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)
=
???

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54 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.

      • Lena says:

        That used to happen to me all the time, it’s because the sugar burns and it happens fast…for me low heat ( using a heat diffuser,) and longer time simmering works best, no specific time, just watch the color and main thing DONT LET IT BURN. The number 1 problem for me is keeping it from melting once working with it…so I will try adding the gum arabic method next time to see if I that resolves the issue. Also , keep in mind that in room temp over 72 degrees, the paste becomes softer ( that’s with out the gum arabic method, which I haven’t yet tried)

    • Anne Smyth says:

      thankyou, I am going to give this a try once I find the gum Arabic

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  13. 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

    • Dr H says:

      Julie, how much gelatine are you using, or rather, what is your recipe as you’ve worked it out so far?

  14. Stephanie says:

    Does anyone know where to go to purchase a sugar warmer?
    Also, what containers are best to use in the warmers?

    • Jill says:

      Hey
      I have had many wax/ sugar heating pots over the years. They are widely available on amazon and ebay. The best one I have found I have had it for 15 years now and it is still in daily salon use is called “the melting pot”. I have gone through 4 other pots in the past few years that were salon ones and they have all been less sturdy and with the switches quickly breaking or heating way to hot even on the lowest settings.
      I plan to but another of these pots myself because they are just the best.
      (My original one was a freebie from a supplier when I first got out of Esthetics college)

  15. Rose says:

    Julie and Jil, further improvements on your recipe on these sugar paste? thanks, wanting to do this in my salon and want to do my own sugar paste.

  16. shahanif says:

    You can find Guar gum in Indian grocery stores

  17. So I have tried so many times to get this to work just right and I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong (following directions but…) or if its just something I’m missing. The sugaring doesn’t actually grab all the hair (or even a majority enough for me to consider this “working”). It does on some areas, but not legs with coarser hair. I use a stick and apply against the hair growth, apply strip of cloth and pull with hair growth and it seems it dries on TOP of the hair instead of grabbing the hair. What can I do? I’ve tried doing it and leaving it a bit to let it dry then pulling, and I’ve tried pulling immediately. I’ve tried so much but it seems that most often the sugaring ends up dried on top of the hair without GRABBING it. So what am I doing wrong?

    • Ruth D says:

      Hey! It sounds like you are using a waxing technique, which is totally different from sugaring. The recipes on this blog are for sugar paste. It is like a soft sticky play doh, not runny. You apply it and remove it using your hands, no sticks or strips. There are YouTube videos posted on here of how it’s done.

    • Jill says:

      Hey everyone.
      You need gum arabic. Forgot gelatin and guar gum. I order mine online. It is cheap and one small jar has lasted forever and I am making this for a salon.
      Try looking for online herb & spice retailers that is where I order mine in Canada. As for the lady having issue with hair not grabbing with strips. The problem is sugaring is normally find with the hand massage technique not using sticks and strips. Check out you tube videos on sugaring hand technique it takes awhile to get good at it I’ll warn you which is the reason most estheticians wax it is easier to learn and prefect technique.

  18. CaseyAnn says:

    After making my first batch of the hard wax, I too experienced confusion upon each session when after some use it would turn whiter and become unusable, actually sticking horribly to my skin. I gave up on it and had it in two jars in my room for months. Winter passed and I went back to try it again to find that I seemingly mastered the technique. My original was quite dark.

    Now I’ve tried to make a second batch, but it was much too hard and wouldn’t stick to my skin (I’m interested in trying “letting it sink into” my pores), so I threw it out after repeated attemps. I kept reading that you are supposed to “work it” so that its “structure” changes to actually white-ish (as in the French video), so I think that when we have made it to find that it ceases to function after turning lighter, it has been either overcooked or undercooked. I have yet to figure that out. Tonight I will make another batch with only 1 cup (I don’t know why anyone would want to make so much, especially given how easy it is to mess this sugaring thing up!).

  19. Jill says:

    Hey ladies I have been following posts and just wanted to advise you all with a few pointers.
    So first you don’t need to knead sugar at all ever. Bottom line this is completely not part of professional sugaring technique. I am a professional esthetician with 15 years specializing in sugaring I do full time all day everyday. If you make the paste properly cooked to 260 whisk in scant 1/8 tsp the gum arabic (available online from herb and spice dealers)you will have a firm paste that when heated gently and stirred is perfect to use the with hand technique of sugaring. I think the problem is not the paste but the fact that the technique is very difficult to prefect it takes a long time to get really good at it. This why sugaring is hard to find in salons and spas it is generally offered by independent estheticians who have taken the time to learn and prefect the technique. When you sugar professionally you gently heat the paste in a warmer just like wax. Alexandria sells them. It shouldn’t be hot but quite warm and pliable. Yes I know the youtube videos don’t show this. Most of you will find this advice unhelpful and not be able to do the sugaring hand technique with the heated pliable Paste (just being honest)it is tough to learn even with professional training. I know lots of estheticians who got frustrated and gave up. I really think the problems you are all having are technique related. Yes The paste does get gooey and white this isn’t molecular change from kneading. It is the dead skin and hair and powder put on the skin accumulating in the paste.
    Generally you should use a small ball and discard it at this stage and get a new piece.
    Hope this helps feel free to ask questions but I find the recipe works if you know what you are doing and how to properly sugar with the hand technique. You really do need the gum arabic.

    • Jill says:

      Ps – you can hear the sugar in the microwave. Err on the safe side do a little at a time and stir well. If you overheat it it will become molten liquid again and I have personally had third degree burns after grabbing the jar and it oozing over the top and into my hand so be careful.
      Trying to think of the best way to describe how much to heat it. It need to cool enough to work with but still a paste that is able to spread

  20. Warm Hello Jill,
    i have spent so much time attempting to do this at home and save money
    from reading your posts it looks like i will have to invest in the 70 dollors for a melting pot?
    i was under the impression if i made the product pliable enough with the scant gum arabic and the proper temp etc….it would not need reheating
    my hair is red and my skin is sensitive..the hair on my legs is very thick and long…i have purchased two electric razors in the past to attempt to get the majority of the length off so i could then shave or wax….each time my electric razors would break down
    do u recommend an electric razor that will do the job and last me for many years to come?
    should i get the type the a barber uses to do crew cuts on men?
    Thank u for all your help
    as u can imagine so many of us lost at sea with attempts at diy sugaring

    • Jill says:

      Hey Theresa
      So you can hear it in the microwave you just need to do slowly like 30 seconds first and stir and then a bit at a time stirring in between. Otherwise hot spots will form in the jar and badly burn you if you stick your hand in one.
      I use a heating out because I am sugaring all day long and I want avoid reheating constantly. You could try a men’s shaver it would be best. Unfortunately red and blond hair are the toughest to remove and generally have thick deep roots. As to pliability this can make the problem worse especially in the summer with humidity you actually need a thicker stiffer paste they make tropical paste for summer use. I generally have several jars on the go at once of various temps so I can custom mix the paste on each part of the body.
      Also to address the other ladies concerns about her paste getting rock hard. If you heat and stir it you can still use it. I think I need to make and post some videos for you ladies. It is hard to describe this just typing lol.
      Don’t give up sugaring is tricky I tried for years on and off to make my own and I gave up after all the problems you are all having until I found this site and gave it another go.
      I am in the midst of parking to move but I’ll try to make short video for all on consistency.

  21. Ronnie says:

    Hi Jill, for a high altitude climate, what do you recommend for the full recipe? I am making large quantities for my studio as well. Thank you!

  22. Inna Zal says:

    Hello,
    Can someone tell me how much does the 1 kg (35 oz) Alexandria Sugaring jar might cost. A friend, a professional in the field gave me a jar and I don’t really need it. I want to sell it, but nowhere can I find a price. On their web site it says that it is not available online and no price. I’d appreciate if you can give me an idea. I will sell it much much cheaper, just want to an idea.

    Thank you, Inna

  23. HBK Qaptcha says:

    Fantastic Post. Thanks for publishing this, it is notably clearly written. I would
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  24. Anne Smyth says:

    I have made this 3 times now and it always turns out dark and hard, I follow your exact instructions! it only takes 10 mins total and turns amber…. how many times before you get this stuff right???

    • Jill says:

      Hi Anne
      Yes it will be dark color dosn’t matter temperature does. When you say hard it should be fairly solid when completly cooled. I can generally press my finger on the top and it will leave a little dent. You reheat sugar before using it. I microwave mine for about a minute and then stir it really well to avoid liquid hot spots in the jar that can cause bad burns to your hands. After stirring I test the consistency now I do that just by sight I reheat for 20 second stir again.
      The temperature in the important part if you find the paste dosn’t work well cook a little like maybe just to 258.
      Jill

  25. Anna says:

    Hi there, just made a bit tonight worked ok but got sticky. I am going to buy a candy thermometer in the morning. Please post the recipe with the guar gum. Just loving this!!!
    Anna

    • Ruth D says:

      http://diysalon.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/diy-sugaring-follow-up/

      Don’t forget, your experience will depend on where you live. If you live in a warm/humid area, you’ll have to cook the sugar longer to avoid it “melting” after a while on your skin. If you live in a cold/dry area, you’ll have to cook the sugar less — otherwise it’ll be too stiff to use.

      I find that stirring in a teaspoon of guar gum when I turn the stove off helps the sugar last longer before it eventually succumbs and goes tacky. Even with this, I usually end up using two “handfuls” of sugar in a session though. I know the adverts say that you can use a single handful of sugar to do it all, but I’ve never managed it. I’ve been to sugaring salons, and they’ve never managed it either. As far as I can tell, doing a full leg on a single handful is about as much as you can expect. Your mileage may vary, though! (Maybe gum arabic would do the trick?)

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  27. cllappe says:

    So I have been messing with this for the last month or so. I have only been able to make one batch that was usable but it made my legs so smooth, and after having an issue with the magic melt on my latest batch i invested in xanthan gum in hopes that it will do the trick as I couldn’t get my hands on any other type of gum.

  28. cllappe says:

    I was wondering if anyone tried with the xanthan gum as the secret ingredient. I couldn’t get my hands on any of the other gums so I grabbed a bag of it and I’m hoping to try it but am unsure how much to use.

    • Ruth D says:

      I haven’t tried xanthan gum but I’m interested to hear about it! I’d try a teaspoon to start with, and try more next time if you don’t see any change. You can also try cooking it to a higher temperature, which will make it stiffer to start with but also take longer to get melty. Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

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