If you buy into the idea that women are supposed to be velvety soft and completely hair free, you might - if you're like me - either get hurt or lose a lot of money ;-) But there is an easy way, with an ancient product you can make yourself from things you probably already have on your kitchen shelves - sugaring.
In my early youth I tried several hair removal techniques on my legs. Shaving, I cut a big piece of skin off my ancles (ouch!), and by using Veet for sensitive skin, I got first degree burns all over my lower legs and had to run to the pharmacy :-/ Waxing just really hurt, and I'm not even going to tell you about the stuff my friend and I bought (on more than one occasion) on Home Shopping channels :-D
When I threw away all the non-natural things in my kitchen and bathroom 12 years ago and looked for natural alternatives to everything, I came across recipes for sugaring - a caramel like substance used to remove hair, much gentler on the skin than waxing. By now everybody knows about sugaring, which is great :-) You can get professional treatments - but you can also just do it yourself :-)
I just have to make one little hippie peep, before we get to the recipes and how-to's: you could just choose not to remove hairs ;-) I mean, you might consider whether you really agree with all the beauty ideals in the Western part of the world, and whether this hair growth really is annoying in some way. For years I have shaved my arm pits because I tend to smell sweaty if I don't, and this really isn't something I can live with. The hair makes the environment under the arms more moist and thus more bacterial-friendly, and it's the bacteria, that makes the sweat smell. But the leg hairs I just left on my legs, where they do a fair bit on insulating work in the winter :-D I should add that I'm Scandinavian and blond, so the hairs are fairly light, plus I'm not very hairy. But why do we have to have smooth skin on our legs, when nature has provided us with hairs? Anyways, I won't hold it against you if you do remove unwanted hair, I've also done it evry once in a while - I just want to encourage you to think about why you're doing it :-)
How to use sugaring
And now to business - sugaring works by adhering to the hairs, just like wax, which means that the hairs will be pulled out when removing the caramel paste with a swift pull. You can use cloth strips, or you can use a lump of the sugaring paste which is stretched out over the skin and pulled back. It can be used everywhere - on legs, face, bikini line, you name it. Well, don't remove your lashes, would be my advice. Pre-steps and post-steps are common to all methods and recipes:
- Wash your skin with soap to remove all oils. You can use an antibacterial wash, that you can make yourself. This step is to ensure that the hair follicles don't get infected.
- Use cornstarch or the like to powder the skin very lightly. This makes it easier for sugaring to adhere to the hairs.
- Wash you skin again, perhaps with an antibacterial wash.
- Use very cold water in the end to close the pores.
- Gently rub your skin with a good natural oil, like shea butter (my favourite).
Now don't do this just before you need to look your best! Your skin might look red for a while.
There are several ways to make sugaring and I've only tried a few. Common ingredients are sugar and lemon juice, and some add honey and/or glycerine. Make small batches until you find your favourite recipe - then you can make large batches which keep in the fridge for months. If you want to reheat in a micro wave, use a container suitable for this for storage. Choose a container with a wide mouth, so it's easy to get a spatula or your hand in there when you need to use it. I have used a peanut butter glass and reheated it in warm water.
All methods require heating to about 240-245 F. The mix can be made in a pot or a micro wave - I recommend the first because you have more control over the progress, and I highly recommend using a candy thermometer, because the temperature will rise very suddenly. If you don't have one you might be able to assess the progress by the colour of the mixture - when it gets near the right temperature, it may start to bubble and change colour to a dark amber.
The mixture must cool until it doesn't burn the skin before it can be used. If you store it in the fridge, you have to heat it until it's fairly warm before each use. Note: The recipe for use without strips does not need to be heated, just left out of the fridge a little while to soften.
All the recipes I found use American measurements in cups. 1 cup is app. 2½ dl. A lemon contains about 17 oz (½ dl) of juice, and you can use bottled :-)
Recipe no. 1:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- the juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tsp glycerine, added after heating
Mix sugar, honey and lemon juice and heat as described above. Let cool and add glycerine. Use with strips when hand temperature. Method described below.
Recipe no. 2:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup water
Mix all ingredients and heat as described above. Let cool and use with strips when hand temperature, or let cool to room temperature and use without strips.
Sugaring with cloth strips
When the paste no longer burns your skin, apply it to an area of skin with a small spatula, the back of a knife or the like, to make the layer thin. You can either choose to
- a) apply it IN the direction of the hair growth, then apply the cloth strip, rub it firmly and then pull it back (never up) AGAINST the growth of the hairs while holding the skin taught, or
- b) do it the other way round - apply sugaring AGAINST the direction of hair growth, and then pulling the strip in the opposite direction while holdning the skin taught.
The last one is supposed to lead to fewer problems with ingrown hairs, infected follicles etc. You can use the same strip at least twice before washing it.
Strips can be made by cutting an old sheet or similar thin non-stretchy fabric into small rectangular pieces. 3x8" is good. Use pinking shears. You can throw the strips in the washing, or soak them in hot water to dissolve the sugaring before washing by hand.
I've used this method and it works really well for me. First time you try it, you won't get all hairs, so you can go through the same area once again, but never more in order not to irritate the skin. After a few weeks the hairs will be returning and you can do the whole area again, likely with even better results.
Sugaring without strips:
I haven't tried this yet but here's a step-by-step guide that looks interesting. You could also look for instructional videos on Youtube.