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Sugaring vs Waxing: Which Hair Removal Method Is More Eco-Friendly?

When deciding between sugaring vs waxing, sugaring isn't just gentler—it also tends to be more eco-friendly. Here's your guide.

Written by
Angelica Pizza

Swimsuit season is right around the corner, and that means more people are running to the spa for a waxing or sugaring appointment. But while both work great at removing body hair, you may be wondering which is better for your body and the planet between sugaring vs waxing.

While body hair removal isn't necessary to look great at the beach, it's something millions of people do every year: Past data shows 13 million consumers got waxed at least once in 2020, and 8 million consumers went 2-3 times. But while waxing used to be the go-to, sugaring is on the rise. Not only is it a gentler and less irritating way to remove body hair, but it's also slightly less painful.

In this guide, we'll explain exactly what sugaring is and how it compares to waxing so you can make the best decision for you and the planet this summer.

What Is Sugaring?

Sugaring, or sugar waxing, is a method that uses a sticky paste made of—you guessed it—sugar to remove unwanted hair. According to April Batley, director of education at Sugar Plum hair removal services in Washington, the paste is made of sugar, citric acid, and water.

"It's applied to the skin with a gloved hand and removed using a flicking motion," Batley says. "The same ball of sugar can be used over again, dramatically cutting down on waste."

She also says the sugar heats up from body heat, allowing for more complete hair removal.

"The technique is superior because the sugar is kept at body temperature so the chance of burning the skin is removed," she says. "The sugar has a smaller molecule than wax, and with the heat of the client’s skin, the sugar melts deeper into the skin, grabbing more hair beneath the skin line."

However, sugaring isn't entirely pain-free. After all, you're still ripping hair follicles out of your skin. The first session might be the most painful—because your hair is used to shaving or waxing. The more you sugar, though, the smaller your hair follicles. The process takes some getting used to.

And the sugaring process isn't completely new—it's been around for centuries, according to Jaime Katz, Sugar Plum's customer care manager.

"The practice of sugaring hair removal has been established for centuries, originating from one of the world’s oldest civilizations," Katz says. "With simple, edible ingredients, we're reminded how the old ways of caring for self and one another are often the easiest on the planet, too."

The question that remains is: Is sugaring more eco-friendly than waxing?

Sugaring vs Waxing: Which Is More Eco-Friendly?

While the overall environmental impact of both waxing and sugaring depends on the individual businesses that provide these services, we can still take a look at some of the general differences between the hair removal methods.

According to Camilla Fogle, founder of Sugar Plum, waxing comes with a massive environmental footprint. She says the impact of waxing is 10 times greater than that of sugaring, and the process often generates a lot of waste.

"In most waxing studios, a disposable paper sheet is used to cover the treatment table," Fogle says. "At Sugar Plum, we use a washable fabric sheet. With waxing services, the heated petroleum, pine resin, and beeswax must be retrieved with a fresh disposable stick every time the wax is applied. With sugaring, we use the same sugar ball that has been retrieved by a biodegradable gloved hand, for the whole body part."

Fogle says waxing often requires single-use materials, including disposable sticks, fabric strips, paper sheets, and even sanitary gloves. And while these items are necessary to ensure sanitation, they're still disposable. She says a waxing room usually has "large garbage cans full of debris." However, sugaring doesn't generate as much waste.

"In our sugaring rooms, a small 3-gallon garbage can is all that's needed," she says. "Another big bonus with sugar is that it's easily cleaned up by a warm and wet washcloth. With wax, you must use a harsh chemical solvent."

At Sugar Plum, the sugar is USDA Certified Organic and grown in Brazil with a Fair Trade company, assuring clients are getting the most ethical service. And Fogle says the sugar is even edible.

On the other hand, most wax formulas are made of beeswax and rosin, water, natural oils, and sometimes chemical additives. And in most cases, a wax warmer is needed to melt the wax—requiring energy. As previously stated, sugaring heats up with body heat.

However, some wax is also all-natural, and some wax strips contain organic cotton or paper. And it may also be biodegradable, just like sugaring. When it comes down to choosing a waxing method, it's vital to look at what individual businesses are doing to cut back on toxic ingredients and waste.