Lesley is ditching her store-bought beauty products and going full hippie. Here's how to join her.
Hirsute stereotypes notwithstanding, hippie living and hair removal are not mutually exclusive. So to mark the kick-off of swimsuit season, I spent the past week waxing my bikini line with a dozen different natural DIY recipes. I’ve burned through pounds of sugar, and I’m running out of hair to pull out. But it beats the alternative: Any time I take a razor to a sensitive area, it means minor cut season, razor burn season, and ingrown hair season.
In the past, I’ve tried loads of at-home wax kits to dodge spa prices, but they’ve all been more trouble than they’re worth—sticky messes on popsicle sticks that hurt like hell. Enter the sugar wax: This old-school waxing method is cheap, requires no heat or strips, and is as effective and less painful than conventional waxing. The catch: It takes a lot of trial and error to make it work.
To start experimenting, cook up a thick syrup of brown sugar, water, and an acid. At room temperature, your wax should take on a taffy-like consistency—think Gak or those sticky hand toys you can get for a quarter next to the cash register at a Golden Corral.
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
2 tablespoons water
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over high heat, get them to a rolling boil, then reduce to medium and watch the pot, stirring occasionally. When browned, pour into a clean glass container.
Cooking the wax is a delicate science. Cooking times vary drastically depending on your stovetop and the moisture content of the sugar, so it’s best to judge the progress by the wax’s color. Most sugar waxers say to keep it on the stove until the color gets somewhere between honey and molasses, but even wax closer to a ginger ale can do the job.
My wax starts to get brown in about six minutes, and I pull it off the heat the second it starts smelling like burnt marshmallows. To find the consistency that works for you, take your wax off the heat early in the browning stage, let it cool, and test the mixture at several intervals. You can always cook it a bit more, but once it’s gone too far, you’re screwed. You can even pour the wax onto a large dinner plate or pie pan that’s slightly wet to help it cool faster. And if you do overcook a batch, dispose of it in the trash can, not the sink—as soon as it cools, it will be rock solid.
Applying the wax also requires a little bit of tinkering. Many at-home waxers recommend that you take a nub of wax, work it into your hand until it’s pliable, spread it over your skin using your fingers, then jerk your hand up like this. The wax that’s stuck to your fingers will pull the wax off your leg, and all your unwanted hair with it.
For the life of me, I can’t get this method to work. I just make big stringy messes all over my hands. But I’ve found that the same principle works beautifully with a butter knife. Any residue left on the skin can be picked up by blotting the waxy knife on top of it—the same way you’d get gum off your face after blowing a huge bubble.
To make the whole process easier, be sure you’re starting with long enough hair—at least two weeks of growth. And for a natural primer, dust your skin with cornstarch before you apply the wax to take care of any excess moisture. Any leftover wax can be stored in an airtight jar or poured over some vanilla ice cream. That’s not weird, right?