For eyebrows and bikini lines, waxing is the urban gal's go-to hair removal method. It's just easy, fairly efficient, and understood.
Meanwhile, other de-fuzzing methods on the menu—namely threading and sugaring—are still shrouded in an aura of mystery, tied to their ancient, far-flung roots. (Threading has reportedly been used for centuries in India and some Middle Eastern countries, and sugaring has been traced back to Mesopotamia, Greece, and Egypt.)
Kapil's grandmother taught her to thread when she was a child in India, and she retained her passion for perfect arches through business school in Manhattan.
So, we asked Kapil to help us sort out the facts—and pros and cons—when it comes to waxing alternatives. It turns out they may have more to offer than just a history lesson.
How it works: The technicians use a twisted cotton thread to pull the hairs out from the follicle, in a line. Most threaders anchor the thread in their mouths, although some make a figure eight in their hands.
Myth busted: Kapil says lots of people forgo threading because they think it's unhygienic for the end of the thread to be in the mouth of their technician. But as long as it's done professionally, the section of thread in the mouth never moves or touches the client's skin—it's about a foot away. "Holding the thread in the mouth is actually better," Kapil explains, "because my body absorbs the shock as I pull, meaning it hurts customers less, and your skin gets less red."
Pros: Typically you hair grows back more slowly than waxing. The thread is also able to grab tiny hairs that wax can't get a hold of, and technicians are able to create a more precise eyebrow shape. The session usually takes less than five minutes, which is a busy New Yorker's dream come true.
Cons: Threading is almost exclusively used on eyebrows, other facial hair, and your hairline, so it's not an option for your bikini area. It does hurt quite a bit, but it's over before you know it. The biggest thing to remember is that the results are highly dependent on the skill of the person doing the threading."It's just like a haircut," Kapil says. "There's more room for creativity, and it's all about the technique."
How it works: The process is just like waxing, except instead of wax, the goo applied to your skin is often a homemade mix of sugar, lemon, and water that's been cooked at 80 to 100 degrees slowly for a few hours. It looks (and probably tastes) like honey, and, like wax, it's removed in strips with a muslin cloth.
Myth busted: It's not any more messy than wax. In fact it's tidier because any extra sugar just dissolves with water, whereas waxing can leave little hangers on for you to discover when you get to home or go to the bathroom.
Pros: The sugar solution sticks to the hair but does not stick to the skin as much as wax, which means it hurts a lot less and causes less irritation, especially on those with sensitive skin. And if you do it regularly, the hair will grow back less and less, allowing you to go three to six months between appointments, says Kapil. (Waxing does create finer, sparser hair growth, but still requires monthly visits.) The mixture is almost always all-natural and homemade, so salon employees should be able to share all the ingredients, which is rarely true with wax.
Cons: "It doesn't work on people who've shaved since their last hair removal session," says Kapil, "or on thin, stubborn hair." It also takes longer than waxing and takes more expertise to handle, hence a slightly higher price on spa menus.—Lisa Elaine Held
Hibba Beauty, 448 West Broadway (btwn Prince and W. Houston), Soho; 315 Madison Avenue (at 42nd St.), Midtown East. Eyebrow threading: $15–30, bikini sugaring: $38.50, www.hibbabeauty.com
Have you tried threading or sugaring? What was your experience? Is it worth kicking the hard wax habit? Tell us in the Comments, below!
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