A sweet discovery

Western University chemist innovates with local spa company

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 thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities:


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.