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A sweet discovery

For centuries, women have battled the fight against unwanted body hair. Hot waxes and lotions, razors and threads — you name it, most women have tried it. But one lesser-known method of hair removal is fast becoming a mainstream beauty regimen. Body sugaring has been used for hair removal by Middle Eastern women for centuries and is now gaining popularity in North America — the best part? It’s all natural.

Created by heating a mixture of sugar, lemon juice, and water, sugar pastes are then cooled to a putty-like consistency. The mixture is non-toxic and used at room temperature without requiring any special solvents for cleaning.

Noticing the lack of consistent-quality sugaring pastes as its popularity rose, Sara Pauli, owner of Sugar & Company wanted to use chemistry to develop a superior product for this type of hair removal — one that could be easily reproduced. Sara enlisted the support of PhD researcher Joanne Curiel Tejeda at Western University through the Mitacs Accelerate program for the task.Joanne

“When it comes to homemade sugaring pastes, the current chemical knowledge is more oral tradition than science, which lacks reproducibility,” says Joanne, an organic chemist who joined the project. “The texture of an ideal sugaring paste is important — if the paste is too runny, the technique will not work.”

Joanne’s research focused on looking at the molecular structure of the three main components of sugaring paste: sugar, lemon juice, and water, and determining how to manipulate these structures to get the desired results and consistency from every batch.

“After a lot of trial and error, we were finally able to take our small batches and produce them at a much larger scale, while maintaining the high quality and integrity of the paste so they could be sold wholesale to spas,” says Joanne. The next step of their research will be to commercialize the truly all-natural product for women across the country to buy at their local drugstore for home use.

As a graduate student, Joanne says the Mitacs program gave her the opportunity to apply her organic chemistry knowledge in a practical setting — running her own lab and applying science for industry.

“Chemistry is all around us,” says Joanne. “The cosmetic industry itself is huge and forever changing — and the evolution of science and technology is a big part of that change. This project was an eye-opening experience for me and one that allowed me to see that there is so much more I can do with my degree.”

“Working with a local business allowed me the freedom to learn and experiment, all while getting the business and administrative skills needed to run a lab.” In fact, Joanne hopes to continue working with Sugar & Company to commercialize their all-natural sugaring paste – bringing sweet hair removal to the homes of women across the country.


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada along with Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Accelerate program.