How to Make Your Own Sugar Scrub

Make your own homemade salt scrub like ones you can buy in stores. Lifesize for Getty Images

Sugar scrubs are great for exfoliating the body and the face. You can spend $50 on store-bought scrubs that contain three ingredients: sugar, oil and an essential oil. Or, you can make your own sugar scrub recipes for mere pennies.

For the following recipes, all you need is salt or sugar, body oil, and a nice, warm bath. Note: This scrub also works great for the face.

The secret to a great scrub is one part oil to two parts sugar or salt.

Pick your favorite oil and add  essential oils for scent. Do keep in mind that fragrances can be irritating to sensitive skin, so stay basic if you have sensitive skin and skip the essential oils.

For a Scrub, You Have to Have an Exfoliant

Homemade scrubs require a natural exfoliant. You can use sugar, salt, baking soda, fennel seeds or even coffee grounds. These work to remove dead skin by scrubbing them away. These are better for the environment than the microbeads found in many store-bought scrubs, which never disintegrate and end up littering our waterways and sources.

To keep things simple, I use sugar as the exfoliant. It's the most popular of all the natural exfoliants and it's heavenly on the skin. I recommend choosing a sugar has small granules that won't tear at skin. A basic table salt or sugar works wonderfully. I also love dark brown sugar for my scrubs. Coconut sugar is also wonderful.

A word of caution: Homemade scrubs can be abrasive to sensitive skin. If you have acne-inflamed skin, rosacea, excessive redness or a sunburn, you should not use a scrub on your skin.

Of Course, You Gotta Have Oil

Just as you can cook with many different oils, you have many different options for your skin.

There's extra virgin coconut oil, which is my absolute favorite. Buy this at any health food store. Or try sweet almond oil, jojoba oil (pricey, but delicious), avocado oil, grapeseed oil, safflower, olive and even vegetable oil for your skin. According to Allure, makeup artist Joanna Schlip uses olive oil in the homemade scrubs she uses on actress Eva Longoria. You may smell like an Italian meal, but it works, especially in a pinch.

1 Part Oil, 2 Parts Sugar

This is the part to remember: you want one part oil to two parts sugar. Place anywhere from a few teaspoons to a cup of sugar in your palm or a container. Add half that amount of oil. Mix with a spoon or your finger. You can also put a top on the container and shake vigorously. Don't freak out if the salt settles to the bottom. It's virtually impossible to keep it mixed.

Throw in Some Extras (But Only if You Want to)

Now that you've figured out your main ingredients, it's time to have fun. You can skip this part, but most of us have these ingredients on hand, so why not try it out?

  • Coffee grounds - Add a couple tablespoons to your body scrub for extra exfoliating awesomeness. 
  • Essential oil* - If you want your scrub to smell divine, put a few drops of an essential oil into your mixture. 
  • Honey - To make your scrub even more moisturizing, add a few drops of runny honey.
  • Mint. I read that actress Cate Blanchett uses refreshing mint in her scrubs. Muddle it up or put it in a blender first.
  • Lemon zest* - Lemons are natural astringents and toners.
  • Tea leaves - After you've had your tea, bust open the bag and use the tea leaves as part of your scrub. It's a natural skin brightener.

*Skip the essential oils and the lemon zest if your skin is sensitive. 

How to Use the Scrub on Your Body

I find scrubs work best after you've already showered and gotten yourself really wet for about 10 minutes. Dead skin is easier to slough off when it's been moistened. Simply pause the shower to apply the scrub.

Most of the time I just use my hands to apply and scrub, but for extra exfoliation goodness you can use a washcloth, loofah mitts or exfoliating gloves like these amazing ones from Amazon.com.

They work very well to scrub away the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving your skin feeling super soft. 

Just one note: Don't use a body scrub before or after shaving your legs. The sting, the sting!

Here's how to scrub:

  1. Take a spoonful of the mixture into your palms or your gloves and then rub the mixture all over your body in a circular motion. For tougher areas such as the knees, soles, and elbows, spend extra scrubbing time or cut a lemon in half and pour sea salt on the halves, scrubbing your soles, elbows and knees with the lemon.
  2. On places like the chest, neck, and stomach, where the skin is thinner, take it easy with the scrubbing and instead use cleanser on a washcloth to exfoliate. If your scrub contains salt and you feel the salt is too harsh on your skin, rinse off the bath mitts and then spoon only the oil onto the mitts to continue. 
  3. Once your entire body is scrubbed, rinse thoroughly.
  4. Pat skin dry. You should be good and cleansed. The sugar (or salt) should have exfoliated your skin nicely and the oil should leave skin soft and moisturized. You may not need to follow the bath with a moisturizer. But I find moisturizing creams lock in the oils from the scrubs.
  5. The only bad part about this scrub is the oil can build up on the bathtub bottom. Make sure to clean it up so the next person who gets in doesn't slip.

How to Use the Scrub on Your Face

Always cleanse your face before applying the scrub. The scrub should be the second part of your skincare routine and scrubs work best on moistened skin. Apply the scrub in a circular motion all over your face, making sure to spend more time on the flakiest areas (for me that's my temples and chin).

Rinse with a warm washcloth or a splash of water.

Follow your scrub with a clay or yogurt mask.