Our guide covers everything from ingredients to methods.
We think of smooth, glowing skin as the job of a moisturizer or lotion. While moisturizer is incredibly important, we mustn't overlook the magic of an exfoliator. Exfoliating scrubs gently slough dull, dead skin cells and allow our younger, glowier layers to shine through!
Over-the-counter exfoliating products are often full of undesirable things such as harsh fragrances, parabens, and sulfates. To get around this, you can create your own exfoliating scrub at home, clocking some seriously soothing crafting time while you’re at it!
What is an exfoliating scrub?
Exfoliation, in cosmetic terms, is the process of removing dead skin cells from the body. There are two main types of exfoliation; chemical and physical. Chemical exfoliants use acids such as lactic acid and other AHA’s to break down dead skin.
Physical exfoliants, on the other hand, physically nudge, shift, and gently agitate the dead cells so they can be washed away.
Chemical exfoliants are best for the face as they are great for slowing the signs of aging, stimulating collagen, and revealing younger layers. Plus, certain physical exfoliants can be too harsh for the delicate skin of the face.
Physical exfoliants (like the ones we will explore soon) are best for the body as they are easy to apply to the whole body in the form of a shower scrub. Plus, areas like the knees, elbows, and feet can withstand (in fact, require) something with a little more grit.
An exfoliating scrub generally consists of an abrasive physical exfoliant and an emollient carrier such as natural butter or oil. Some scrubs are more dry and have a damp sand-like texture while others are richer and oilier.
What are the benefits of exfoliation?
●Stimulates blood flow: physical exfoliation stimulates blood to rush to the surface of the skin, delivering oxygen-rich and nutritious blood to those glowy layers. Plus, this boosts collagen production for a younger, plumper visage.
●Softens skin: removing rough, dull dead skin allows smooth, soft layers to come to the fore. What’s more, the hydrating carriers (such as butters and oils) further soften and hydrate the skin.
●Allows products to absorb more effectively: by removing those useless dead layers, products such as moisturisers, serums, and treatments can more easily penetrate the skin’s lower layers.
●Helps to prevent breakouts: dead skin, when combined with sebum, can cause acne and general breakouts.
What you need to make an exfoliating scrub
Coffee Green Seed Exfoliant
Coffee bean seed exfoliants are excellent for the body for many reasons. For one, the physical texture gently yet surely nudges dead skin away and clears pores effectively. Plus, the rich polyphenol content offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits to help reduce the signs of aging.
Tip: mix with coarse sugar and coconut oil to create a damp, sand-like exfoliating scrub for the shower.
Tip: coffee-based exfoliants are also great for the face as the caffeine helps to reduce inflammation and can even give the skin a brighter, tighter appearance. Be careful when using physical exfoliants on the face as they can cause micro-cuts and irritate sensitive skin.
Almond (sweet) Shells Exfoliant
When almond shells are ground to a fine powder, they form a gentle-yet-effective exfoliant that is safe for the face (once you’ve done a patch test!).
If you are looking to make a product that cleanses as it exfoliates, why not try your hand at creating bar soaps? Start with a melt and pour soap base and add your ground almond shells along with a few drops of fragrant essential oils.
Raspberry Seed Exfoliant
Raspberry seed exfoliant is wonderful for dry, sensitive skin that needs a gentler touch. Perfect for dry winters, this exfoliant will keep your skin’s natural hydration layer in-tact.
Tip: to make a skin-softening scrub, combine raspberry seed exfoliant with cosmetic-grade coconut milk powder, and a few drops of essential oil. Store in an airtight jar and use in the shower. When combined with water, the coconut milk will form a nourishing body wash while the raspberry seeds slough away dead skin and boost blood flow.
And finally, the sweet stuff. Plain ol’ granulated sugar is a great exfoliant for the body as it is gritty enough to slough dead cells and get the blood flowing but gentle enough for most skin types. However, it’s smart to opt for very fine or brown sugar for facial use as regular sugar may be too harsh for delicate areas. Sugar is great for bulking out your oil-based scrubs if you want to keep the fancier ingredients.
Shea butter is a fantastic base for exfoliating scrubs as it deeply hydrates and nourishes the skin. Your exfoliants will shift dead skin while the natural butter hydrates and feeds the fresh skin below. Other butters such as mango, cocoa, and hemp can also be used.
Coconut oil is the stock-standard sugar scrub base for many reasons; it is affordable, easy to work with, deeply hydrating, and even has antibacterial properties.
Sweet almond oil
Sweet almond oil is a great option for dry, sensitive skin (face and body). You could create a nourishing exfoliating scrub for the face with sweet almond oil, almond shell exfoliant, and jojoba oil. This would hydrate, plump, nourish, and gently buff without irritation or stripping crucial moisture.
Other excellent carrier oils and add-ins
●Aloe vera butter
●Essential oils for fragrance such as lavender, citrus, and rose
●Oils for practical purposes such as tea tree oil (for acne-prone skin)
How to make an exfoliating scrub
Oil or butter-based, hydrating shower scrub
- Gather a screw-top container such as a glass jar or a recycled body butter jar. Give them a thorough wash and dry, and set aside.
- Heat your coconut oil and natural butter/s over a low heat until just melted. Leave to cool slightly but don’t allow it to solidify.
- Add gritty exfoliants such as coarse sugar and coffee bean exfoliant and stir.
- If you’re adding any extra oils such as essential oil for fragrance, add now.
- Pour into your prepared jar and allow to cool.
- Test on a patch of your arm to ensure the ratios are correct and there’s enough exfoliant. If you need a little more, simply stir it through.
Dry scrubs are great for gifting as they look so pretty in clear mason jars. Plus, they last longer as there are no liquids to corrode or dissolve the exfoliants over time. These are lovely for oilier skin that doesn’t require heavy butters or oils. There are not set amounts here and you can simply “eyeball” the ratios until you get the look and feel you desire.
- In a sanitized bowl, combine sea salt, coconut milk powder, raspberry seed exfoliant, dry oats, and a little sugar
- Add a few drops of essential oils for fragrance and a slight hit of moisture
- Test the scrub with a little water to assess the ratios. If it’s a little too coarse, add a few more oats and coconut milk powder.
- Store in a sanitized airtight jar
- When it’s time to use, just mix with a little water when in the shower and rub over the body.