Sugar waxing is an ancient form of hair removal that is making a comeback, writes Meera Murugesan
FOR a woman, there is nothing quite as tiresome as hair removal.
It’s painful, uncomfortable and often messy but in the name of beauty, we undergo these rituals week after week.
As much as we want to embrace our “natural” selves, body hair has always been viewed as unsightly on women whereas on a man, it’s a mark of masculinity.
Double standards aside, any woman will tell you that remaining hair-free is a long-term commitment.
From waxing and threading to shaving and depilatory creams, women have to keep the momentum going to remain smooth and hair free.
Waxing is often touted as one of the most effective methods because it pulls hair from its roots but it can be very painful.
These days, however, some women are turning to an ancient method of waxing to ease the pain and discomfort.
Sugar waxing or “sugaring” is increasingly being used as an alternative to conventional resin-based waxes.
The practice has its roots in ancient Egypt. Beauty-conscious women were said to have used a sticky mixture of honey and oil to create a natural wax for hair removal. Cleopatra herself was believed to have used this in her beauty rituals.
Raihan Jasmine Syed Amanullah, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Organic Touch Malaysia, says many women these days are looking for natural or organic approaches to beauty and so, sugar waxing is becoming increasingly popular.
As it’s not widely offered in salons, women tend to buy sugar waxes from organic stores and wax at home.
Organic Touch Malaysia, which sells a range of chemical-free beauty and heath food products, also offers sugar wax to its customers.
Raihan says the all-natural wax is made from only three ingredients — water, white sugar and apple cider vinegar. Lemon juice can be used to replace the vinegar.
The wax has a dark colour and sticky, honey-like consistency. Unlike conventional wax, it doesn’t result in redness or irritation in women with sensitive skin.
The convenience and affordability it offers make the product popular. Everything a woman needs for home waxing, such as reusable fabric strips, spatulas and an instruction leaflet, is provided together with the jar of sugar wax, priced at just RM35 a bottle.
Raihan says the wax doesn’t need to be melted or prepared in any way before use. One can apply it directly onto skin. The jar just needs to be stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight.
Sugaring is said to be less painful than regular waxing as the wax doesn’t stick so firmly onto skin.
“The apple cider vinegar that we use in our product is also good for the skin as it provides Vitamin C, heals scars and has a brightening effect,” says Raihan, a biotech engineer who started her business while still in college.
She adds that sugar is also a natural humectant, so it keeps skin moisturised, unlike conventional waxes which tend to dry out or irritate the skin.
Sugar is also a natural source of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), an ingredient commonly used in skincare because it helps generate younger-looking skin.
But making the wax is a laborious task. Raihan says it takes about two hours to make just 10 jars but for women who want an organic approach to hair removal, this is as good as it gets.
The majority of those using Organic Touch Malaysia’s sugar wax are young working women and students and those with sensitive skin.
Syaza Fahzlin, who has been using sugar wax since early this year, says it’s convenient, safe and easy.
The 25-year-old accountant says going to the salon for waxing is not only expensive but time-consuming.
With sugar waxing, she can do it at home whenever she’s free and the results are just as good.
She only waxes her legs and regrowth is usually between three and four weeks.
Even a little bit of the wax goes a long way, she says, so it’s value for money to buy a jar, compared to paying RM100 and above for one waxing session at a salon.
“It’s also less painful — perhaps because you’re doing it yourself so you’re more in tune with your pain threshold.”
Nurul Syahira Ab Rahman, a 19-year-old student, has switched from shaving to sugar waxing.
With shaving, the regrowth was very fast so she wanted a better and safe alternative.
Having already seen videos of sugar-waxing, she liked the fact that it offered a natural approach to hair removal.
“I found it really easy to wax my legs. The underarms took some practice because you have to get the angle right for good results.”
She says a jar of sugar wax can last more than three months. Results are good and regrowth takes three to four weeks.
Aisyah Tarmizi started sugar waxing two years ago. Prior to that, she used to buy home waxing products sold in pharmacies but wasn’t satisfied with the results.
Not only were these products difficult to wash off but they often left her skin looking red and stressed after each waxing session.
The 25-year-old says sugar waxing is not only less painful but she has also noticed that with repeated use, the skin on her underarms has become fairer.
“It’s quick and easy to use. It also washes off cleanly unlike commercial waxes which tend to be very thick and sticky.”
Aisyah generally she doesn’t like chemical-based products being used on her skin. She has had bad reactions in the past so is careful these days to ensure that the beauty products she buys are as organic as possible.
Hair-free and beautiful
THROUGHOUT history, beautiful women have always been depicted as smooth and hairless.
Art, paintings, sculptures and statues always show famous beauties having clean, smooth hair-free arms and legs.
Historically, having hairy arms or legs was linked to being uncivilised or uncultured so women went to great lengths to appear smooth and hairless.
In ancient Greece women removed leg hair by singeing it off or using abrasives such as pumice stones or through wax and depilatory concoctions.
In ancient Egyptian women were said to have used depilatory pastes made from arsenic trisulfide, quicklime and starch.
During the Roman Empire, hair removal was seen as an identifier of class. Depilatory creams used during Roman times were made using strange ingredients such as donkey fat, bat’s blood and even powdered viper!
During the 16th century, Turkish women had special rooms at public bath houses to help them get rid of unwanted hair.
European women are said to have begun the practice of hair removal during Elizabethan times but they did not remove hair from their armpits or legs but instead removed their eyebrows and hair from their brows to give themselves an elongated or high forehead.
An ancient European recipe for hair removal actually required powdering hard, dry cat dung and mixing it with strong vinegar.
In India, girls who reached puberty were traditionally encouraged to apply a paste made of turmeric on their bodies during bathing to prevent or lessen the growth of body hair.
Popular hair removal methods
Shaving works by cutting off hair at skin level. It’s most commonly used for legs and underarms. It can, however, cause ingrown hair, especially if used in the pubic area. Regrowth usually takes place after one to three days.
They basically work by dissolving the hair shaft. Different creams target different areas of the body. However, they are not always effective when it comes to coarse hair. Some women find the chemical odour offensive. Regrowth is usually in one to three days.
This is a long-term but expensive solution. It works best on those with darker hair and lighter skin as the laser detects pigment. Laser hair-removal generally takes around six to 12 sessions for best results. Touch-ups may be needed every six to 12 months.
Electrolysis works by destroying the root of each hair at the follicle with an electric current.However, because this type of removal deals with only one hair at a time, it can take much longer to complete (15 to 30 sessions). Results can be permanent but not always 100 per cent permanent for everyone.
This is a traditional Indian method of hair removal offered by many salons. Strings or threads are twisted in a pattern and used to pull out unwanted hair. It is fast, cheap and effective but mainly for the eyebrows and facial hair.