The ingredients are all natural, zero waste, and it is less painful than waxing.
It's been about a year since I discovered sugaring. After a particularly traumatic experience getting waxed by an inept beginner aesthetician, I vowed never again to let someone rip hair out of my body. But then a friend sang sugaring's praises around the same time that I was starting to feel like a woolly bear caterpillar, so I decided to give it a try.
Sugaring is often lumped in (sorry...) with waxing as similar forms of hair removal, but they're actually quite different. The sugaring mixture is made from only three ingredients -- white sugar, lemon juice, and water. Depilatory wax, by contrast, is usually made with petroleum-based resins and contain artificial fragrances, dyes, chemicals, and preservatives. Sugar is applied at room temperature, which means it never goes on feeling uncomfortably hot, the way wax sometimes does.
To my surprise, the sugaring aesthetician rolled the soft gooey mixture into a ball on her finger tips and used only that to remove body hair. There were no pieces of fabric or paper; it was a zero-waste operation. She used the same ball for the entire treatment, then flicked it into the trash at the end.
The mixture was smeared on in the opposite direction of the hair growth. She let it sit for a few seconds, then pulled it in the same direction of the hair growth. This is done to minimize hair breakage and to keep the hair intact. As she explained in between pulls, sugaring hurts less because it's only pulling on the hair, as opposed to the hair and skin. An article in the Greatist says that "traditional waxing can actually leave 15 to 30 percent of breakage behind, [but] with sugaring's more gentle process, hair grows back slower and softer."
When it comes to withstanding pain, I have a pretty high tolerance level, so I may not be the best person to gauge how it compares to other methods. Sugaring was not exactly comfortable, but I certainly wasn't yelping and squeaking with the same frequency that I did with waxing. Of course it depends, too, on what part of your body is being sugared; the process is suited for anywhere, from legs, arms, bikini area, underarms, lips, and even full Brazilian-style treatments. There is one exception, according to the Greatist: "Men's facial hair. It is almost always too rough, coarse, and thick."
Perhaps the biggest difference was the post-treatment feeling. I had fewer red bumps and irritation and far less stickiness. Sugar is water-soluble, which mean that a quick wipe-down gets rid of all the residue; wax requires an oil-based substance to break it down, such as baby oil or petroleum jelly, both of which I avoid using.
In conclusion, I was impressed by how clean and green sugaring is. Aside from being expensive (though comparable to waxing), which means it will never fully replace my razor-and-natural-soap combo at home, sugaring is all-natural, zero waste, and highly effective. I wonder why more women don't use it, or continue to wax. If you've ever been curious, do give it a try.