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



Homemade Shimmer Body Spray

For a little extra sparkle, you can create your own shimmery body mist with just a few ingredients.

In a spray bottle, add the following ingredients:

  • Water
  • Almond oil (or any light oil)
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Witch hazel
  • Micas of your choice (I’ve done silver and gold so far)

You can also add essential oils or aloe Vera gel to your mist.

I recommend messing around with the ratios to find what you like best. However, I do have a few tips –

Only use about 1-2 tsp glycerin (for a 4 oz bottle), adding too much of the glycerin makes it bead up on the skin, rather than being a fine and light mist. Combine the liquid ingredients and test on your arm to ensure the consistency is right, then add the mica.

You need to shake the product a lot, because you’re suspending the micas in a liquid support structure, and combining oil and water.

Depending on your skin tone, you can try different colors and types of micas. The particle size of the mica can change how it looks; smaller sized micas with more shimmer create a frostier look, whereas larger glitter particle sizes will create stronger and more prominent sparkles.

When I made my silver body spray I used a combination of silver glitter (bigger particles) and ultra-fine silver mica (smaller particles). This creates an overall undertone of shimmer with some prominent sparkles mixed in there.

Sometimes the spray bottle nozzle can clog, so I recommend having a couple spare spray tops on hand to switch if need be. You can also try different types of spray tops, or ones from different manufacturers, to find one that works best.

Where can you get supplies?

There are many online shops to get supplies at, but here are some suggestions of places I’ve found.

Micas and glitter:

Glycerin and witch hazel (and other DIY ingredients):

You can also look on Amazon for supplies, or check for any local soap making stores in your area. If you live in Seattle, Zenith Supplies on Roosevelt carries all this stuff too.

Good luck and happy DIYing!

Product decisions: BUY or DIY?

When switching away from toxic products, you can buy safer products or go the DIY route. In my years of doing both, I’ve found that some products are better suited for DIY projects and some you’re just better off buying from a company.

The determining factors that I use are product quality (how well it works), time investment to make it, and the cost of purchasing the different ingredients to make something good.

Here is, in my opinion, how different personal care items rank:

Soap: BUY

Homemade soap is awesome; my sister makes her own soap. However, there are risks with using lye, an unavoidable part of soap making, and from watching my sister make soap, there seems to be a heavy time and money investment. If you want a new hobby or a DIY project, time and money not a problem, then soap making could be a fun endeavor. However, if you just want a simple non-toxic soap to use, I suggest just buying one – there are lots of options on the market today.

Hair styling products: BUY

Some might disagree, but I feel like DIY styling products are difficult. Especially when it comes to gels, creams, and volume sprays. I like doing DIY sea salt spray, but that’s only after I got real ocean water from Hawaii. If I didn’t have that, I’d never make it myself.

Shampoo/condition: BUY

Same as above, it’s hard to get the product just right the way professionals do. DIY conditioner is great for moisture, but it’s not going to wash out fully. Professional conditioners are meant to be rinsed out without leftover residue. Same goes with shampoo unless you’re going really simple and doing an apple cider vinegar wash.

Eyeliner: BUY

I’ve done DIY eyeliner and it’s a huuuge pain in the ass! There are recipes for simple ones, but they never work. The only thing close to a good one will be with oils, beeswax, black oxide, and the right supplies. I think they have special molds you can get now, but when I did it, it was a slow and patience-testing process of dripping the mixture into an empty pencil casing. It was messy and took about 5 hours. Some of my pencils worked pretty well, but it takes time to get the recipe just right and you really need all the different ingredients and supplies to do it right. I say, just skip it and buy it unless you’re looking for a challenge and time is not a constraint!

Sunscreen: BUY

Don’t mess around with this kind of stuff, just buy it. I add oils with natural SPF to my moisturizers for everyday use, but if I’m slathering up to be in the sun (like going to the beach), I just use the professional product.

Deodorant: BUY

I guess you can make this, the ingredients are pretty simple, and there’s plenty of recipes out there. But after trying the DIY route myself, I found that buying from a company was just easier and better.

Shaving gel/soap: BUY

I found it easier to just buy something made for shaving, especially since I have sensitive skin. Homemade ones run the risk of not providing enough moisture to the area or creating an imbalanced product, leading to clogged razors and an unsmooth surface to run the blade over.

Toothpaste: BUY

Just buy it. That’s it.

Face wash: DIY or BUY

Depending on how you like to wash your face it can be fun to make a DIY project out of it or it can be easier to just buy something. I tend to be on the buying side for this one. But many people like doing the oil cleansing method. For face treatments and masques, I recommend just doing DIY. It can be fun and there’re some awesome recipes out there using household items and food.

Eye shadow: DIY or BUY

Depending on what you like, it can be fun to experiment with making your own mineral eye shadow. I’ve had difficulty getting pressed ones to come out right, but I’ve had success with creating heavy powders (with a few drops of oil). Micas and oxides are cheap, as are the other ingredients you might need, like kaolin clay or liquid glycerin. Just be careful working with loose powders – I always use a simple mask when I mix eye shadow.

Clay face masks: DIY

Clay is not expensive. It takes a little time and effort to get a smooth clay mixture, but nothing too intensive. You can customize adding oils and other ingredients depending on your needs.

Moisturizers: DIY               (lotion: BUY)

If you like simple body oils and butters, just mix your own. It’s not a huge investment to buy a few different oils and butters, and those supplies last a decent amount of time. Professional ones can be pricey for what they are sometimes, so I suggest if you do want to buy a body oil or butter, check the ingredients to ensure that you’re actually getting a product that is much more complex than anything you’d want to make at home.

One exception to the DIY recommendation is if you’re hesitant about using or investing the money in essential oils but love fragranced body moisturizers.

For lotion specifically, I recommend buying since it can be tricky to get the consistency just right and you need more ingredients.

Sugar scrubs: DIY

It’s literally just sugar and oil/butter – super easy to make and you can customize it depending on the sugar you buy and the oils/butters you want to use.


If anything is missing from this list and you’re curious my stance on it, please contact me or comment on this post!

Ditch your Baby Powder and use totally tubular Arrowroot Powder

Tubular is slang for awesome or cool, originating in Southern California during the 1970s/1980s. A Tuber is also a root vegetable. Like a potato.

I think many of us grew up with that smooth blue-tinged bottle of baby powder sitting on our bathroom shelf. It was a staple in my house, for our bums as babies, for sweaty feet, and for awkwardly chafing teenage thighs. Have you ever stopped to think about what is actually in that miracle powder? I finally did and now that bottle sits unused, shoved to the back of the closet.

The alternative? ARROWROOT POWDER! It’s amazing and it’s way better than talcum/talc powder*. Here’s the bottom line, and look below this chart for the gritty details.

Talc powder Arrowroot powder
― Mineral that is mined from ore.
― Mining damages ecosystems, and threatens wildlife like India’s tigers.
― Needs to be processed to remove asbestos and contaminants.
― May be linked to cancer if contaminated with asbestos.
― Occupational exposure increases risk of lung cancers and respiratory issues.
― Products contain toxic fillers and fragrance.
― Pro: keeps you dry and chafe-free.
― Plant based.
― Easy to grow and process.
― Simple, no extra chemicals.
― Powder is extracted using traditional low-heat methods.
― Can add your own scent with essential oils easily.
― Pro: keeps you dry and chafe-free.

Why do I love arrowroot powder so much?

It serves the same function as baby powder, but it’s simple, cheaper, and free of fragrance and toxic fillers.

Arrowroot powder is a starchy white powder extracted from the tropical plant species of Maranta arundinacea, originating from South America. Arrowroot is a tuber, similar to potatoes. Arrowroot cultivation dates back to between 8200 BCE and 5600 BCE, making it one of the oldest domesticated crops. Arrowroot plants are hardy, easy to grow, and require few external inputs to grow. From my research, it seems that plants yield a reasonable amount of final product so there is not issue with needing to plant massive crops to keep up with demand. Additionally, I could not find any information about issues concerning energy or toxic chemical use to assist in processing. On the contrary, it seems that arrowroot powder is still extracted using traditional low-heat methods, making it a pretty sustainable alternative to baby powder.

Old timey plant biology diagram of Arrowroot.

I read in a few places that sometimes arrowroot powder is combined with potato starch and marketed as simply arrowroot powder, but I’m skeptical of these claims given regulations on food labels and my inability to find concrete evidence of this practice. I will continue to look into this.

Arrowroot is used not just for personal care products, but it’s also a common replacement for cornstarch in foods (it’s gluten free). It’s a popular thickener for jams, soups, and sauces.

Where can you buy arrowroot powder? Literally everywhere! I buy mine in bulk at PCC Natural Markets, but Bob’s Red Mill makes some and their products are sold in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. You can also find it on Amazon, Vitacost, and other online stores.

Arrowroot is so much more interesting because it’s so simple:

Baby powder appeals to some people because of the fragrance, but as we learned in previous posts fragrance is something to avoid in personal care products. If you want a nice body powder with a fragrance, you can easily buy essential oils, botanical fragrance oils, and extracts to add to your arrowroot powder. You have flexibility to choose your own scent – you’re no longer constrained by the marketing gods of Johnson & Johnson!

DIY projects for all-over body powders are becoming more popular and arrowroot is a great base for these. You can add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and micas to give your powder some color or shimmer. I like adding citrus essential oils and a light silver mica to my body powder during the summer.

Then, if you’re feeling really adventurous and DIYing it up, you can even grow arrowroot plants and make your own powder! Here are a couple resources I found about this:


The problem with talc:

Talc ore is the softest mineral in the world, composed primarily of magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. As an ore, it contains asbestos. Commercially sold talcum powder is supposed to be asbestos free, but the risk of contamination is a concern. A study in 2011 found that approximately 60% of baby powder in Korea contained asbestos. Multiple agencies, including the EPA and the NTPˆ consider asbestos a known human carcinogen. That means it’s linked to cancers, primarily lung and ovarian cancer.

The cancer risk of talc powder is unclear, with many agencies suggesting that asbestos in talc is not a big concern. Maybe that’s true? I don’t know for sure, and they are still conducting tests on this issue. But, do you really love your baby powder that much to risk the possibility if there’s a perfectly good alternative?

The possible link between baby powder and ovarian cancer gained widespread media attention last year when Johnson & Johnson lost three court cases over the issue starting in 2014. Some new research indicated a link between talc-containing baby powders and ovarian cancer. The data was not 100% conclusive, but it was enough to raise suspicions and concern.

Risk of contamination was significant enough to cause the European Commission to restrict the use of talc in consumer products.

Additionally, there is concern over the ecological impact of mining and the health risk to miners and factory workers in processing plants. Talc powder is a possible occupational hazard linked to lung irritation, respiratory problems, and cancer.

Another alternative to baby powder is cornstarch. It’s simple and affordable, although corn has it’s own plethora of issues being a major industrial monocrop. Partly for those reasons, and because I just like doing the different thing, I’ve always been a huge fan of arrowroot powder.


Safety note: It’s always important to be careful when handling any loose powder that has a chance of floating all over. I use a mask when handling my mineral cosmetics and mixing powders.

*Talc has many applications, and some might be just fine, but I’m focusing specifically on personal care products here.



ˆ Denotes a term that is defined/explained under the terms/concepts/glossary page of blog. Symbol found following the word the first time it’s used in a post.

DIY Body Oil and Lotion Bars

Over the past few years, I’ve shifted away from lotions and started using more oils and butters. The biggest difference between traditional lotions (even all-natural ones) and pure oils/butters is the absorption rate. Lotions contain alcohols to speed up the drying process so your skin is smooth and moisturized, but relatively dry to the touch within a few minutes. Oils and butters take time to soak into your skin, occasionally necessitating a pat dry to absorb excess. This takes some getting used to, but once you do, I bet you won’t want to return to lotions. I personally think the benefits of alcohol-free moisturizer is significant enough to warrant adjusting your routine to accommodate for extra absorption time. Especially if you have sensitive or extremely dry skin, oils and butters are often a good choice since they aren’t watered down with fillers or other ingredients.

You can combine multiple oils or you can just use them individually. I haven’t had time recently to remake my mixed body oil, so I’ve just been using straight coconut oil, shea butter, or almond oil as an after-shower moisturizer. It’s not as interesting as my blended oil, but it works just fine.

The oils and butters I tend to keep on hand for body oils include:

  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Apricot seed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sweet almond oil

You can also add specialty oils, listed in my face oil post, like argan oil, marula oil, rosehip seed oil, tamanu oil, and jojoba oil. These are more expensive, so I tend to reserve them for my facial oils only. I’m on the fence about jojoba oil though, because I used to consider it an all-purpose oil, but lately I’ve been saving it for my face only since the price has been rising so much in the last few years.

Liquid body oil, semi-solid body oil, and lotion bars use essentially the same ingredients, but with different amounts of beeswax and ratios of oils to butters. The liquid oil has no beeswax in it.

One note, to make these oil mixtures, you must melt all the ingredients together slowly either using a double boiler or a glass Pyrex measuring cup in a water bath.

Liquid body oil:

This is one of my favorite body oil recipes, which does occasionally solidify depending on how accurate I am with my measurements.

  • Cocoa butter (2-3 tbsp)
  • Coconut oil (2 tbsp)
  • Almond oil (2 tbsp)
  • Grapeseed oil (2 tbsp)

Sometimes I like to add shea butter as well. Some people dislike how heavy shea butter feels, so the combination of oils and butters really comes down to personal taste. I generally don’t use olive oil in this recipe, but if you’re trying to limit buying new ingredients, I think it would be fine. I’m singling out olive oil since most people already have that in the house for cooking. I like using almond oil, apricot seed oil, or grapeseed oil because they’re lighter, have lower melting points, and balance out the heaviness of the cocoa butter.

Semi-solid body oil:

There are two ways to create a firmer moisturizer: you can increase the proportion of solid

Semi-solid body oil in tins.

butters, like cocoa or shea, or you can add beeswax. Beeswax is more effective at simply increasing hardness, since it’s a wax with an extremely high melting temperature. However, adding solid butters will create a more salve-like product, as you can see in this image to the right.

One of my favorite semi-solid recipes is this:

  • Beeswax (unrefined)
  • Cocoa butter (raw, unrefined)
  • Coconut oil (unrefined)
  • Shea butter
  • Almond oil or any other oil that is liquid at room temp

I like this one because it smells like honey and chocolate. Again, the ratios for this one are dependent upon personal taste. Less shea butter will feel less heavy, and less beeswax will raise the melting temperature so it will be softer. For a pretty soft and fast melt semi-solid oil, I recommend doing about 1 parts beeswax to about 5 parts liquids, and adjusting for how much cocoa butter you use since it’s hard at room temperature.

Lotion bars:

For lotion bars, you’re using the same ingredients, but you pour it into a mold to create a solid bar.. I recommend silicone molds, which you can find on Amazon or at any baking store. These are good for travel since it’s not a liquid that might leak, but you do have to be careful that they’re not exposed to really high temperatures as they will melt.  So don’t leave one in your car when it’s 95°F out. For lotion bars, you want about 40% liquid oil, 35% solid oil (butter) and 25% wax. Or, a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of beeswax to oils. It also depends on how hard you want the lotion bar.

This ylang-ylang cocoa butter lotion bar recipe is one I’ve made in the past:

  • 4 tbsp. beeswax
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa butter
  • 2 tbsp. shea butter
  • 1 tbsp. mango butter
  • 1 tbsp. avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp. sweet almond oil
  • Add essential oil mix after cooling slightly: 30 drops ylang-ylang, 20 drops jasmine, 10 drops sweet orange

After looking at and trying recipes online I’ve found that creating your own lotion bars and body oils for use at home is very much dependent on personal taste. Some people like heavier feeling products, some like harder lotion bars. To create something you’ll really like, you do need to experiment a bit and make decisions based on the properties of the ingredients.

Properties of oils and butters:

To help you figure out which oils and butter you want to use, here’s some very brief information on common ones:

Sweet almond oil: average absorption, light oily feeling, liquid at low temps (fridge )
Apricot kernel oil: fast absorption, heavy oily feeling, liquid at low temps; good for mature skin
Avocado oil: slow absorption, heavy oily feeling, pretty rich oil, liquid low temps
Cocoa butter: slow absorption, heavy oily feeling, hard solid at room temp
Coconut oil: average absorption, slight heavy oily feeling, very smooth, soft at room temp
Grapeseed oil: fast absorption, light oily feeling, liquid at low temps
Jojoba oil: average absorption, not very oily feeling, liquid at room temp
Mango butter: average absorption, light oily feeling, soft yet solid at room temp
Olive oil: average absorption, heavy oil feeling, liquid at room temp
Shea butter: slow absorption, heavy oily feeling, tacky or sticky, soft buttery solid at room temp

Additionally, you can download my document on DIY basics that has more information about all these oils.

Lastly, I have two tips:

  1. If you’re making something that will be solid at room temperature (like a lotion bar) cool the product in the freezer. Cooling too slowly can result in a gritty product sometimes.
  2. Use glass bottles for products that are supposed to be liquid at room temperature. That way, if it starts to solidify you can easy melt it in the microwave.