The market for hair removal products is still growing but also evolving. Despite technological advances in laser hair removal, other methods continue to grow. A perfect example is sugaring. Once a very niche form of hair removal, in some parts of the world it is now considered to be leading and displacing waxing from the market.
Much has been said about the greater safety of sugaring |over waxing, but is that the only advantage sugaring has over waxing? Focusing on mechanical hair removal methods such as waxing and sugaring, it’s worth mentioning ecology and environmental issues, especially now in the case of the global climate crisis.
People have always wanted more control over their own bodies, and hair removal provides just that. It’s worth mentioning a bit of history here, as the original version of waxing was sugaring, or to put it simply, depilation with sugar. We know that sugar was used for hair removal as far back as ancient Egypt and other Middle Eastern regions. To be more specific, in those days, they probably used processed honey (which is largely sugar or a mixture of sugars and monosaccharides). In the 1960s, industrial revolution and the beginnings of globalisation led to the development and larger-scale use of depilation waxes (resin based).
A word of introduction about waxing
In order to compare these hair removal methods in ecological and environmental terms, one should ask the basic question: what does a traditional hair removal wax contain? The basic ingredient in most depilatory waxes is resin. Originally, the resins used were colophony, obtained by evaporating turpentine from coniferous trees. Rosin is a hydrophobic substance, which means that it does not dissolve in water, but dissolves in fats (or other solvents). In these times, most rosin is produced in Pacific Asia. Over time, industry has developed many alternatives to colophony, synthetic resins. Synthetic resins have the advantage over rosin that they have less allergenic potential, which is very important in cosmetic products. However, resin alone is not enough to produce depilatory wax. In order to obtain the right consistency and viscosity, resins are combined with waxes and oils, most often of mineral origin, i.e. petroleum derivatives. Raw materials such as paraffin, paraffin oil and microcrystalline wax give the final product the right consistency and viscosity. Natural oils and waxes are also used (less often and in lower concentrations), often beeswax.
However, due to the varying awareness and expectations of customers regarding vegan products, beeswax is also sometimes treated as an unwanted ingredient. It is worth noting that many of the ingredients mentioned above are largely dominated by the Asian industry. Many European manufacturers are therefore forced to import raw materials from asia, which has a negative impact on the environmental balance of the final product.
So…let’s talk about sugaring
To compare, let us look at the production of sugar pastes (sugaring), called sometimes sugar wax. Most sugar pastes are made from white sugar (derived from sugar beet). Sucrose, i.e. sugar, is a very common and easily accessible natural raw material. Unfortunately, we consume too much of it these days, but that is not what we are going to talk about today. Fortunately, sugar is not able to enter the body through the skin, Therefore, when applied externally, it does not affect the organism’s health. Other raw materials increasingly used in sugar paste are the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Like sucrose, they are very commonly used natural raw materials. Fructose is often made from maize (but not exclusively), while glucose is most commonly made from potatoes. It is worth noting that these raw materials are readily available locally, especially in europe. This shortens the supply chain has a positive impact on the environmental balance of the end product. In sugar pastes, especially those based on sucrose (sugar), citric acid (less frequently lemon juice) is also used. It is a common raw material in food and occurs naturally in many fruits. The last important raw material in sugar paste production is water, the most local and common raw material of all.
The next aspect in the discussion on environmental performance and impact on the environment is the use of the product itself and the related waste. Depilatory wax is applied and removed once, so any amount used to epilate a given body part is thrown away. Additionally, in the case of soft waxes, the wax is torn off and thrown away together with the strip, and often these strips are made of synthetic materials. Luckily, natural non-woven fabrics are used more and more often. Throwing away large quantities of fatty materials (as wax) is very bad for the environment. After all, the oil from a deep fryer should be disposed of in the appropriate place. However, the used wax ends up in the waste without proper separation. Unfortunately, the technique of body waxing is not economical with material; for the whole leg, depending on the type of technique and wax, about 100g of soft wax or even 1000g of hard wax (estimates) should be used. The further biodegradation process of such products would need to be looked at in more depth – however, there are no relevant analyses available here.
Some interesting facts
In the case of sugar paste (using the manual sugaring method), much less material is used. For example, about 50g-80g of paste is enough to epilate the whole legs. And after the whole treatment, the product can be thrown away and will biodegrade very quickly. This is because sugar is hydrophilic, easily soluble and, under the right conditions, a great breeding ground for microorganisms. To illustrate how environmentally safe sugar paste is, it should be noted that most sugar pastes are made from food-grade raw materials (those without fragrances). Of course, we do not encourage the consumption of sugar paste, as it is not a food product and too calorific. Nonetheless, it is important to realize that sugar paste is like foodstuff that does not pose a threat to the environment.
Finally, I would like to point out how our company cares for the environment. The electricity we use comes almost 100% from wind power and in addition, the roof of our factory is covered with solar panels. Our warehouse packs packages using biodegradable and water-soluble chips for filling. We are currently in the process of changing from plastic to paper packaging tapes. We feel responsible for changing the world. We are glad that consumers also feel this responsibility when choosing a hair removal method.
Radosław Pielczyk CEO / Cosmetic formulator