Thursday, August 18, 2005

Simple Body Scrubs: Brown and white sugar, and salt (Skin care/essential and carrier oil information)

One natural cosmetic that I love making is the basic body scrub. It is typically made with brown sugar, white sugar, or salt in a base of carrier (vegetable or nut) oil, and it is usually scented with essential oils. When I go into health food and beauty stores I often see them selling for a huge amount of money--anywhere from $15 to $30 for an 8 to 23 oz jar. The prices always make me balk (and go on a rant with whoever I'm shopping with ;) ) because they are not only really easy to make, but the ingredients aren't that expensive. For the price of ONE of the jars you see at the store, you could buy a few boxes of sugar or salt, a decent sized bottle of oil, and an essential oil, and make at least FIVE to TEN similar sized containers of scrub, plus still have plenty of essential oil left over to use in other products**.

Ingredient list:

A nice glass jar
A spoon or chopstick for mixing
Your choice of brown sugar, white sugar, or salt (or a combination)
A good carrier oil
Your favorite essential oils
Vitamin E


Pour or lightly spoon the sugar or salt into the jar (leave an inch or two for the oil). Pour in the oil, just covering the sugar or salt. Mix. Add the vitamin E. Mix again. Add 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce (about 2 Tablespoons) of scrub. Mix thoroughly to incorporate the essential oils evenly.

It's that simple.

I didn't give exact measurements for the sugar/salt to oil ratio, since the amounts you can use are really subjective. I've seen recipes where the amount of sugar/salt to oil is 1:1, other recipes where the ratio is 2 parts sugar/salt to 1 part oil, and even one recipe where the ratio was 5:1. Some people like using less oil, and some people prefer more.  It also depends on which carrier oil you choose (they vary in weight and texture). Try experimenting to find the ratio that works right for you!

Here are some more tips and notes for each ingredient and step.

Jar: Make sure it is glass, preferably colored. Essential oils degrade more quickly when exposed to sunlight and they eventually eat through most types of plastic. If you choose to reuse an old jar, make sure it is very, very clean and sanitized (to prevent mold and bacteria growth).  If you choose to use plastic, use PET #1 plastic since it is thought that PET plastic doesn't react to essential oils.

Mixing: I usually mix right in the jar, but some people may prefer to use a bowl, and then transfer it to a jar. Which is very useful if you are making a big batch for gifts, and want to scent each one with a different essential oil.

Brown sugar, white sugar, or salt: Salt usually makes a slightly more grittier product than the sugars, and it may be a bit drying for those with dry skin. Since it is so gritty, I would not recommend using a salt scrub for the face. The sugar scrubs are excellent choices for the facial skin, unless your skin is very oily, extremely sensitive, or if you have acne or broken capillaries.

Carrier oils: Many people can use a wide range of oils on their body skin. But if you are making a scrub for your face or if your (body) skin is extremely sensitive, you may want to use carrier oils for a specific skin type.

Dry: Olive (some people with normal skin love this too), avocado (very thick and rich; you may want to combine this with a lighter oil), rosehip seed (a bit expensive, combine with other oils if desired).

Normal: almond (also a good light-medium oil for dry skin), apricot (same as almond), macadamia nut (also great for mature, dry skin)

Oily: grapeseed (well absorbed into the skin, be sure to get cold pressed), hazelnut (astringent, make sure it is cold pressed), and jojoba (similar to sebum; many people with dry and normal skin love this too; this liquid wax is a bit pricy)

Essential oil safety: Though many essential oils are relatively safe (when used properly), take some caution when using them. Always dilute them before use, NEVER apply them neat (undiluted) to the skin. I recommend adding only up to 3-6 drops per ounce, a 0.5% to 1% concentration. If you feel truly feel that the smell isn't strong enough, you could use up to 12 drops of essential oils per ounce (a 2% concentration) but I wouldn't use more. If you are pregnant or making scrubs for a child, don't use more than 6 drops of essential oils per ounce (better to use 1-3 drops).  There are a lot of essential oils that should not be used on young kids and pregnant women. If you have medical health issues, consult a doctor familiar with aromatic medicine, or a well qualified, professional aromatherapist before using specific oils; some essential oils may interact with medications or are not suitable for certain health issues. For more about essential oil safety and essential oil profiles check Aromaweb. Many essential oils are also antibacterial.

Vitamin E: This ingredients is optional, but it helps prevent rancidity (it is an antioxidant). Vitamin E can be found in the beauty aisle of most supermarkets.  The concentration of vitamin E varies by brand, so for some brands you may only need to use a small drop for a large batch, while others you may need to use 1/4 teaspoon or more.  Check with the company you bought it from for the recommended minimum and maximum concentrations.

Extras: you can add dried, coarsely ground herbs for extra decoration and grit (especially nice for the salt scrub) or add honey or aloe for extra cleansing and emollience.  If you add aloe or honey, shelf life is reduced, so use it up quickly.

Note: If you find that your skin is too oily after you use these scrubs, I suggest either reducing the amount of oil you use, using honey or aloe instead of the carrier oil, or cleansing your body with soap after using the scrub.

This post has been edited:  I first edited this post many years ago to add the ratios.  And I just edited it on August 4, 2014 to add a little more information (for vitamin E etc), take out some information (since I haven't used grapefruit seed extract--an antioxidant--for years), and just a slight, general edit.  The post is basically the same, as when first written; just slightly tweaked.

**Note: when I first wrote this post many years ago, I wasn't a skin care business owner, so I didn't understand everything that went into product pricing.  So depending on the essential oils and other ingredients used, $15-30 for a large sized salt or sugar might be a good price or it could very well be overpriced.  But it is true that making your own sugar and salt scrubs are super easy, high quality (because you control the ingredients), and costs much less than buying them!


Unknown said...

I'm totally going to try this. Thanks for posting the instructions!

Solarkat said...

You're welcome, Joey. Feel free to ask me questions if you have any.


Anonymous said...

when is it ok to use fresh squeeze grapefruit juice with this recipe, i have made a sugar scrub with fresh lemon juice and it's worked fine, fact i love it...but i love the grapefruit scent more...can it be substituted?

Solarkat said...

Hi all,

Since this post is in my arhives, I did not see these other posts until now, and I apologize that I have not responded, since I don't look at my old posts very much (this post is from fall 2005). But just in case these questions have been recently posted--

Sol: Sure you can add grapefruit juice; though I recommend if you are using juices in your scrub make only small amounts (enough for 1-2 uses) and store in the fridge.

The shelf life varies depending on if you use natural preservatives (essential oils, vitamin E and grapefruit seed oil) or not, and how clean your hands are when you handle the product (it is better to use a spoon to scoop it out), and where you store it (better in a cool dark place than the bathroom). Typically it should last anywhere from one to four months or longer (but probably not more than 6 months).


Solarkat said...

I just figured out how to post the date on comments and also how to get blogger to e-mail me when people post! I now see you guys commented months ago--sorry for the late response!


Anonymous said...

I'm going to try your recipe. I'm really glad I found it cuz I'm trying to find products that don't have a lot health risk. (I've been looking up products and ingredients on Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website.) I found your blog when I was looking up reviews for Aubrey's exfoliating bar. Anyhow your recipe is cheaper plus I don't need to use peanut oil, a potential irritant. I'm going to use jojoba oil , which seems safer than my stock of olive oil, strangely enough. Anyhow thanks for all the info! I hope it works on my flaky skin.

Solarkat said...

Hi Bella

You're welcome :) Skin Deep is an awesome database! Jojoba oil is wonderful (it's actually a liquid wax so doesn't clog pores), and Olive oil is a great oil :) happy crafting :)


Anonymous said...

one thing you need to remember with products that do not contain a commercial preservative is that if they will be used around or in water the risk of getting water into the product is increased. And if that happens mold and bacteria will grow. And the beginning stages it will be odorless, and you can't see it with the naked eye. And you don't want to spread that onto your skin.

ROE and vit E are actually antioxidents and will do nothing to prevent mold and bacteria from growing. They prevent the oils from going rancid.

If there was a natural preservative that works then crafters would be using it all over. Sadly there is not. So unless you want to spread nasties all over your skin use a chemical preservative to protect yourself and others. The FDA also does not recognise antioxidents as a preservative because they simply do not work as one to prevent mold and bacteria from growing.

Please do your research on this topic. I see so many sellers offer preservative free products and that is a huge risk to their customrs. And it shows they have not done their homework on the safety of their products.

Solarkat said...

Hi Anon

Sorry for the late response (working on my thesis).

Thanks for posting, this is a very important subject. I have done extensive research on this topic (I have posted much on this blog about preservatives, both natural and synthetic).

I am aware of the difference between an antioxidant and preservative and have mentioned the differences in other blog posts. (The scrub entry was written in 2005)

From a product standpoint, a scrub that does not have water in it technically does not need a preservative in it. Though I personally add natural ones.

Contrary to what some people believe, it is possible to preserve with natural preservatives, however it is important to know their limitations. They will not preserve as long as a synthetic preservative (only a few months instead of years). Also to be effective a combination of natural preservatives must be used, as different herbs/ingredients are effective against different bacteria and fungi.

Several natural preservatives have been challenge tested, and the results were compared to the effectiveness of synthetic preservatives: suprapein, biopein, and neopein. They are blends of herbal extracts. Most crafters don't use them since they have a strong herbal smell.

Also alcohol if used in the right concentration will preserve a product.


Solarkat said...

Forgot to add: Since I am an environmental biologist, I think it is very important to do at least antibacterial and antifungal tests on products, if not challenge testing!

Sarah said...

I have seen coffee as a good body scrub, but is it safe on your face?

Solarkat said...

Hi Sophia

Haven't used coffee in a scrub yet so don't know how gentle it is. For very sensitive skin I'd say no, but you may want to try it on your body first (before you try it on your face) to see how gritty it is.


Anonymous said...

Ok, I make a scrub for myself that includes recycled coffee grounds (which I bake for a few hours before using) dried ground rosehips, lavender and jasmine, I don't add anything else to this and just mix it with whatever i feel like when I'm ready to use t, it works amazingly, however I've noticed that when stored in a glass sealed jar it will mold but when stored in an airy paper bag, it doesn't seem to mold,
...3 questions; why doesn't it mold in the bag?
: do you think it molds because of the coffee?
:if i use the oil and sugar combo will it protect from mold, or is it ok to use just the dried scrub?

I'm selling my scrubs at an open market this coming week and want to be sure I'm not selling a product thats going to get moldy!
your blog is great!
thanks so much

Solarkat said...

Hi Coutney

Great that you are making scrubs :) I haven't used coffee in a scrub yet but if you are making a product to sell, I do not recommend using already used coffee grounds, since that can lead to them spoiling as you've discovered. For safety reasons, be sure to use new grounds (for your customers' sake--so they don't get sick--and also for your business' sake--to reduce the chance of bad reviews or even being sued). If you are making them for yourself or for family and friends that don't mind, then it is a great idea to recycle them :)

>why doesn't it mold in the bag?

Probably because the coffee dried fully in the bag so there was no moisture in it.

>do you think it molds because of >the coffee?

I think if you used new, you probably won't have a problem with them molding in glass.

>if i use the oil and sugar combo >will it protect from mold, or is >it ok to use just the dried scrub?

You can do either. Just be sure to use fresh grounds and be sure to test the shelf life of your product over a few months if you are selling.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...


I've made a body scrub and have used dried herbs and vanilla extract and peppermint extract (food grade). Do you know what the shelf life would be for these? Thx.

All the ingredients used are:

1) Raw Sugar
2) Grapeseed Oil
3) Olive Oil
4) Aloe Vera Gelly
5) Maple Syrup
6) Fresh Rosemary (dried)
7) Chamomile Flowers (dried)
8) Peppermint Extract (food grade)
9) Vanilla Extract (food grade)

Solarkat said...


Thanks for posting! I have posted an answer in my new blog entry: