DIY Sugaring

“Sugaring” — it’s all the rage, apparently, being gentler and cleaner than waxing.  It’s harder to find information about it online than one might expect, especially since often it’s confused with waxing using a product based on sugar.  Sugar paste does not involve heating and it does not use cloth strips.

Overview

You can find a high-level overview of the process at any number of salon/spa websites.  Here are a few (click through to read):

Studio Alexandria says the paste is “all-natural” and made of “sugar and lemon juice” and a “secret ingredient.”

About.com has an overview: the recipe is the same one you’ll find on many sites (it lacks a secret ingredient): 2 cups sugar to 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup water.   The actual directions on how to make the paste are mostly wrong, though.

Studio Smooth has a good description of the process and the origins of the technique.  They mention the secret ingredient: guar gum.  They don’t mention how much, but if you read up a bit on thickeners, a little bit goes a long way.  They also don’t mention when in the process you should add the guar gum powder (but since it’s a thickener, maybe late, since it might interfere with boiling out the water…)

How To Make it at Home

The recipe I’ve found online is:

2 cups sugar (white, granulated)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water

What is this?  It looks like sugar candy!  That’s because the sugar paste actually is made of candy… at least, with this recipe.  The 1/4 cup water is actually overkill — you will evaporate it out, because the target is a 92% sugar solution (hard ball stage).  So let’s modify it to save cooking time:

2 cups sugar (white, granulated)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup water

Procedure:

Mix the ingredients in a saucepan and turn the heat up to high.  You do not want this to turn red/dark, like About.com and a few other sites say.  Getting dark just means the sugar is caramelizing (breaking down).  If you heat it up slowly (simmer) for a long time, it will get dark.  If you heat it fast (boil) for a short time, it’ll stay light.  All the salon products are light, and I don’t see what good caramelizing the sugar is, so let’s avoid that.  You want to boil it (not simmer) until it hits 260 degrees F (hard ball stage).  Careful: you have to watch the pot and make sure it doesn’t boil over and make a mess.  It’s OK if it gets a little hotter than 260 degrees, but you’ll be unable to use the sugar paste if it doesn’t get hot enough: so err on the side of too hot.  Get a candy thermometer to eliminate guesswork; they cost under $5 at your grocery store.  It takes about 9-12 minutes to boil out the water, depending on how hot your stove is.

The result is a supersaturated sugar solution.  The lemon juice (any acid will do) prevents crystallization of the supersaturated solution.  It inverts the sugar into its two simpler components, fructose and glucose, which interfere with the re-formation of sugar crystals.  Let it cool back to room temperature.  You can do this in a fridge, if you want.

Usage

Words aren’t enough, so have some videos:

Amy’s videos on YouTube are pretty good with regard to how to make the paste.  Don’t do the butter knife thing she talks about; it’s faster but it doesn’t work as well.

And this demo in French with subtitles shows how to deal with some of the common problems with using sugar paste (sugar not sticking, sugar losing its elasticity).  However, you want to apply against hair and pull with it (the opposite of what’s shown).

The Alexandria Professional demos give you a good idea of technique: 1) You have to leave the sugar on for a few seconds so it can “melt” a little into pores.  2) The flicking motion goes with hair growth, because it’s gentler and less likely to break off hairs at the surface.  3) You should do large areas at once (i.e. ankle to knee, not half of that), since that is one of the advantages of using the paste over waxing.  Of course, they’re in this for the money, so they say you can only get this done professionally, at a salon, at about a 20% premium over waxing.

No need, no need, just use the wax as shown in the videos above and you too can get painless epilation, except for less money.

The Secret Ingredient

However, if you use the base sugar recipe shown above, the sugar paste gets soft and unworkable pretty fast.  When you start, the sugar is clear and amber colored;  as you stretch it over the skin and pull off repeatedly, it becomes opaque and white and eventually gets too soft to use.  At first I thought this happened because it heated up — the sugar solution becomes a liquid again if you microwave it — but now I think it must be part of the formula.  The salon websites say that they use the same piece of sugar for the whole session, and there’s no way the base recipe would last that long, even if you magically kept it cool.

Why does the paste get soft?  I can’t find any good chemistry references for what happens to a supersaturated solution of sugar when kneaded.  Heck, why is a supersaturated solution of sugar elastic at all?

I will continue to research this, but in the meantime, maybe the missing secret ingredient would help?

Guar gum (mentioned in a few of the salon sites) is a thickener — in food it’s usually used for gluten-free baking.  Xanthan gum (similar to guar gum) is known to decrease hardness and pseudoplasticity (that’s when a thing suddenly becomes much less viscous, like ketchup does) in sugary syrups – so it’s possible it would help with the elasticity/plasticity of the paste.  Note: it’s also on the ‘generally recognized as safe’ list, but guar used to be used as a diet aid because it swelled up in the stomach and made you feel full.  But then it messed up your intestines too.  Don’t eat guar gum.

Well, I’ve ordered some online (I could only find xanthan gum in my Whole Foods and local grocery store).  Stay tuned to find out how it goes…

Next time…

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup water
1 tsp guar gum (add at the end)
=
???

About these ads
This entry was posted in Hair Removal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to DIY Sugaring

  1. Michelle says:

    Hi,

    I’d love to know how the new recipe with the guar gum turned out? And where is a good source to order this online from?

  2. Serena says:

    Hi, congratulation for article… I have your same problem…did you try new recipe with guar?…Let me know…;)

  3. Serena says:

    Hi, congratulation for article… I have your same problem…did you try new recipe with guar?…Let me know…;)

  4. Lisa Brown says:

    I have been on the same journey as you it sounds like. I have bought expensive sugaring paste and am now trying to perfect my recipe. I saw the same thing about guar gum and have purchased it already . I tried a few batches and always added it at the beginning with everything else, so I’m going to try adding it at the end, please let me know what the results of your trials are !

  5. Sarah says:

    The extra ingredient is gum arabic or gum ovaline, according to Milady’s Hair Removal Techniques: A Comprehensive Manual, by Helen Bickmore.

  6. rjc says:

    Looks like everybody has the same dilemma. I’m also researching on how the paste will last longer, without ‘melting’ due to too much kneading. Good thing I’ve read your blog. I’m excited to try the recipe with gum paste :)

    I’ve read somewhere that adding the ‘secret ingredient’ to the sugaring paste recipe, you will no longer need to reheat it everytime you want to use it. So this secret ingredient makes sugaring paste very convenient.

    Hope everyone would comment again about the result of their experiment with the secret ingredient :)

  7. Julia says:

    Hey!
    Has anybody tried a recipe with the gum or knows what is the perfect mixture by now? Would love to hear…
    :)

  8. julia says:

    I know it’s been a while. But did anybody find out if the guar gum works??? :)

  9. Jihan says:

    She wrote another entry in this blog updating her results…it did work! check the post for instructions!

  10. lovelyy says:

    you should put some pictures or video. i cant get it right but i know i’m close. arg. but i think i’m over cooking it. do i turn it off as soon as i hit 260 F? if so, i hit that mark pretty fast, like 6 min or so….

  11. jill says:

    Hey Ladies,
    I am a professional aesthetician specializing in sugaring for 15 years. I have been experimenting with this recipe and I have found that I get good usable results when I do it this way, it isn’t prfect yet but almost:
    4 cups white sugar
    1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
    1/4 cup water
    I cook it until it reaches 260 degrees F
    remove from heat and mix in a scant 1/4 tsp of gum arabic
    Gum arabic is what Alexandria use in their professional paste and the they charge a fortune 38.50 per jar!!!!
    I don’t find it keeps that well once i start reheating and using the jar. However it seems to keep fine when stored on a shelf without any reheating.

    • Lori says:

      Can this be made without something other than Lemon or Lime? I can’ used them..serious allergy. Thanks

      • Ruth D says:

        The lemon juice is added because it’s an acid that inverts the form of some of the sugar and prevents it from crystallizing — keeps it gooey and syrupy when re-heated.

        According to the Internet, there are substitutes:
        “Corn syrup, cream of tartar or even lemon juice will work. In the presence of an acid and heat, sucrose is broken down into two parts- fructose and glucose. Corn syrup, cream of tartar, or lemon juice disrupt the sucrose’s natural tendency to crystallize.”
        http://www.examiner.com/article/sugar-crystallization-methods-of-prevention

        Let us know how it goes!

    • Kris says:

      can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong. mine gets dark and when it cools to room temp, it gets rock hard. not joking, REALLY rock hard. I cook it on high like it says til it hits 250 to 260. its cear up to the last couple of minutes then turns dark fast.

      • Ruth D says:

        Hi Kris! Take a look at this list of sugar temperatures:
        https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html

        There’s a pretty big difference between 250 and 260 for me. Try cooking it to a lower temperature — it’s also possible that your thermometer isn’t exactly correct and you’re actually making it hotter than you meant to.

        It’s normal for it to be clear until the end – it turns dark because the sugar is caramelizing and usually if it gets very dark it means you’ve heated it too much.

        Good luck!

      • Jill says:

        Update after hundreds of batches over the last 6 months (I use it in my salon) I find using less gum arabic and more water (as I live in a desert climate) works best. I use about a 1/16 of a teaspoon now for 8 cups of sugar.
        You need to take it off the heat when it gets to 258 I find it will keep heating to the extra two degrees. Color of the sugar dosn’t matter some batches are light some darker but it will get harder the longer you cook it over 260. This method of sugaring is meant to be done by hand not with sticks and strips as in waxing. Even so if you reheat and stir harder batches they are perfectly useable.
        I make large one kg jars for my salon. I reheat each jar for 1 minute and 20 seconds in the microwave stir it to avoid hot spots and then put it in my sugar warmer for the rest of the day.

        I sugar all day everyday. So happy I found this site so I can now make it myself. I tried over the years and gave up after rock hard batches and ruined pots. The key is the thermometer and gum arabic.

  12. Julie says:

    Jill, your comments have been so, so helpful. Really hard finding sugaring techniques & recipes that actually work, so great to hear yours is salon quality! Do you recommend making smaller batches (just for own use) or a large batch and storing in fridge & warming a little when u need it- say every 2-3 wks?? Also, can you tell me how easy it is to find Arabic gum & where would I begin looking? Cake decorating supplies perhaps?? Huge thanks for your advice. Julie

    • Jill says:

      Hey Julie
      I found gum arabic from a herb and spice supply store because I live in a very remote northern Canadian community so I order just ordered it online. I make large batches 3 : 1kg jars at a time which about 4 cups of sugar to a jar. I find the trick is to whisk in gu arabic so it mixes well then I pour into jars After it cools for about an hour and a half I skim off the scum that has formed on the top of each jar carefully it is molten sugar. Then i let it cool completely overnight. I seal the top of each jar with “press and seal” and then put the cover on tight no need to refrigerate It is shelf stable.
      I must say I do use a lot more homemade sugar (almost twiceas much) than I used to it when I was buying it. But it is so easy to make I don’t mind. I find I am making 6-9 jars a week for my salon so I am getting lots of practise and I’ll keep updating as I perfect things even more
      Hope this helps
      Jill

      • julie jansen says:

        Hi Jill, thanks for your reply. I wanted to let you know i am now experimenting here in Australia with adding gelatine powder to the cooling mixture which i have read is similiar to arabic gum which i can not get hold of here. It definitely is adding more elasticity to the finished product and keeps it working longer without getting sticky and needing replacement. Thought you might be interested as you are using so much paste. Love to hear how it goes for you and if you make any further improvements.
        Julie

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s