We sat down with sugar waxing connoisseur and founder of Sugardoh, Aliyah Marandíz, and chatted about her handmade sugar wax (she even makes a sugar waxing kit with biodegradable glitter, areyoukiddingme??), going independent, running a small business, hair removal horror stories, social pressures/stigmas surrounding women and body hair, and ultimately acknowledging and loving all of yourself at all stages.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Sugardoh started.
I’ve been making sugar wax for the last 5 years, using pretty much the same recipe I use today. I’ve been waxing my friends for the same amount of time and have made customized formulas for friends and family who have requested it. I’ve officially launched the Sugardoh store last May and I’m so happy to share my love for this magical goop.
I started Sugardoh with three strong feelings: independence, justice, and stubbornness. Independence because I needed a new (and cheaper) way to remove hair that didn’t leave me with raw skin or lots of ingrown hairs. Justice because I was tired of seeing the mountain of wax, sticks, strips, and hygienic paper from ONE waxing session. And stubbornness to master the science of making sugar wax after failing over and over and over again. Sugardoh is handmade in my kitchen — every jar and item is carefully prepared to be kind to your skin and even kinder to the environment.
Okay, what is sugar waxing?
Sugaring, also known as halawa, or Arabic wax (can you tell it’s well traveled?) has its beginnings in Ancient Egyptian times and has been practiced for centuries throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Greece. Some say even Cleopatra herself was a sugaring queen (I REALLY hope this is true), so it has stood the test of time.
How to Use Sugar Wax:
Sugar wax works basically the same as waxing but without strips. You use the taffy-like goop over and over on different parts of your body to remove the hair, then you compost it after your treatment.
Of course, sugaring doesn’t fit everyone’s personal preferences, but when it does, it’s nearly impossible to go back to your previous hair removal system!
Why Sugar Waxing?
In my opinion, the best part about sugar waxing is the sustainability factor. Other added perks? It exfoliates your skin while you wax, adhering only to the hair and dead skin cells, leaving your skin silky smooth after treatment. It is gentle enough to go over the same area several times to extract stubborn hairs without causing skin damage or irritation. Due to its healing properties and the gentle technique used during the hair removal process, it is very popular for those with sensitive skin, older skin, and/or eczema. Because the base of the wax is sugar, it’s completely edible! (I’ve eaten failed batches to self-soothe).
Was there an “AH-HA!” moment or an epiphany when you realized that sugar waxing could become a side-hustle/small business?
The “come-to-Jesus” moment happened shortly after a failed drop-shipping business and then was further propelled by quarantine (causing an increased interest in people looking for at-home hair-removal solutions). I’d been freelancing and consulting prior to the epiphany and was slowly getting transfixed by the world of ethical consumerism. I had been chewing on the idea of selling sugar wax for years, and when my frustrations boiled over for the salsa shoe drop-shipping business I had started, I realized I needed to have full control of the product and inventory I was providing. It was the first week of the shelter-in-place order that I finally got all the elements together to start selling sugar wax, which I believe is the most ethical form of hair removal out there.
“Putting in effort is undervalued as we live in a world where we glorify abnormal talent.”
Do you work full time selling your sugar wax, or is it still a ‘side hustle’? Do you plan to go full time when it takes off?
Yup, this is currently a side hustle, baby! I still do visual design as a freelancer and take on some consulting contracts. But if this takes off, YES I want to go full time. With such a strong sustainability angle to the product, and giving people the opportunity to get gentler salon-results at home, I believe it’s a product that will be in high-demand for a while.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone starting a small business?
I’m learning this right alongside everyone else but I’ve been focusing and meditating on having the right mindset. I’d advise people to take quick actions before insecurities and doubts beat you to the punch. Work on cultivating the energy of what you want to experience.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from someone else?
Somebody shared with me this analogy that really stuck with me: If you want to go from Seattle to San Diego using a car, you have to drive. The only way to get to San Diego is if you keep going. You might see people going at different speeds. You may be frustrated because you can’t see your final destination. But if you pull over to the side of the road, or make a pit stop and stay there, you will not reach San Diego. Just. Keep. Going. If your music player stops working, listen to the radio. If your tire bursts, get it fixed. When you’re low on gas, stop and get a refill. Have I worn out this metaphor yet?
When applying it to your goals, you have to keep going regardless of the blocks that come your way. If you stop, you’re guaranteed to fail. Putting in effort is undervalued as we live in a world where we glorify abnormal talent.
What is the proudest moment in your career thus far?
Quitting my agency job and getting independence was a really proud moment for me. It was one of the first times I put my foot down and felt okay saying no to conditions that weren’t serving me. I got a little bit of myself back when I quit and made an extra effort to listen to my gut, which has led me to consulting for others, designing for amazing individuals, and starting my own business.
“Waxing is a choice, not an expectation, which means it’s our duty to have this dialogue around hair and show a diversity of imagery on our platform, from fully grown to freshly-waxed.“
R: Speaking on hair removal, I think we have all committed a hair removal faux pas at least once in our life, whether it was over-plucking brows to the point where they resemble a sperm (LOL) or trying to wax our bikini area from home with the wrong type of wax (ouch). If you could go back in time, what’s the biggest hair-removal crime you’ve committed that you’d tell your younger self to stay away from?
A: SPERM BROWS. Yes, guilty as charged. My biggest faux pas, however, was within my first year of shaving. I was already tired of the upkeep so I quickly ventured into the world of hair removal creams, specifically Nair. I thought I had found the product or my dream but those dreams were quickly squashed the moment I opened the bottle. The sharp stench, which I can only imagine smells like a skunk going through puberty, felt like it had damaged my brain cells. It was also messy and left hairy splotches and irritated skin when it came off. The smell didn’t go away for a week and I feel like I lost all sense of smell a month. Being a naive preteen, I used it a few more times before I would nearly pass out from the smell. Apparently, the smell has gotten better (yet the chemicals used are just as dangerous) but I am too traumatized from that experience to ever do it again.
R: In western culture, women face a lot of pressure to fit into a stereotypical box of what’s perceived as “beautiful”, and body hair (or the lack thereof) has played a huge role for decades. Women face a huge pressure to maintain their body hair, weighed down by the stigma that as a woman, having body hair is ‘socially unacceptable’, ‘dirty’ or ‘unfeminine’. Luckily, we live in a time where women have used social media to challenge this painful stereotype, and we’ve come a long way since the middle school locker rooms, but there is still an unspoken expectation that we feel compelled to abide by if we “want to be seen as attractive creatures” or “identify with our femininity” (which obviously as I write it, it’s so stupid — but the stigma is still there!). I remember growing up thinking that if I didn’t shave my armpits *every single day*, it meant that I was okay with being a dirty hippie whose life purpose was to boycott showers and dishonor my ancestors at the utmost level of disrespect. Okay, that might’ve sounded a bit dramatic. But that’s how it feels! Growing up, the social expectation is that if you identify as female, then you MUST remove your body hair. If you want to express your femininity, you must remove your body hair. If you want to be taken seriously in the professional workplace, you must remove your hair. If you want to be sexually desired or attractive to someone else (usually this expectation is fueled by men with unrealistic ideas of how women should look, thanks to… well, the internet), you must remove that hair. Not to mention, the pressure to remove body hair is even stronger for womxn growing up in the United States, of an ethnicity that is genetically predisposed to have more body hair than the average Caucasian woman (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, South/Central America, etc.). I’m half Iranian and hair removal is almost part of our cultural identity. We become hair-removing experts at a young age because we are bullied for our darker peach fuzz ‘ mustaches’ or hairy arms, legs, eyebrows, sideburns, etc. As a mixed woman, did you feel that pressure to remove your body hair when you were first experiencing/transitioning through puberty? Any memorable experiences with hair removal itself/the societal pressure/insecurities surrounding hair or hair removal growing up? I know this question is super loaded, so feel free to answer as freely as you want.
A: I’m SO glad you brought up this question. I’m making a conscious effort to make sure Sugardoh’s message never bashes our body’s natural state, never posing hair as unnatural, unwanted, messy, or unsexy. There has been this shame around body hair, and a lot of that comes from the hair removal category (whether that’s shaving, epilating, creams, or waxing) talking about the topic as a problem that needs to be fixed with the product they’re trying to sell. Waxing is a choice, not an expectation, which means it’s our duty to have this dialogue around hair and show a diversity of imagery on our platform, from fully grown to freshly-waxed.
Like many pubescent girls growing up with more-than-average body hair, I definitely felt shameful that I wasn’t naturally hairless. I remember in my 7th grade PE class, where everyone was required to wear school-administered shorts, trying to hide my legs because it seemed like I was the only girl with any leg hair. Afraid to ask my mom if I can shave, I would sneakily use my mom or sister’s razor to try to obliterate the layer of fur on my legs, which just resulted in patchiness and bloody razor cuts.
Since I’ve started waxing myself, I’ve had a different relationship with my body and hair — one of control and appreciation. It’s a much better relationship than going to my esthetician to remove the “hairy situation down there” that I refused to touch. It reminds me of the KonMari method of folding your clothes — she emphasizes touching our clothes, smoothing them out, and taking the time to acknowledge and appreciate each item. The same rationale can be applied to body hair. The more you touch, maneuver, and accept it, the more you can appreciate it for what it is.
R: If you knew a young girl that was struggling with her body hair or the pressure to remove it, what would you tell her?
A: It’s okay to have hair showing through your swimsuit.Talk about your body hair with friends and older mentors. Laugh about it, cry, share tips and tricks. When you realize everyone has a story you take away the underlying shame and stigma associated with female body hair.
Desert Island Scenario: If you had to bring only 3 beauty products, what would they be?
Organic argan oil (I use Viva Naturals), a good SPF, and can I say Sugardoh? Because you can use it to wax your body but also eat it if you’re hungry.
Aliyah Marandíz is a sociologist-turned-designer born in Kirkland, WA, raised in Harare, Zimbabwe, and currently based in Austin, TX where she now runs her business, Sugardoh. She is “child #2” in a family of 4 kids, so naturally she grew up with middle-child-syndrome. She spent most of her childhood with scraped knees and Barbie dolls. Prior to COVID-19, “I would have probably hugged you after meeting.”
You can find Aliyah on instagram, @sugardoh.co