Sugar waxing is one of those things I always swore I would never try. I chalk it up to one too many botched eyebrow waxes as a teen. Or maybe it’s just the thought of burning myself with melted sugar that doesn’t sit well. Either way, I’m happy keeping a safe distance between me and any sort of depilatory wax if I can help it. But I’m curious by nature so I started doing some research.
It turns out there’s a reason sugaring is so popular. Said to be traditional waxing’s cheaper, less painful sister, sugar waxing promises a 3-ingredient alternative to daily shaving. While the thought of ripping my hair out by the root doesn’t exactly excite me, not shaving my legs for a couple weeks totally does. So I looked fear in the face, gathered up the ingredients and gave it a whirl.
And guess what? I’m a waxing convert.
How to Make Sugar Wax
For those of us who’ve had a bad experience with waxing, sugaring can be a godsend. It’s made with just three ingredients—sugar, lemon juice, salt—so it’s free of skin-irritating chemicals and toxic scents.
And unlike regular wax, you let the sugar paste cool before applying, so there’s zero chance of getting burned.
Plus, sugar wax won’t stick to live skin cells, so it doesn’t rip off a layer of skin when you pull. This means it’s less painful than traditional waxing and you won’t have the wounds to boot.
Now, I’m going to be completely honest. Making sugar wax is easy once you get the hang of it. But if you’ve never made it before, pick up an extra bag of sugar (or two) before you get started.
As a sugar wax newbie, I scoured the internet for directions and followed the instructions to the letter, but I still managed to burn my sugar the first few times. Once the sugar starts boiling, it can go from golden to black in 2 minutes flat and you won’t even notice until it’s too late. After learning this the hard way, I dug an old candy thermometer out of the drawer to save me the hassle of eyeballing it.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer, don’t panic. Just be flexible and don’t expect perfection on the first go around. You want to pull the sugar off the burner as soon as it turns a light honey color because it will continue browning as it sits. If you overdo it on the first try, pour it in the trash and start over again.
If you would like to see the process in action, here’s a video to get you started:
Once the wax has cooled, scoop it out of the container and apply with a butter knife, popsicle stick or your hands. You’ll want to apply a ¼ inch layer of wax in the direction of the hair and gently press it onto your skin.
If it’s still warm, let it cool for a second so that when you pull at a corner, it comes up in one long strip. Then get a good hold on it and pull!
You can roll the wax between your hands and re-use it on different sections of skin until it’s no longer sticky.
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Candy thermometer
- Add all ingredients to a pot, and without stirring, turn the heat to medium-high (stirring can cause sugar to crystalize on the sides of your pot). If you have one, attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot.
- Once the sugar mixture starts to boil, swirl the pot to mix the ingredients.
- Keep a close eye on the mixture and cook until it turns the color of honey or until your thermometer reads 260 degrees F (this took about 5 minutes for me).
- Immediately remove the wax from heat and transfer it to a hot glass jar to stop the cooking process (the wax can shatter cold glass, so run your glass jar under hot water for a minute to prep it for the wax). Meanwhile, take a spoonful of wax and put it in the freezer. Wait until it has cooled completely, then check the consistency. It should be stretchy like a piece of bubble gum and slightly sticky. If it's too runny, return wax to the pot and boil for another 30 seconds. If it's too hard (like crunchy candy) throw it out and start over.
- Once your wax is the right consistency, let it cool completely before applying to skin.
Sugar Waxing FAQs
We usually get a lot (like a lot a lot) of questions about making your own sugar wax at home. It turns out that even with a recipe and a video, making your own sugar wax isn’t always so easy. Hey, I get it! Hopefully I can help shed some light on it for you.
What if I don’t have a candy thermometer? Would another kind of thermometer work?
You’re free to eyeball it and stop the cooking process once your sugar mixture turns a medium honey color. Another way to check the temperature is to fill a medium size bowl with ice water.
Take a small spoonful of the sugar mixture and place it in the bowl of ice water for a few seconds. Once cool, if it still looks stringy and won’t form a ball, it needs to cook longer.
If you have another type of kitchen thermometer it should work as long as it can withstand consistent heat, and it can read temperatures at or below 260 degrees.
Can I use other types of sugar, like brown or caster sugar?
Yes, you should be able to. But there’s a chance it might take some trial and error to get the ratio of sugar to liquid right.
What if my sugar wax comes out too hard?
If your sugar wax consistently turns out too hard, you’re over cooking it.
Add more lemon juice (the exact amount depends on how hard the sugar mix is) and continue boiling for another 1-2 minutes. If it’s still too hard, add more lemon juice and keep boiling.
If it still turns out too hard, forget the thermometer and just try cooking it for a shorter amount of time. And don’t let your sugar wax cool in the metal pot you cooked it in or it will keep cooking even after you take it off the burner.
If you over-heat your sugar wax, sometimes the easiest thing to do is to toss it out and start over again.
What if it comes out too soft?
If it’s not hard enough and doesn’t adhere to the hair, you’re under cooking it. The only solution is to cook it longer.
You can try to get it to the right consistency by putting it back on the burner and heating it for another few minutes. Or you can attempt to use the soft wax with cotton wax strips.
The strips will give the wax something to hold on to so you can peel it off, hopefully taking the hair with it. If the wax is too soft to stick to cotton strips, then you need to cook it another couple minutes, let it cool and try again.
I’ve tried this recipe ‘x’ times and it still won’t come out right. Now what?
For a variety of reasons, there isn’t a one size fits all sugar wax recipe. A few of the potential issues:
- It could be the climate you live in (more moisture in the air will affect your sugar wax) or it could be your supplies.
- Maybe your thermometer isn’t calibrated correctly or it’s not sensitive enough.
- Maybe your burner gets too hot and the liquid evaporates too quickly.
- Maybe when you removed the wax from the stove it kept cooking (this is big problem for a lot people), so even if it was perfect when you removed it, it became rock solid over time.
As always, if this recipe doesn’t work for you, another one might work better. Keep trying until you find a recipe you like.
Do I need to use cotton cloths with this?
If the sugar wax is the right consistency, then no, you don’t need cotton cloths. It should adhere directly to the hair follicle and pull away from the skin cleanly by hand.
But if your sugar wax isn’t the right consistency, cotton waxing strips may help by giving the wax something to cling to.
What kind of cotton cloths should I use?
You can either buy pre-made waxing cloths online (like these) or make your own using old cotton pillowcases, sheets or curtains cut into 2-inch x 4-inch strips. You’ll want fabric without any stretch so it pulls off in one fell swoop.
Can I store leftover sugar wax?
Store it in an old microwave-safe container. When you’re ready to use it, pop it in the microwave and heat in 15 or 20-second intervals until melted. Just be super careful because hot sugar wax can cause serious burns.
How long will it stay good?
Indefinitely in the refrigerator.
How long should your hair be in order to stick to the wax?
Hair should be at least 1/4-inch (5-6mm) long.
Can you make sugar wax in the microwave?
We tested it out using this recipe:
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine everything in a bowl and microwave it on high in 20-second intervals for about 2 minutes without stirring. At which point it should be the ideal consistency for sugar wax.
No matter how I long I microwaved it for, I just couldn’t get mine to come out right. Since making sugar wax is all about evaporating the liquid until the melted sugar reaches a soft, sticky consistency, microwaving it didn’t seem to boil off enough liquid and I never could quite get it to come out right.
It also made it so that I couldn’t physically watch the sugar as it boiled, so I after one microwave session too many, my wax came out rock solid. (See how dark it is below?)
So for us: no, it didn’t work. While technically a microwave might work, if you’re new to making sugar wax or you don’t have the patience to make a few test rounds, stick to doing it on the stove where you can keep a close eye on it.