Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A little bit of something sweet

Today I had a go at whipping up a batch of traditional Arabic sugaring wax.

Sugaring is a traditional method of hair removal using a sticky toffee like mixture. This is a common beauty treatment in Arab countries like Egypt and Lebanon and featured in the movie Caramel. This helps to ensure that Arab women have no unwanted body hair.  This perfect clean look is also seen as very important quality in a dancer.   

I've used hot wax with fabric strips as a home treatment in the past, but always went for a non sugar based hot wax.  The results are very good, although admittedly a bit messy and time consuming.  However, a good quality home wax is hard to find in the UK and can also be expensive.  A while ago, I therefore switched to epilators.  These are pretty convenient but on my skin type I find that these machines tend to become less effective over time.

My YouTube Arabic teacher Maha posted a video of her recipe for Arabic sugaring wax.  I've never tried this before and thought I would give it a go.  I knew it probably wouldn't be quite as easy as it looked in the video but at least the ingredients are pretty cheap and simple - sugar plus a small quantity of water, lemon juice and salt.

Here is the clip:

One of the comments under the video suggests the recipe is:
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
 You could probably do some research of your own if you wanted to look up alternate recipes.  It looks like the acidity in the lemon juice is the important ingredient as that that helps to get the mixture to go to that sticky and stretchy consistency.  I'm not sure why the salt is there, perhaps someone can tell me?  Maybe that's something that you just wouldn't leave out of Arabic cooking?

It took me 3 tries to get the mixture and the cooking method right.  It was caster sugar I had in the larder, so this might have affected the quantities and the outcome.  It turned out I had too much liquid in my mixture so although I could pick up the paste to knead and stretch it out, it ended up a little bit too soft and sticky to use, especially when it took on the heat from the body.  The result were sticky clumps of toffee that refused to budge from my legs - I then had to improvise with hastily cut fabric strips in order to get this off.  I reckon this kind of consistency would probably still work okay with the heated wax and fabric strip method - but this wasn't what I was going for. 

In the third try, I reduced the liquid quantity down a touch from what I've given you above.  I guess this is something that needed to work with my own cups and spoons.  I don't have any marble in my kitchen - as used in the video - so I used a glass/Pyrex heat proof bowl to pour out the liquid.  To get the cooling effect that marble would have provided, I sunk the bottom of my dish into another bowl of cold water.  When I had something cool enough to touch and solid enough to pick up in my hands, I started to work it between my fingers to stretch it out.  I ended up with the caramel coloured mixture you can see on the left of my photo below.  This wasn't quite sticky enough to work, so I experimented with a small piece and stretched this between my fingers until it became stickier and lighter in colour - shown on the right.

Sugaring wax

I ended up with a small and pliable piece of toffee that could be pushed onto the skin and stay in one piece when I ripped it off.  The same piece could then be pushed into the next bit of skin.  It took quite a bit of effort to work it onto the skin into a thinnish layer and also to try and get a good pace to complete an area of the body.

My verdict?  Well it does work and it doesn't risk burning the skin on application, like hot wax can (although does need caution when preparing it).  It's also natural, cheap to make, and surprisingly clean to use - certainly once I got the third batch right - and any wax left e.g. on the bowl and work surface can be easily cleaned up with hot water.  However, it does take time to get the preparation method right and to get the hang of an effective technique for quick hair removal.  Perhaps I need to watch an expert at work.  I also found I didn't always manage to pick up all the hair with the wax and frequently had to go over the same area again.  I've still got some fresh balls of wax left over and I've popped them in the fridge to use next time.  In my view it's definitely worth another try and I plan to continue to work on that technique. 


  1. Thank you for your review of this!! I'm trolling the web, looking for information on the arabian waxing method...and your post definitely helps. ;-)

  2. I've tried to make the wax in this video several times but I haven't been very successful. It all comes out too watery! Thanks for listing the proportions you used... I'm going to try again later to see if it works :)

    1. Mine came out to watery too, and then I realised that I've used too much water when playing with it in my hands... so you should try get your hands slightly wet before playing with it..it is hot, but it doesn't get too watery .

  3. Same as G.B, above. Mine came out too watery, but it was still workable with fabric. Next time I will either add a bit more sugar or half the amount of water, so that the wet hands add the rest of the water to it.

  4. Habiba.. cwhat can we pour the mixture on.. if I don't have a marble slab? Can I cool off the mixture in the fridge or put it in a bowl of cold water?

    1. Hi Sowmya, I don't have marble either so I poured the mixture into a heatproof dish (I used pyrex) and the dish itself was sitting in a bowl of cold water. Good luck!


    I HAVE NOW USED FEW kg of shugar trying to make a perfect paste (following Maha`s recipe) heheh but I have uset do much water and metal plate under :)
    tonight I`m going for glass and cold water, and just two spoons of water :)


  6. i made this last night . it was fine an put it in a container.in the miorning i started to takle some off an it was so sticky ,sticking all over my fingers an doesnt come off. Should i keep this on the stove for more until it gets a bit more stiffer? an work out again till it gets light? please let me know. Thank you

  7. I was looking for so long for a reliable recipe and this one was perfect! The only thing I would add is that after the sugar wax cooled I had to work it in my hands for about 10 minutes to get it as soft and stretchy as in the video by Maha.
    I only made half a cup of the mixture but a tiny bit goes sooo far

  8. Ugh. Tried this twice. Followed the video to a T. Both times it came out too sticky. Stuck to my hands and was hard to wash off.

  9. I used philippine calamansi could it be the reason why i didnt get the stretchy effect? Just sticky and little watery

  10. When mine dries it is coming out unplayable. I don't believe that I am overcoming as it is still fairly light in color when I remove from heat. Any advice?


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