Wax On, Wax Off: Sugar Wax vs. Soft Wax vs. Hard Wax: Which is Better?

Depilation legs with waxing and tape

It’s finally starting to feel like spring, but many of us won’t feel comfortable donning shorter, showier getups without some hair removal first. In the winter, it’s easy to go without taking care of unwanted hair on your legs and other areas, but spring and summer are a different story.

Waxing can be a great solution, because it lasts longer than shaving, but isn’t as costly as electrolysis or lasers. And recently, the internet has been abuzz with sugar waxing, a new DIY trend. So what’s the best way to get your legs silky smooth?

Sugaring: Epilation with Sugar and Lemon

Sugar epilation doesn't pull hair out as well the first time, but it's safer than hard and soft waxes.

Sugar epilation doesn’t pull hair out as well the first time, but it’s safer than hard and soft waxes.

Sugaring is pretty similar to traditional waxing, except that the ingredients are gentler and water-soluble. A 2001 article in Dermatologic Surgery explains that pre-mixed professional solutions are recommended above totally homemade solutions, because it’s difficult to maintain the proper consistency of something do-it-yourself. One such option is Persian Cold Wax ($22.63, Amazon.com), made of sucrose (sugar), citric acid (citrus), and aqua (water). Nonetheless, the article describes the process for sugaring:

  1. Cleanse and exfoliate skin, do not use lotion or moisturizer after this step.
  2. Mix 3 cups of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. (Some recipes recommend using an equal amount of water as well.)
  3. Cook over flame until the mixture becomes amber, but not too dark.
  4. Allow cooling; and test the mixture by removing a small portion and putting it on a cool surface. The tester should be pliable, if it is not, you should make another batch with more lemon juice.
  5. Once it’s cool a bit, spread the mixture on the area with a spatula in the direction of hair growth. (I recommend testing a little bit on your skin to see if it’s cool enough before spreading it on.)
  6. Press a cotton strip onto the area.
  7. Pull the cotton strip quickly with one hand, while using the other hand to maintain tension.
  8. If hair remains, you might need to repeat two to three times.
  9. Cleanse and moisturize.

The article notes that in terms of safety, sugaring and cold wax are the best, getting a three out of three. To compare, shaving gets a two out of three. Hot waxing, depilatory cream, electrolysis, and laser get a one out of three — the last two getting the score because of the potential for scarring.

The scoring also looked at cost effectiveness, convenience, and frequency, and sugaring got either a two or three for both of those. The only places it received low scores (one out of three) was in redness and discomfort.

Soft Wax versus Hard Wax

Soft wax, like the wax shown here, adheres more to skin than hard wax.

Soft wax, like the wax shown here, adheres more to skin than hard wax.

Hard wax and soft wax have different properties that make them ideal for different parts of the body. Soft wax is the warm, thin wax that gets covered by a muslin strip that is then pulled away quickly by an aesthetician. Hard wax is the warm, thick wax that that goes on without a muslin strip, is allowed to cool, and then pulled off. The soft wax adheres more to skin than the hot wax, exfoliating skin more (Associated Skin Care Professionals).

Some aestheticians say that soft wax is better for pulling out fine hair, while hard wax is better for pulling out course hairs (Glen Ivy).  But for some skin-adherence can be an issue. So while soft wax is better for pulling out hair in areas like eyebrows, you’ll want to use soft wax normally, if you are using an acidic product like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), some aestheticians recommend hard wax.

According to this 2003 article in Dermatology Nursing, retinoid-users should stop using a retinol product five to seven days before getting waxed to avoid serious irritation.

Another potential issue is that both of these are likely to cause some irritation and redness. It’s possible that they might also cause temporary burns to the skin (American Academy of Dermatology).

Sugaring, Soft Wax, Hard Wax: Which is the Best?

In terms of safety, if you make the sugar wax right, it’s considered safer than hard or soft wax. But there haven’t been studies done measuring the efficacy of these types of waxing, so anecdotal evidence is the most we have to go on. Different people will have different issues with the various kinds of waxes.

Persian_Cold_wax

For sugar wax, instead of making your own, something like Persian Cold Wax ($22.63, amazon.com) could be a better, more effective option.

Gigi_Azulene_Wax

If you’re going for soft wax, something like GiGi Azulene Wax ($10.85, amazon.com) contains azulene oil, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, though it does require more testing on the safety and cosmetic standards of the oil (Journal of Toxicology).

satin_smooth

If you’re going for hard wax, Satin Smooth Wild Cherry Hard Wax with Vitamin E ($13.95, amazon.com) will give you the antioxidant benefits of vitamin E.

And no matter what, if you’re going to wax, it’s best to stop retinoids and other acids for between five and seven days prior to waxing.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for hairless legs and want a wax that’s fairly gentle (though it could still hurt, and might still cause redness), then sugar wax could be a good solution. But it’s advisable to go with something pre-made, lest your cooking skills not result in top-quality wax. Otherwise, hard and soft wax work well for different uses. Soft wax is better on fine hair, but will also take off the top layer of dead skin. Hard wax works better on thicker hairs while not adhering too much to skin. If you’re using any of these, be sure to stop using retinoids and similar products for five to seven days before waxing.

Have you used sugaring, hard wax, or soft wax? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section!

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One thought on “Wax On, Wax Off: Sugar Wax vs. Soft Wax vs. Hard Wax: Which is Better?

  1. dekadaye says:

    i’ve been waxing forever and never found anything unsafe about it. of course there will be temporary irritation after hair is ripped from the follicle!

    i tried sugaring a few months ago because i like to try everything at least once. it was incredibly more painful than waxing!! the stinging continued for 30 minutes after too. i went to an experienced practitioner that actually teaches sugaring to other estheticians. she was a nice person, but i will stick with wax – hard and soft.

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