you go into the room, our wonderful estheticians will give you the option of using one of our baby wipes, just to feel clean for yourself. They’ll come back into the room when you’re ready and slightly warm up the sugar paste. It’s about body temperature.

Step Two: Then, we’ll we have the client get up onto the bed. We put them into the position, then we prep them. We use a cleanser to clean the area, then powder to dry the area so the sugar paste isn’t too sticky to their skin.

Step Three: From there, we’ll start the process. We use a double glove system, which means the esthetician will have a set of gloves on her hand as she preps you and gets you ready. As soon she’s ready to grab the sugar, she puts on a second glove. That glove is essentially the stick that you would use in waxing. The second gloves comes on, it does not touch anything. It goes straight into the sugar. She takes it out, she uses the ball of sugar until it’s either full of hair or just the consistency isn’t right anymore. Then, she will throw away that glove, grab the next glove, and that gloves goes directly into the jar of sugar. There is absolutely no double dipping here. If it’s a Brazilian service, and it’s your first time, she’ll explain to you how she’s going to go, in order of our services, so that you know you have an out.

Step Four: Once the estheticians done with doing your service, she’ll clean you off. What’s great about sugaring versus waxing is wax doesn’t always come off so easily, but sugar is water soluble. So, should it get on your hair, or your fingers, or be on your leg or wherever, we can wipe it right off. It literally comes off in two seconds. Then again, we also have wipes in case you feel a little stick somewhere we may have missed, you can wipe that. You’ll be absolutely fine, and ready to go.”

It hurts more if you’re coming from shaving to waxing.

It’s true: every time you shave your hair, you’re only strenghening it and making it thicker, Schwartzman explained. On top of that, hair grows back in different cycles if you shave frequently. That makes hair more difficult to grab. “Sugaring is a little more jarring when it’s your first time, so when we sugar someone for the first time, we’re breaking down that strength,” the esthetician said. “The more you sugar, the thinner the hair grows and the less painful your next session will be.”

…and if you’re on or expecting your period.

If you are getting a wax close to the time of your period, your hormone levels are higher and the area is more sensitive, Schwartzman said. “It actually hurts more. I suggest booking an appointment within the five days after your period because that’s when your hormones are at their lowest and your pain levels will be a lot more bearable.” If you’re wondering if it’s okay to get sugared if you currently are on your period, yes—as long as you have a tampon in.

Your hair needs to be as long as a grain of rice to do sugaring.

“I suggest that you at least let the hair grow enough that you can pinch it, but not long enough that you can braid it,” Schwartzman suggested. “A safe bet is a month out from the last time that you shaved or waxed. If you’re a faster grower, you don’t want to wait that whole month. [A client] should just come in and let one of the technicians evaluate them, and give them their best course of action for their type of hair.”

Abstain from sex/heading to the gym for about a day.

“The thing we’re trying to prevent is ingrown hairs, so since your pores are open, you don’t want to sweat in them because that all proliferates into the follicle,” Schwartzman explained. “If it’s something where you absolutely can’t wait, and you have to, have to, I always tell people to go and take a cold shower and close those pores back up.”

After a sugaring session, exfoliate every three days to prevent ingrown hairs.

Generally, ingrown hairs come from dead skins falling off and going into follicles from sweat. Most of the time what you think is an ingrown hair isn’t even an ingrown hair, Schwartzman insisted. “I call them stunted hairs because girls wear a lot of yoga pants, or tight pants, and those don’t give the hair the chance to grow because something’s always pushing it down,” she said. “Take a shower and exfoliate afterwards to close up the pore and put on a looser fitting pant for the next few hours following your session.”

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