More Culture:

August 07, 2018

Sugaring vs. waxing vs. laser hair removal: a comparison

From laser hair removal to old-fashioned hot wax, here are the best ways to stay fuzz-free

Lifestyle Beauty
Carroll - Waxing Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Honey wax drips from an applicator at the Triple S Hair Lounge in West Philadelphia.

Until Sasquatch chic becomes a thing, there’s a good chance that a significant portion of your warm-weather grooming schedule is devoted to hair removal. DIY-ers tend to stick with razors or depilatory creams, but pros know that there are more than a few ways to stay smooth all summer long.


RELATED READS: Waxing 'down there': the questions you're afraid to ask, answered | What is 'draping' and is it the new makeup trend of the summer? | A nutritional survival guide for sleep-deprived parents


Wax on

Jenne Doyle, owner of Heads and Tails Beauty Boutique, has been waxing clients at her well-loved Rittenhouse salon since 2012. When it comes to hair removal, she’s all about leaving it to the experts. 

“You show up here and we take care of everything,” she says. “It’s a trust-based relationship.”

Ideally, Doyle prefers her clients to get into a rhythm. For facial waxing – i.e. brows, lip, chin – a two- to three-week rotation is best, while anything below the shoulders can be stretched out to every four to six weeks. Routine waxing causes hair to regrow to slow and eventually thins the hair, allowing clients even more lag time in-between waxes.

While most folks are good candidates for waxing, there are just a few factors to think about when considering this method of hair removal. Those taking Accutane for acne or high dose Retinols might want to reconsider, as those agents tend to weaken the skin making it more apt to irritate or burn.

If pain is a concern, there are several options to minimize discomfort while getting waxed. Avoiding caffeine for three to five hours prior to your appointment helps, as does popping a couple of ibuprofen about an hour before coming in. Women tend to experience more tactile sensitivity during the last week of their cycles, so that’s something to keep in mind when scheduling.

Sugar rush

Sugaring certainly sounds less scary than waxing, but this form of hair removal functions in a similar (but not exactly the same) fashion. Courtney Claghorn, founder of Sugared + Bronzed, explains that her salons use a proprietary paste made from sugar and lemon water for all of their hair removal services. This water soluble formula makes for an easier clean up with no need for oil-based products that might irritate freshly sugared skin. Due to factors like hair texture and heat sensitivity, sugaring can be less painful than waxing.

Claghorn says that using hypoallergenic ingredients leads to less irritation and ingrown hairs than other forms of hair removal. Ingrown hairs are an unpleasant reality in most forms of depilation but not so much with sugaring. Unlike waxing, the sugar paste is removed in the same direction as the hair naturally grows and might even be able to eliminate problems before they begin. 

“If you sugar regularly, in-growns tend to go away,” Claghorn explains.

Claghorn’s technicians, or "Sugaristas," as she calls them, are trained for six weeks and can sugar virtually any unwanted hair, aside from brows. For these precision areas, threading tends to be more exact.

Laser precision

Since the late 90s, those looking for a more permanent hair removal situation have been option to go under the laser. At About Face on Chestnut Street, lead treatment provider Raelle Levick provides an in-person consolation to those who are looking into this method of depilation. Depending on the area, most laser treatments require six to eight sessions.

When laser hair removal first gained popularity, the process was never particularly painful, but now, thanks to a cooling element known as cryogen, the treatments are a breeze.

While most folks are good candidates for laser hair removal, there are a few that aren’t a good fit. Since the laser seeks out melanin, for those with white or grey hair, the treatment won’t be effective.

Pricing for laser hair removal might cause temporary sticker shock for some, but that’s quickly offset when thinking about the cost of monthly sugaring or waxing.

“There is a need for touch-ups from time to time, but most are fine for several years,” says Levick. 

But even with touch-ups, the prospect of never having to worry about body hair is very appealing. 

“There’s no shaving and you don’t have to go through the torture of wax.”