I Tried It: Is Sugaring Really Better Than a Traditional Bikini Wax?

Confronting the natural wax option that once sent me into hysterics.

sugaring bikini line

Image via Green City Beauty.

For most people, getting a bikini wax for the first time is somewhat traumatic. Mine? Straight-up horrific. The scene of the crime: My friend’s dorm room. The offender: A well-meaning-but-most-likely-fresh-out-of-school esthetician. The method: Sugaring, an ancient hair-removal process. I’ll spare you the dirty details, and just say I wound up crying and begging her to stop halfway through.

Yeah, not good.

So when the powers that be at Philly Mag asked if I would give sugaring another go, I was hesitant. In the four years since my first sugaring experience, I’ve gotten regular Brazilians, but I’ve avoided sugaring like the plague — that is, until last week.

Admittedly, I was ready for a waxing change. After a few years of getting Brazilians with traditional blue hard wax, I had a constellation of ingrown hairs along my bikini line that never really went away, something many longtime hard-waxers experience. So I entrusted my most sensitive bits to Ashley Richardson of East Market’s Green City Beauty  (you may remember her as the one who gave me all those great tips for clearing up a bumpy bikini area).

Here’s what convinced me to give sugaring another shot: Traditional wax is applied in the direction in which your hair naturally grows, and then is pulled against the grain. This causes lots of breakage which can lead to ingrown hairs. “Think about it this way,” Ashley says. “You wouldn’t pluck a hair with tweezers in the opposite direction that it grows, otherwise it might break or hurt even more when it comes out.” Pluck in the direction of growth, duh.

Here’s how sugaring works: Richardson doesn’t use strips or sticks to apply the wax, just a glob of what looks like honey. Actually, it’s a glob of lemon juice, water and sugar (Green City Beauty’s is organic), and it’s applied against the direction in which your hair grows. The glob is then gently, quickly tugged in the direction of hair growth, taking out what feels like a few hairs at a time. While the sugar glob removes the hair, it also exfoliates the top layer of dead skin cells. This frees and removes the little broken hairs trapped below the surface — it’s true, Ashley showed me! After the worst was over, she applies a soothing warm towel and serums to calm your weary follicles.

Here’s why I’m hooked: By the end, the ball of wax was almost white, due to all the skin cells that were removed, and my bikini line was the softest it’s ever felt. The appointment took no longer than a regular wax, and Ashley talked me through the entire process. Hair removal is hair removal no matter how you spin it (read: It’s not entirely painless), but Ashley’s calming manner and fantastic technique made it as pain-free as possible.

Here’s what you should know before going: If it’s your first wax, trim down there first.If you shave, let it grow for two to three weeks. If you wax regularly, wait three to four weeks so that your hair grows to about the length of a grain of rice. For best results, keep up with post-wax maintenance: For the first 48 hours, Ashley says no pools, hot tubs or exercise. Cleanse with an antiseptic wipe that night and first thing the next morning. Then there’s the recommended daily exfoliation and cleansing (I use the Green City Beauty green tea and tea tree bar soap, which smells like a dream) and repairing serum, a regimen I’m trying to follow religiously.

Dare I call myself a sugaring convert? Believe it or not, I think so.

The Details: 1120 Walnut Street, Market East, 267-908-4148.