“I tried sugaring, the less painful alternative to waxing, and it really surprised me”

Sugaring, a vegan hair removal method that involves just three ingredients, claims to be less painful than waxing. Stylist puts it to the test.

Hair removal is a choice. Of course, there’s no right or wrong. Some people prefer to leave their hair and others prefer to get it removed – and I fall into the latter category. My relationship with body hair stems from being teased about having a hairy upper lip when I was a child and, while I don’t attend body hair removal appointments regularly, it is something I do before an event or holiday.

The only problem? It hurts.

So when I heard about sugaring, an all-natural alternative to traditional waxing that claimed to also be less painful, my interest was piqued.

So, I booked in for a hair removal session at Sugaring London, which has studios in Notting Hill and, more recently, Shoreditch. Upon entering the Notting Hill salon, I’m greeted by an Instagram-worthy cactus wall and friendly faces, including founder Tanja Westendorff, who reassures me that the treatment won’t be as painful as traditional waxing.

Developed by Ancient Egyptian techniques, sugaring involves removing hair from the root by applying a sugaring paste made from a mixture of lemon juice, sugar and water. Much like normal waxing, the mixture is rolled onto the skin before being peeled off together with the hair. 

It also claims to have skincare benefits, as the sugar, lemon and water mixture exfoliates the skin. Plus, it (literally) goes against the grain of other hair removal methods, as sugaring involves extracting hair in the same direction that it’s growing. This minimises the chance of ingrown hair and also depletes hair follicles over time. All of which sounded great to me.

What happens in a sugaring appointment?

Like any body hair removal appointment, you will be asked to fill in a form about your skin, lifestyle and if you’re on any mediciation. Your therapist will then take you into a private room and instruct you on whether any clothes need to be removed for the treatment (which also checking if you’re comfortable doing so) before leaving you for a moment’s privacy to get on the treatment bed. You are also given sanitising wipes to ensure that area of your body is clean, as moisturiser can prevent the sugaring paste from sticking to your skin.

As the process began, my therapist explained exactly what was in the formula: sugar, lemon and water, that’s it. Just those three ingredients, meaning the treatment is vegan-friendly, too. The mixture is gently rolled onto the skin at body temperature, meaning there’s no risk of burning the skin. It’s also done by hand to maintain cleanliness.

Sugaring London keeps its sugar paste at body temperature to prevent irritation or burning

Once it’s been applied, I take a deep breath, close my eyes and brace myself. She begins to use a gentle flicking motion to remove the paste in the same direction of the hair growth. Weirdly, it doesn’t really hurt much. Sure, there’s a bit of pain, but after having experienced things like waxing and threading, it’s nothing in comparison.

“The sugar paste doesn’t adhere to the skin, so it’s only pulling out the hair,” my therapist explains. As the hair removal session goes on, I barely feel anything and my therapist and I engage in a lovely discussion about her upcoming holiday and her Christmas plans. This says a lot coming from me, as with normal waxing appointments, I’m usually in so much pain that I can barely get any words out.

Of course, everybody is different and Sugaring London stresses that the first time is the hardest and it can cause some pain. But the more you visit, the less it hurts each time as the hair follicles become smaller and the bulbs get weaker.

Another thing that strikes me is how quick the process is. Just as I feel like we’re getting into the swing of our conversation, we’re done. My skin is smooth, doesn’t feel sore and is only a little bit red. I’m seriously impressed.

What are the benefits of sugaring?

As the sugar paste is removed in the same direction as hair growth, it minimises the chances of getting ingrown hair. Plus, as the sugar, water and lemon mixture binds to the hairs and not the skin, your skin doesn’t get tugged, meaning it’s less painful than traditional waxing.

Sugaring is also hygienic. A single ball of sugar paste is used for one client and discarded after single use, meaning there’s no risk of double dipping. As the sugar is water soluble, it also means you aren’t left with any sticky residue on your skin.

What should I know before a sugaring appointment?

With sugaring, the longer your hair, the better. It’s recommended that hair is 5mm long (length of a grain of rice) in order for the sugar paste to catch the hairs properly. Sugaring London stresses that if your hair is longer, that’s fine, too, as it can also be trimmed in appointments.

It’s also recommended that you don’t use any lotions or oils on the day of your appointment, as this can prevent the sugar paste from sticking to the hairs. You should also avoid exfoliating your skin the day before of the day of your appointment.

If you use Acutane, you should wait at least six months before body sugaring.

If you use Retin-A or other retinoid creams, you should avoid body sugaring for at least one month since last using a retinoid, or threes months for facial sugaring.

You should also avoid physical activity for at least 24 hours after your sugaring appointment.

To book an appointment at one of Sugaring London’s studios, visit sugaring.london

Images: Sugaring London

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