Ep 29 - Safely Navigating the World of Sugaring

Sugaring and waxing tend to fall into the same category because they are both hair removal techniques, but there are some key differences that are important for you to know about. For example, did you know that sugar was used thousands of years ago as a method to dress wounds on the battlefield? Even today, veterinary clinics use sugar to clean animal wounds. In this episode of ASCP Esty Talk, we chat with Shannon O’Brien about just how safe and sanitary sugaring is for your clients.

This episode is sponsored by: Celluma and Face Reality

Author Bio: 

About Shannon O’Brien:

Shannon O’Brien has over 18 years of experience as a licensed esthetician and 10 years sugaring. She is not only a dynamic motivational speaker for the beauty industry, but an award-winning day spa owner and licensed esthetician currently in the treatment room. Shannon created iSugar University to properly teach estheticians and cosmetologists how to body sugar. Due to popular demand and a crazy desire to push the envelope, Shannon exploded her offerings by creating Love2Sugar. With her Love2Sugar courses, both online and in person, she inspires estheticians and cosmetologists to learn about body sugaring and build their skin care businesses to new heights. She has helped thousands of professionals and has spoken all across the country to spread her passion.

00:00 Speaker 1: Award-winning Celluma light therapy devices are the choice of aesthetic practitioners around the world. Celluma may be used for stand-alone, acne, anti-aging or pain treatments, and as an add-on following micro-needling, surgery, laser and peels. With 11 models to choose from offering head-to-toe treatment options, Celluma offers the best low touch, affordable and portable devices on the market today. And with the new battery-powered iSeries, both clinic and mobile practitioners can take their light therapy treatments anywhere. Visit celluma.com, call 714-978-0080 or email info@celluma.com to find the device that's right for you. 




00:50 Speaker 2: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk, where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for estheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk 'cause ASCP knows, it's all about you. 


01:04 Maggie Staszcuk: Hello everyone, and welcome to ASCP Esty Talk. I'm your host today, Maggie Staszcuk. I've been a licensed esthetician since 2006, and I'm the Advanced Modality Specialist here at Associated Skin Care Professionals where no topic is off limits, we share all kinds of great information on this podcast from ingredients and the science of the skin to business and beauty diversity. 


01:26 MS: We hope you come away having learned more about your career, the industry, and maybe even life in general. Today, we are joined by Shannon O'Brien. Shannon has over 18 years of experience as a licensed esthetician and 11 years experience sugaring. Shannon created iSugar University five years ago to properly teach estheticians and cosmetologists how to body sugar. Due to popular demand and a crazy desire to push the envelope, Shannon exploded her offerings by creating Love2Sugar. She's a speaker, esthetician, mama and passionate educator, and she's determined to teach you to not only learn but to love to sugar. Please welcome Shannon O'Brien to the podcast. Hello, Shannon. 


02:07 Shannon O'Brien: Hello, Ms. Maggie. 


02:07 MS: I'm glad to have you on the show with us today. 


02:10 SO: Thank you, mama. This is always fun to hang out with my ASCP family. 


02:16 MS: Awesome, so people tend to associate sugaring with waxing because they're both hair removal techniques, but share with us some of the key differences. 


02:23 SO: Oh gosh, there are so, so many. And I think if I focus on maybe the top two that I love, it would probably be, especially right now, that it is safe and sanitary. And... Yeah, it's so important to understand because there's a lot of waxers out there, we aren't bashing waxers by any stretch, but really to understand what sugaring is all about and that it's used at room temperature, so it's safe, there's not any high heat or resins, it's just simple ingredients, but it really is sanitary, it is safe, it's clean, it's... Sugar doesn't harbor bacteria and we can talk about that a little more. It was actually used as a wound dressing thousands of years ago, and in the battlefields the soldiers, the medics would have a bag of sugar in their belt, and when they would run out to the field and have a wounded soldier, they would actually pour sugar into the wound. So it... It's even used now by vets, they have a little sugar to the side if they ever need to clean a wound. If we trust it inside of wounds, we can surely trust it on top of the skin for hair removal. And it's... It really just is... 


03:38 SO: All natural. It's just lemon, sugar and water, that's it. Again, really safe for those with sensitive skin, which is so important right now, because those people that maybe didn't have sensitive skin before might now, just from stressors and different environmental issues and... Mostly stress that is causing it, or medically sensitive skin, so it's safe to use on just about all skin types. 


04:04 MS: You mentioned basic and really transparent ingredients when it comes to sugaring; lemon, sugar and water. Why does traditional wax, you see things like additives, resins, other oils or fragrances, but sugar doesn't use these ingredients?  


04:17 SO: No. It doesn't, it's just lemon, sugar and water... That is it. Now, I think when people will look up sugaring and DIY, they'll see a lot of people trying to make it... It's really not that easy to get the recipe consistent, and I always share with my audience that it is so important to make sure that you buy from a professional sugaring supply company, because it's just lemon, sugar and water, but getting that recipe to be consistent and really creating it in a truly sanitary environment is what they do best. So I don't make sugar, I just teach about how to use it and how to love using it, and I would actually say that, again, it's so simple, but to make sure that you protect yourself by... And your clients, by using it from someone who's created it in a sanitary way. 


05:10 MS: Yeah, and the sugar, you said, it's not heated, there does not seem to be any preservatives or other ingredients that would prevent or kill bacteria within the sugar, so how susceptible is sugar to retaining bacteria?  


05:22 SO: So your audience might not know this, but sugar is actually a preservative. 


05:28 MS: Really? No, I did not know that. 


05:29 SO: It is. And in higher concentrations, it will actually kill bacteria. 


05:35 MS: Really?  


05:36 SO: So, remember again, it's lemon, sugar and water, right? So let's talk about the sugar component, the ingredient, again, used on the battlefield, safe in wounds, and in... They use it in jamming and jellies, sugar actually does kill bacteria, it actually... It's a whole sciencey process of osmosis and it takes the water out of the cells and all that good stuff, but it actually does have antibacterial properties, and the lemon is actually antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. So you'll hear people talking about lemon essential oil that it's so critical in our cleaning supplies and things like that, and it actually does kill mold, bacteria and germs. 


06:19 SO: So in this day, we are so concerned about keeping everything sanitary and... It's gotta have preservatives, well, lemon, sugar and water actually does by natural design. Thank you, God. So we can use this product and it will actually keep our... Oh, the gardeners are here... It will actually keep our product very, very safe and again, sanitary for the skin. 


06:42 MS: Yeah, I never knew that about the sugar and that's so interesting to me. You know, you mentioned vet's having it and... On the battlefield putting it into wounds, I've never known that about sugar, and that's really interesting that it has that ability. So when you're thinking about that from a sugaring standpoint and pinpoint bleeding and... Somebody just having sensitive skin, that makes sense, that really it's not spreading bacteria at all and it's very effective and good, I guess, for those people that are hypersensitive and really can't stand to have their skin waxed. 


07:18 SO: I get that a lot, Maggie, I get people that say, "Well, you're rolling that ball of sugar over the skin on this... This... " Say like a leg, right? We use the same ball of paste over and over again, and sometimes I get the question, "Is that safe, to use it over and over again on the same body part?" and I will say, "Well, it's antibacterial and antimicrobial, so I'd actually rather have that on my skin to keep it clean." 


07:43 Speaker 5: Hey guys, stop. Let's take a quick break. 


07:47 S1: With a 90% success rate, Face Reality Skincare has created a clear skin system that will have your clients' acne under control in about three to four months. At Face Reality, we combine the power of clinical grade products that are customized for your clients' type of acne with a series of bi-monthly treatments. Become a Face Reality trained acne expert and receive valuable information on how to effectively grow your business while also giving your clients clear results. Learn more at facerealityskincare.com. 


08:17 S5: Let's get back to the conversation. 


08:20 MS: So when we're comparing waxing and sugaring, you know, waxing, you have the sticks and the strips, and you're always taught, "no double dipping" how does that compare with somebody who's choosing to go into sugaring and transition their business, are they gonna be seeing reduced waste? Do they use sticks and strips? Can they, if they're used to that?  


08:38 SO: Definitely reduced waste. It's just a glove, and... We've always been wearing gloves, so the glove issue has never been a thing for sugaring professionals, and we don't use sticks and strips. You can, if you needed to really get precise maybe on an eyebrow or you got stuck in a spot, you sure can use sticks and strips, but we don't need to. So we're not creating all of that waste and we're not... We're not ever... We don't have to double dip because, again, we take the glove, we take the ball of sugar one time out of the jar and we start our process and we don't need to go back to the sugar pot... It's all right there in our hand. Now if we have, I say, if we have a hairy gorilla [chuckle] that has his back sugared, we take the glove off with the full, I guess we would call it full with dry skin and hair, we'll take that off and replenish with a new ball, but it's always a fresh glove, and we'll get a new ball of sugar to continue a large area, but besides that, there's just not a lot of waste, it's just my sugar and a glove. That's it. 


09:37 MS: Yeah, that's awesome and from a sanitation standpoint, I know of waxers who will reserve a wax pot for that client because they want to be able to double dip or they accidentally double dipped, and now that pot is just for that client. Is that something that people will do in the sugaring industry... That sugar pot is just for that client? Or I guess, you don't need to... 


10:00 SO: No, we don't need to. We don't have to have anything special because we're not breeding bacteria and, again, we're taking a fresh glove and getting a fresh ball, if you do need to do a larger area on a client... There is no mistake double dipping, there really isn't. And we teach our students, properly, to do pre and post, so that they're not, especially... So for example, when your cleansing the area and using powder to prep, we're not using that... So I'm right handed, I wouldn't use my sugar hand to prep the skin and then put my hand in the jar. And we teach people the proper way to do that. So, sure, can you take your contaminated hand and stick it in the sugar jar? Sure, but again, it's not gonna breed that bacteria, and when trained properly, the sugaring professional is very aware of what they're doing with both of their hands, for sure. 


10:50 MS: Yeah, yeah, so you had mentioned earlier about... It's lemon, sugar and water and people doing this DIY at home and trying to make their own sugar paste, but really to get that proper consistency, it can be challenging. You've been in the business for a really long time. What should that consistency be, and how do you know when you've gotten there, is their classes that people can do on, how do you make your own paste, or is it best to just go out and buy something because you know it's gonna have the proper ingredients and be sanitary... I guess, for lack of a better word?  


11:25 SO: Oh, for sure. So the creation of any product for use in our treatment room must be from a manufacturer that has a clean room, and it's... And they are certified and the health department can come in and inspect their area because we wanna make sure that we're using products, in skin care, hair removal, no matter what we're doing as estheticians and cosmetologists, that we're using products that we didn't just whip up in our kitchen and potentially can harm clients. As well, we wanna make sure that our insurance covers us, as you know, and when we make products at home, it negates that. So it's really, really critical that you, for sanitary reasons, go with a company that is insured and tried and true, but for consistency reasons as well, because they're making this product in very large batches and they have it down. They... I am... Give props to those companies who have taken these recipes... Even just adjusting the kind of sugar that you use or the water, is it distilled? Isn't it? There are so many factors... The humidity, when they make the sugar has a major effect, how long it's cooked, how... It's like making candy, right?  


12:45 SO: How long it's cooked, how high the temperature... There's so many factors, and these companies have really worked hard to make sure that you have the proper product in your hand to be safe for your clients. The cleanser is properly made and hygienic, the powder is normally talc-free for those of us that sugar... But is really made in a safe, clean room inside their facility. So really, it is important, can you practice and try to make it yourself... Sure, but I have so many clients that try it, especially in the lockdown, in 2020, they tried making their own sugar and they failed miserably and could hardly wait till we were back open again. So... 


13:27 MS: Yeah, yeah okay, interesting. Yeah, so yeah... [chuckle] 


13:29 SO: So learn from those who have traveled before you and just order from one of these great companies. 


13:33 MS: Yeah, for sure. And the sugar paste is not heated, it goes on the skin at room temperature, right?  


13:43 SO: Yeah, room temperature. 


13:43 MS: That's another factor too when we're talking about how hygienic is sugar? So unlike wax, sometimes in school, you're taught it is heated and maybe that does or does not prevent bacterial growth, but the fact that it's room temperature may be a deterrent for somebody who doesn't really know. So how does that play a role in how hygienic sugaring is?  


14:04 SO: Great question, I get that a lot as well. So what's interesting is that in order to kill bacteria, molds, germs, things like that, in a wax pot, the wax has to be at a high temperature. So in order to kill those germs, it needs to be cranked up. Well, we don't wanna put ultra, ultra hot wax on the skin, so obviously, there's only so high that we can heat a wax pot for it also to be safe for our clients and ourselves. So it would have to be too high to kill and you'd have to jack it up and heat it in order to kill, and then bring it back down to a safe temperature, so that's just not how we wax. So if you're heating that wax up every time, you run the risk of maybe burning a client, it's just too hot for them, you'll burn the skin, pull the skin, whatever... With sugar, because the actual ingredients are antibacterial, we don't have to jack that heat up, it can just be at room temperature. And you asked earlier about the sugar, the different products... The sugar companies really have the recipes down to a science where there are some sugars that don't even need a warmer. 


15:15 SO: Again, lemon... Lemon, and sugar is good for you [chuckle] you can eat it, it's so pure, but it doesn't need to be heated, it's just... Can sit in the jar because it's a softer paste. There's different consistencies, so we would use a soft paste, for example, for a large area, when we wanted to go a little faster and cover a larger area. Just a medium kind of formulation that... Some people call them standard, regular kind of the middle of the road consistency is at room temperature, the perfect consistency, every time. In fact, my clients that have been burned by wax, I actually pull the sugar jar out of the pot and have them put their hand inside the warmer, and they're like, "Is it even on?" So they can really know that I'm not going to put hot sugar on their bits. There really is that fear, I've seen scars and heard horror stories, and... It's just not so because it's just used at room temperature. And then for more humid areas and hotter treatment rooms and things, there's firmer formulations, and because the room is already warm, maybe they don't have a great air conditioning unit or whatever, that heat of the room will actually warm up a sugar just fine. So that's all we need, is just the room temperature to be right and the rest is all about proper technique. 


16:37 MS: Does the sugar have any kind of shelf life, does it harden over time or get to a point where, "This is no longer good and we just need to toss it... " or the stability of that lemon, for instance, is no longer good or viable?  


16:52 SO: You know, I would... The answer to that would be, it depends on the room. So if someone is... We tell people that it's edible, right, it's lemon, sugar and water, so if you consistently cook it, some people will put it in a microwave to warm it up a little bit, but when they do that, it has a chance to overcook basically, and crystallize... You'll get sugar, where it'll get a little tacky if it has too much water, some people will mistakenly throw it into their towel warmer, well, that moisture in the towel warmer will actually... Again, humidity plays a big part, it will actually change the consistency of the sugar 'cause it's a food, it's lemon, sugar and water. So when you mess with the temperatures too much, it could actually cause some issues. Shelf life, not so much if it's used in the right way and not heated up, cooled down, heated up, cooled down. 


17:42 MS: So do you have any other advice for estheticians or students, even for that matter, that are thinking about becoming a sugar pro and they're just not sure how to make the switch from waxing to sugaring?  


17:53 SO: Oh, my advice is, do it. And here's why... When I started, I started my aesthetic career a long time ago, and I was clipping along, doing facials, doing waxing like everyone else, and I had gotten sugared actually and thought, "Okay, I'm a big chicken, so if this doesn't hurt that much, I should learn how to do this for my clients." Right? And that was about 2009, and that's when the big recession hit, and I was a newly single mom, I had two little boys and I had mouths to feed, and what I realized is that in that recession, people that couldn't afford a facial or they just... They just didn't have it in the budget, they actually would keep their hair removal service. And so I was able to at least get their brows pretty and it wasn't quite as costly, or I was able to keep their bikini smooth and they could get that swagger back and feel really feminine. And when I realized that, "Okay, hair removal is a hot commodity, and sugar is safer and actually better for them." I had to get really good, really fast. And there wasn't a lot of training in my area, so I just found anyone I could get my hands on, and this was, again, 11 years ago, and I perfected it and realized that... And especially now, I honestly... I have a... I still have a brick and mortar shop outside of Sacramento, California, and we are busier than ever, even in the lockdown... 


19:22 SO: Our clients are calling us, "When are you opening back up?" And I'm like, "Gosh, when the governor says we can." But we're open back up as we record this podcast, and we are busier than we've ever been, genuinely, because [chuckle] people have been... When they were in lockdown and they weren't able to get their services, they notice and shaving hurts or they get razor burn and all they can... All they wanna do is get to their SugarMama. So it has been... I'm so genuine when I say this to you, Maggie, it has been the best thing that I've ever done for my business. It has been that thing that I can count on, that my clients will not take out of the budget and that piece of my business, no matter what else you also do, maybe you're known for your acne or you're known for spray tanning, or you're known for teeth whitening or whatever it is, you're known for, having sugar in my pot and knowing that I'm not using anything that's gonna harm them, they're actually seeking us out. That's been the biggest shock of this lockdown, quarantine, whatever you wanna call it, 2020 crazymaking is... These clients have time, they're researching a better way, they're asking for sugar. 


20:41 SO: And in the lockdown, we took the signs off the windows and just went incognito and people found us anyway... And they're really looking for a cleaner way. And you know the other thing I'll say is, it really does, it matters to you and your health to choose products, in your treatment room, that are non-toxic, that... Sugar is just easy clean up, it's water and a wash cloth, and so I'm not using chemicals. And I know that I can keep my clients healthy and safe, and I can keep myself healthy and safe because I'm using a product that is... And again, this isn't against waxing or anything else, but I know that sugar is safe for me, and it's safe for them. 


21:26 MS: I love that. Yeah, you've touched on so many things there. Just... First of all, it's the lipstick effect, right, that beauty is recession proof. And I think we're seeing kind of the industry go towards this clean beauty and sugar really hits that on the head, so that's awesome, I love that story. And what about training? I know you offer training, but just somebody who wants to learn to sugar during this time when we're on lockdown, where can somebody go. How do they get trained? If they wanna learn sugaring?  


21:57 SO: Yes, yeah, so you had talked about how I passionately expanded my offerings and we started Love2Sugar, which is love, the number two and sugar, we'll put that in the show notes, and that really became... We have a sugar tribe of members that are working together as a community, and we actually just launched, two weeks ago, The Sugar Network. And the reason why I tell you that is because it's now bringing this whole sugar community together, you can find a sugaring professional in your area, if you just wanna try it out and check it out for yourself, and we're growing and building this network, but we also are providing access to online training and hands-on training in your area... 'Cause I didn't have that when I started, I didn't know a soul, except the girl that sugared me, and I actually begged her to teach me, and then I went on to get properly certified by one of the companies. But we now have The Sugar Network, so you will be able to access other educators, we have webinars from you all on there, with ASCP, just educating our sugaring professionals, and so they'll be able to find upcoming training classes in their area, online training, and so much more. 


23:10 SO: So it's really an exciting time. 2021 is, I hope that when we listen to this in... This time next year, that we look back and say 2021 was the sweetest and strongest ever. 


23:22 MS: I hope for that too. Yeah, absolutely. Shannon it has been a pleasure chatting with you today, and thank you for sharing your expertise with us. Can you share where we can find you and learn more about everything you're doing?  


23:34 SO: Absolutely, so if you're looking to try to get sugared, go to thesugarnetwork.com, if you are someone who already sugars and you've been doing this a long time and you're looking to get the word out about your business, go there as well, and join the network. And we also have a podcast called The Sugar Show. We've had ASCP on there, you and Tracy were on there... And Emily was on there, and really just learn, even if you just are still crossing your arms and saying, "I'm a water, I'm not gonna learn... I don't wanna learn to sugar." At least understand and get yourself educated, so that when people ask you, you're in the know. And you can go to love2Sugar.com if you wanna get certified and learn the right way. 


24:17 MS: Thank you so much for joining me, Shannon, and thank you to everyone for listening in. Have a great day and we'll talk to you next time. 




24:24 S1: Thanks for joining us today. If you like what you hear and you want more, subscribe, if you wanna belong to the only all inclusive association for estheticians that includes professional liability insurance, education, industry insights and an opportunity to spotlight your sick skills, join at ascpskincare.com, only $2.59 per year for all this goodness. ASCP knows it's all about you.

Please note: We have recently updated our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Learn more...