Natural Exfoliating Scrubs: DIY Options and Professional Products

Exfoliating is an important step in any healthy skin care routine, especially for individuals who suffer from psoriasis or similar conditions. Exfoliating lifts up and sloughs away dead skin cells, unclogging pores and allowing the new skin cells to develop unencumbered. It also improves the effectiveness of moisturizers, because there isn’t a layer of dead cells blocking off access to active skin cells. (Also, it’s generally a good idea to moisturize after exfoliating.)

Exfoliating scrubs often work by using a combination of physical abrasion and chemical substances that dissolve skin cells or break apart the “glue” holding them on. However, this is not a requirement. People with sensitive skin usually have better luck with non-abrasive exfoliating – it gets the job done, but doesn’t aggravate the skin.

Many natural exfoliating substances contain forms of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which is a chemical substance that breaks apart dead skin cells and helps them slough off. AHA is water-soluble and it’s great for sun damaged or dry skin.

Milk/yogurt, citrus fruits, and sugar all contain AHAs.  Sugar contains glycolic acid, which you may recognize as the popular chemical peel offered at salons or spas. Additionally, AHA is found in other fruits like apples, pears, and grapes.

Additionally, beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) is an oil-soluble acid that also helps slough off dead skin cells. BHA can penetrate deeper than AHA, and is usually better for individuals dealing with lots of acne and blackheads. Salicylic acid, which is popular in many name brand face washes, is a form of BHA that comes from Willow Bark Tree. Citric acid can also be a BHA.

Besides these acids, there are other natural exfoliants. Papaya and pineapple both contain enzymes that help dissolve dead skin cells.

All of these chemicals are great for helping the exfoliating process, but not all of them are practical for making your own scrub. And if you’re going to make any personal care product yourself, I highly suggest exfoliating scrubs.

What are some natural ingredients for a DIY exfoliating scrub?

  • Sugar (AHA)
  • Salt
  • Almond flour, coarsely ground
  • Oats
  • Coffee grounds
  • Citrus (AHA/BHA)
  • Yogurt/milk (AHA)
  • Baking soda
  • Papaya/pineapple (enzymes papain and bromelain)

My go-to from this list for an in-shower body scrub is sugar. The base recipe I use is:

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 ½ tsp shea butter

You can substitute these oils for others if you prefer. And you can add other ingredients to enhance it, like lemon juice, coffee grounds, or essential oils. I like doing the mix of coconut oil and shea butter because it makes the scrub a little thicker than if I were only using liquid oils (like olive oil).

You can also add grapeseed oil, which I think has AHA. Grapes have AHA, so I believe the oil should still have it too.

Simple sugar scrubs, like the one above, are nice because they’re easy to make and don’t spoil quickly. If you find regular sugar too abrasive, I suggest using baker’s sugar, which has a finer grain.

For a special treat, I really enjoy making a papaya-exfoliating mask for my face. To make this, simply mash up some fresh papaya in a bowl with a little milk. Spread onto your face and massage it around. You can let it sit for a few minutes and then wash off with warm water.

If you prefer to just buy…

While it’s really easy to do homemade sugar scrubs/exfoliating scrubs, I know that DIY is not for everyone and for some purposes the professional product might be what you need. Below are some suggestions for body and face exfoliating products:

Ones I have tried and liked:

Deep Steep Grapefruit Bergamot sugar scrub
Giovanni sugar scrub hot chocolate
Gabriel Organics red seaweed gentle exfoliator

I haven’t tried these, but the ingredients look legit:

Andalou Naturals clarifying facial scrub lemon sugar
Zum body scrub sea salt
Deep Steep fresh honey sugar scrub
Shea Moisture dragon’s blood & coffee cherry rebound & revive coffee scrub
Shea Moisture sheagirl coconut sugar & vanilla orchid body polish

Shea Moisture facial wash & scrubs:

Coconut & hibiscus
Raw shea butter
African black soap
Superfruit multi-vitamin renewal



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