A sugar scrub is super easy to make at home. Even shop bought scrubs tend to consist of similar basic ingredients you can normally find in the kitchen. Homemade scrubs won’t contain potentially toxic ingredients as you know exactly what you’ve put in it.
The sugar or salt used acts as a natural preservative, this means they can be stored for a month or so with ease. I’d still recommend mixing smaller batches of homemade scrubs so you can play around with different oils and additive options and avoid contamination. Even though salt and sugar are natural preservatives and the scrubs don’t contain water, it can be contaminated with water each time you use it with wet fingers in the bath or shower. So it’s best to use a spoon to scoop scrub from the jar, skin infections aren’t pleasant, so let’s rather be safe than sorry.
The typical ingredients in homemade scrubs are as follows:
- An exfoliant, which can be made up of either sugar, salt and/or ground coffee
- Oils to bind the scrub
- Essential oils to make it smell beautiful
- Other additives such as green tea, honey, lemon or orange juice for extra goodness
Exfoliants Options for Body Scrubs
You can use salt, ground coffee or sugar in your scrub, which has its own benefits but for now, let’s focus on the sugar and coffee options.
Cane sugar contains glycolic acid, a natural AHA similar to those found in citrus fruit. Glycolic acid molecules, however, are smaller and can penetrate the skin a little better. As it forms part of the AHA (alpha-hydroxy fruit acid) family it’s a natural exfoliant and can help beat fine lines and wrinkles. For more info on the benefits of AHAs, I’ve written an article about it a while ago that will give you some background info.
When it comes to using sugar as your scrub base you have a few options ranging from general granulated sugar to turbinado or demerara sugar.
- Brown sugar is granulated white sugar with molasses added to it and is quite fine so you can use this up to 4 times a week. Granulated sugar fall in the same coarseness category as brown sugar
- Unrefined white sugar is a little bit more coarse than brown and granulated sugar, but it’s a good choice if you’d like to scrub 2-3 times a week
- Turbinado and Demerara sugar are both raw sugars with larger granules, made from sugarcane. This is definitely my favourite option. These sugars are quite similar with Demerara being a little bit coarser than Turbinado. Demerara is more common in the UK and Turbinado in the USA. If you’re looking for a once, max twice a week scrub then either of these will be suitable.
Ground coffee can be used in combination with sugar as an exfoliant. It contains caffeic acid, which in some studies have indicated it can fight fine lines and wrinkles. Using spent ground coffee in scrubs is a great way to reduce waste (if you’re an avid coffee drinker) and can help to rejuvenate your skin. Some also claim that it can reduce cellulite, although the science is s little murky on that one.
Oil Options to Use in your Scrub
There is a large list of oils that you can use in scrubs, but here are the main options that might be hanging around in your kitchen or home already.
- Coconut oil contains antioxidants and Vitamin E, won’t clog your pores and is moisturising and conditioning. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
- Jojoba oil contains Vitamin E, helps to control sebum production and is good for soothing dry skin conditions. It doesn’t have an odour and is generally non-greasy.
- Grapeseed oil is a light, non-greasy odourless oil and is ideal for sensitive and oily skin.
- Olive oil contains anti-inflammatories and penetrates deeply into the skin, making it good for dry or ageing skin. One reason olive oil is so powerful is that it draws moisture into your skin. However, it’s not odourless, which can put some people off.
- Avocado oil contains a host of Vitamins including D and E. It’s best suited for dry skin as it contains monounsaturated oils. It’s a great option for mature skin.
Optional Scrub Additives
When adding additives to your scrub, less is definitely more. I would recommend using a maximum of two or three additives for e.g. honey, lemon and a perfumed oil or extract.
- Lemon and orange juice both contain citric acid which is an exfoliant and AHA, making a good anti-ageing ingredient. Yes, AHAs are also exfoliants as they are acidic so never use too much and always do a patch test to ensure it doesn’t irritate.
- Lemon and orange zest is a great option if you are using the juice already as this skin of the fruit contain oils and will give your scrub extra punch.
- Green tea leaves are believed to reduce acne and help fine lines and wrinkles. It contains antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties.
- Raw Honey has been used for skin throughout the ages. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties, it nurtures the skin and is particularly suitable for sensitive skin.
- Essential oils add delicious scents and can help you customise your scrub with your favourite aromas.
When you make scrubs at home it’s best not to use them on your face as facial skin is much more sensitive and delicate. I’d also avoid using a scrub on sunburned, chapped and red skin or skin that is recovering from a chemical peel. Also, don’t use scrubs on areas affected by eczema.
If you are using essential oils I’d recommend that you do a patch test first before using to make sure the ingredients won’t irritate your skin. If you have any form of skin condition or are using topical or oral skincare medication, please speak to your doctor before using a scrub.
I know from personal experience that some topical treatments such as Cortisone, Adapalene (Differin) or Retin-A thins the skin and can cause issues with waxes and scrubs. I’d personally also, avoid using scrubs with oral acne medications such as Accutane. So it’s definitely best to speak to your doctor in these instances before attempting to scrub away as we don’t want you to cause damage and be in agony while looking like a lobster!
DIY Sugar Scrub Recipe
- 1/2 cup organic demerara or turbinado sugar
- 1 tbsp organic coconut oil
- 3-5 drops of essential oil (optional)
- In a mixing bowl, mix the oil, essential oils and sugar.
- Place in your favourite mason jar or another container to use 1 tbsp as needed in the shower. Scrub your skin and rinse well.
- Don’t forget to scoop with a spoon and not your fingers to avoid contamination.
How to Store:
Store in the bathroom cabinet or fridge where it’s a little cooler and not directly in the shower where it can be hot and humid.
Other Recipe Variations
- Lemon and Honey: 1/2 cup of demerara or turbinado sugar, 1 tbsp organic avocado oil, zest and juice of one lemon, 1 tbsp of raw honey and 3-5 drops of citrus oil such as bergamot.
- Coffee and coconut: 1/4 cup of demerara or turbinado sugar, 1/4 of ground coffee (make sure it’s 100% dry if you are using spent coffee grounds), 1 tbsp of organic coconut oil, zest and juice of half a lemon, 1 tsp of chocolate essence for extra aroma.
Don’t forget to experiment with the recipes, varying the aromas and oils. Along with DIY dry shampoo, sugar scrubs are easy and excellent beauty products to make at home.