Zero Waste Hair Removal: Sugaring


Everyone knows safety razor shaving is the Jennifer Lawrence of plastic free switches- the zero waste community's sweetheart, smart and beautiful and a little dangerous (years of presenting mercurial sales associates bulk goods in my own bags colored my perception of what constitutes "danger"). I've been a staunch proponent for years, doggedly packing surgical steel blades in carry-on luggage. But something changed this summer- namely, I ripped the front of my leg open, leaving several small scabs I kept shaving over. Avoiding them yielded prickly results. A profusion of insect bites, collected while living in a three story open air treehouse in the middle of a permaculture farm, gave me legs like bitter gourds, rendering me unable to shave entirely. Besides, after fifteen years, I'm tired of shaving. I have so little time these days (I don't even know who Taylor Swift is dating rn, that's how busy I am), I don't want to spend it fighting a Sisyphean battle against body hair. 

Enter sugaring. You know that feeling when you decide to upgrade from Ikea furniture to ABC Carpet & Home? Sugaring is the ABC Carpet & Home of hair removal. I can't believe I wasted so many of my pretty years shaving! For some reason I thought sugaring was not good for thick or coarse hair, but it works best on stubborn hair. I tried DIY Oriental cire wax once, years ago, but I didn't use a great recipe (it had weird extra stuff in it, like xanthan gum), and while I loved the results- it doesn't hurt, because it doesn't pull the skin- my legs took all day. I switched to Studio Habeas Corpus' method (recipe here) and within two batches I was hooked (update: now I just moisten sugar with lemon juice. No water or salt). I can sugar my entire body in an hour and a half, and the hair loss appears permanent in most areas. 

What nobody tells you is that hair- replete with follicles- encased in sugar is about as beautiful a sight as insects fully preserved in amber. Then there's the smoothness. I found I kept staring at my underarms, because I never knew they could look so good. I have skin like a baby again! And sugaring is so addictive. I have to restrain myself from ripping out too much, so satisfying are the results. No ingrowns, no bumps, no breakouts or irritated skin after. At first little dots of blood would appear when I ripped hair out by the root, but this doesn't happen anymore. Some people put their hands immediately over each sugared area to lessen pain. I don't bother. It's really not painful (even if it were, I love to suffer). If you have sensitive skin, dusting the area with cornstarch or baby powder first eases discomfort. 

There is a learning curve. In the beginning a friend who I shall call Rory was like "No human should ever have to do this," and I agreed. It can be a very dehumanizing experience, as you contort your body in positions only cats should be able to do. And you can't do it in the bathroom after the shower, or if it's too humid or if your skin is even slightly wet. But under optimized conditions, it's so gratifying. Once you experience two weeks of utter smoothness- hair grows back finer, skin looks great afterward- you'll find yourself eagerly anticipating your next at home sugaring session. You won't need deodorant after either, just a little coconut oil to moisturize. I've been trying to reduce my baking soda usage for ages, and this is the perfect renewable solution.

I used cheap white sugar and reverse osmosis water, working in small sections for underarms and sensitive areas, but large swathes for legs  (in the future I'll use packaged vegan, fair trade sugar). I also pour lemon juice in at the same time as all the other ingredients now and no longer measure, but it's probably best to do as I say, not as I do. My technique is this: barely wet 1/2 cup sugar and cook with one teaspoon salt and tablespoon lemon juice on medium heat; when the sugar starts dissolving, add 1/4 to 1/2 additional cups sugar. I find watching YouTube hinders rather than helps me, so I spread the resulting sugar paste on thick in the opposite direction of growth and remove it quickly. If it stays too long on skin it becomes a sticky mess. I also tend to sugar one side of my body at a time, reusing the same wax ball on the same area in a single session (professionals would be horrified). Sometimes the skin gets too humid so you'll need to take a break, perhaps even stop and start again the next day. Throw the resulting wax in your compost (not your vermicompost, because sugar ants will eat the worms), wash your materials with warm water and Castile soap, and dump the dishwater in your garden after. I actually started doing this once when I forgot my safety razor blade on vacation and there were no stores nearby and without electricity to entertain myself I was like, "Eh, I have nothing better to do, may as well try my hand at some ancient Oriental dark arts."

Paris to Go

31 comments:

  1. Yay! You're back! I tried sugaring a couple times and it never worked for me, but you make it sound so appealing I'm definitely going to give it another shot. May even come back here and update with the results.

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  2. you are the coolest blog on the internet no joke. please post more content! I love your style of writing and the ideas you share with us

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  3. This is the best. Always wanted to try sugaring and now I think I will. It's great to have you back and I hope you are well.

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  4. Totally weird question, but how long does the hair have to get before you do sugaring?

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    1. 1/8 inch is recommended, for the first time they recommend two weeks growth or as long as a grain of rice... honestly if your hair isn't long enough to wax though sugaring will remove even fine short hairs.

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  5. I'm going to try this. Also, as creepy as this sounds, I've missed you.

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  6. Oh how I've missed your beautiful voice! Your quik wit and sense of humor!
    I hope life is coming along for you! The treehouse on indt a was amazing!
    Stay well Ariana
    Your friend,
    Linda

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  7. I'm glad to see you back posting! Weirdly specific question: do you think (with a bit of practice at the technique) this recipe would work on the face? I grow a pretty mean lady moustache but I am sick of paying other people to rip it out of my face. I'd prefer to do it myself in the comfort of my own home, you know?

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  8. So, yes, apparently sugaring is the best at removing fine hairs on the face- I can say from personal experience the results last a long time and already some of the hair just won't grow back... but I meant to say in the post ( and forgot until you reminded me lol, thank you!) that the face is the one area I have not been able to master. Upper lip would probably be fine eventually but I'm so scared of ripping out an eyebrow so that's the one area I would for even though, like you, it gets pretty tiresome... i don't really know what I'm doing now but personally I've only had success removing coarse hair.

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  9. I have a deodorant question. Like you, I was patting plain baking soda onto my underarms for a couple years, and it worked fine, but in the last six months just stopped working. What would you recommend I do? I don't really want to keep using drugstore deodorant, since compared to baking soda, it's so expensive.

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    1. Have you tried alum stones ? (I don't remember what they're called in English they're pierre d'alun in French... bea Johnson uses them!) if you sugar you don't need deodorant but I find washing with Castile soap and using a slice of lemon or lime is as effective as deodorant (although that might be more expensive)

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    2. I know this reply is waaaay after-the-fact but I thought I'd add my 2 cents. One method to help kill the bacteria in your pits is to mix water and vinegar together 1:1 ratio and store it in a bottle. [Either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to work just fine.] Swipe your pits with it morning and night (or just at night if it leaves a lingering vinegar smell). Then apply the alum stone ("The Crystal" I think it is called at my local health food store) or some baking soda. Sometimes changes in diet can make pits smelly as we detox, etc.

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  10. Another great post!! You have inspired me to try sugaring as soon as I have the time. I tried it many years ago and couldn't quite get it right--either my recipe was wrong or the ripping off technique was wrong or my hair was too short or something...but I will definitely give it another go, especially since you mention sometimes the hair grows back less....shaving definitely won't have that affect! Worth a try! It seems like a good activity while movie watching. -Annie

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  11. I did quite opposite, switched from waxing to my safety razor. I still use wax for my underarms, because my skin can tolerate it and I stil have wax supplies. But the rest of my body reacts with ingrowing hairs, so I quit waxing and start shaving. First I was using a disponsable razor and going for IPL and laser, but it did not work for me. I bought my safety razor I never though that my legs could be so smooth. The razor gives me not only shaving, but also the best exfoliation ever.

    I still have my electric epilator and I think that after finishing my wax I get back to it or will give the sugar paste a try (for my armpits).

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    1. Oh yea waxing is the worst. The nice thing with sugar is apparently you don't get ingrowns! I do love the exfoliating properties of shaving and sugaring seems to have that effect as well.

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    2. I gave sugaring a chance and it worked quite ok for my bikini area and armpit, but it was hard to remove hair from my legs. So I guess that is better option for thicker hair. Anyway, I decided that shaving is easier for me and then... stopped to remove my body hair. I still have my beautiful safety razor, just in case, but nowadays it is rather a decoration in my bathroom :).

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  12. You are a life saver... Been in my mind this past week to google 'eco friendly waxing method' and this lemon recipe is even better than the homemade brazilian one which takes honey! Amazing how things connect on the right time, so in sync! thanks for sharing.. . you are awesome and keep up the great work <3

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  13. This is exactly what I needed to see today. I tried sugaring in the past but was following a youtube guide that involved using reusable strips...and I don't have an entire weekend to dedicate to hours upon hours of cat contortions, strip soaking, strip cleaning/sterilizing/drying. I have sugar and a lemon and some hairy legs. I'll give this another go because I LOVED the results and a safety razor simply isn't the same (and it will be a few more years before I have enough saved for laser hair removal).
    PRAISE!

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