A sugar scrub is a luxurious tool you can use to moisturize and exfoliate your skin. Even better? A good sugar scrub can be made for pennies, often with ingredients you already have at home. In this post, learn how to make sugar scrub recipes that can be customized for nearly every part of your body, from head to toe.
Making sugar scrubs is one of my favorite past times. It’s almost an instant gratification project—it can be used right away after you mix it together, rather than having a cure or wait time like so many other natural beauty recipes do.
I’m a firm believer in the power of natural ingredients, and these sugar scrubs are no exception. Here’s everything you need to know about how to make a good sugar scrub recipe, and how to customize it for different uses.
What is a Sugar Scrub?
First of all, what exactly is a sugar scrub? It’s almost exactly what it sounds like: a scrub that is made with sugar. Generally, the sugar is paired with an oil of some kind, and either botanicals or essential oils.
The granules of sugar can help to gently exfoliate your skin as you rub it gently against your body. At the same time, the oil will moisturize while the essential oils provide therapeutic aromatherapy benefits.
Basic Sugar Scrub Ingredients
There’s a basic formula you can follow when creating sugar scrubs:
Oil + Sugar + Essential Oils
Here’s the breakdown of the three ingredients.
You can use your choice of sugars. More often than not, I reach for the everyday white granulated sugar that’s always stocked in my kitchen. However, there are sometimes exceptions.
- Regular granulated sugar, like the stuff you have in your pantry, is just fine for sugar scrubs in most cases.
- Superfine sugar is better to use if you have sensitive skin, or want to use the scrub in a more sensitive area, like your face.
- Brown sugar smells delicious in sugar scrubs, but as it is coarse, only replace half of the sugar with brown sugar.
- Himalayan sea salt can also work in place of sugar in some recipes. While salt does have plenty of minerals, it is much more coarse than sugar and can damage delicate skin. This is best saved for rough skin where you can gently rub the salt scrub on. Make sure to use fine sea salt instead of the coarse!
Olive oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, and virgin coconut oil are good choices for sugar scrubs. I generally prefer cold-pressed, organic oils for sugar scrubs whenever possible.
- Olive oil is very moisturizing and can help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. On the downside, it is a greasier oil on the skin and can clog pores. For this reason, I suggest you avoid olive oil in face recipes.
- Grapeseed oil is a lighter oil that absorbs quickly and is full of antioxidants helping for skin disorders and rashes. Grapeseed oil can actually help decrease clogged pores and clear acne, so this is a good one for face sugar scrubs.
- Sweet almond oil is a light oil but greasier and very moisturizing. It contains Vitamin E to protect skin and heal it. It’s great for dry to normal skin but I wouldn’t use this if you have skin that’s already greasy. And it goes without saying that this oil should not be used if you have nut allergies.
- Virgin coconut oil is widely available, very shelf-stable, and is packed with antioxidants. It is a heavy, greasy oil, but it can help skin with sun damage. Additionally, it is anti-fungal and can help fight bacteria.
- Infuse your own oil – I often like to infuse one of the above oils with herbs and botanicals to give it additional healing properties. See this post on making herbal oils for more info.
There are many essential oils that can be added to sugar scrubs for scent and additional healing properties. A few drops are often all you need as essential oils are concentrated, and thus extremely potent.
Here are a few essential oils to consider adding to your sugar scrub recipes:
- Lavender oil – can help balance moisture levels and reduce redness and inflammation in the skin. This is often a good option for sensitive skin as it is a very gentle oil.
- Chamomile oil – this soothing oil can help reduce redness in skin, and is also anti-inflammatory. If you have ragweed sensitivities, you may want to avoid this essential oil in sugar scrubs as it can cause irritation.
- Geranium oil – said to reduce wrinkles and slow premature aging, geranium also has a lovely floral scent.
- Tea tree oil – can act as a natural astringent for acne-prone skin
- Peppermint oil – energizing with a lovely cooling sensation, this is my go-to oil when I am making foot scrubs or attending to sore muscles.
How to Make a Sugar Scrub
Now that you have the ingredients selected, let’s talk about how to make a sugar scrub.
- Grab a bowl and fill it with 1 cup of sugar.
- Add between 3/4 – 1 cup of oil* into the sugar. If you prefer a drier scrub, do less, and if you want a more oily scurb, add more. This is purely based on personal preference in many cases. One thing to keep in mind that the more oil you add, the more moisturizing benefits you’re likely to get.
- Once you have a good consistency, add 1-2 drops of essential oils. Remember, a little goes a long way!
- If your oil turns out too dry for your liking, add some more oil. Too oily? Add some more sugar.
*a note about coconut oil – since coconut oil is a solid oil, you want to use at least equal amounts of sugar (or more) to your oil.
How to Store Homemade Sugar Scrub
At room temperature, a homemade sugar scrub will last at least one to two months in an airtight container, like a mason jar with a lid. If you want to keep it longer, you may consider tucking it away in the fridge. Refrigerated, DIY sugar scrubs can last up to six months.
Sugar Scrub Recipes to Try
Now that you have the basics down, you can easily make all kinds of different sugar scrubs. Here are a few of my favorites sugar scrub recipes!
Almond Oil Body Scrub
Add almond oil to a basic sugar scrub for a moisturizing all-over body scrub. Use whatever scents you like, but I like invigorating essential oils like peppermint and eucalyptus for my morning shower and relaxing fragrances like lavender for before bed.
Sugar Scrub Facial Recipe
There are a few extra considerations to take when you are making a scrub to use on your face. Firstly, make sure to use a light oil that doesn’t clog pores like grapeseed oil or even the more expensive jojoba oil which closely matches skins own sebum.
Then, add just 1-2 drops of essential oils like geranium, chamomile, carrot seed oil, or lavender, depending on what your skin concerns are.
Make in small batches of 1/2 cup or less and replace it often, as you do not want any bacteria scrubbed into a delicate area like the face. Also, use a very fine sugar so that the grains don’t damage delicate facial skin.
Honey Lip Scrub
Honey is a great addition to a sugar scrub recipe to help gently exfoliate lips. This recipe for Honey Dandelion Lip Scrub is a great starting point—if you don’t have dandelion oil, you can use coconut oil.
Swap out the regular honey for Manuka honey to help heal cold sores and heavily chapped lips.
Coconut Oil Hand Scrub
Pretty much everyone can benefit from a nice hand scrub, particularly in the winter months where hands become dry easily. A hand scrub also comes in handy (sorry) for those who have to regularly wash hands like healthcare workers, artists, chefs, and, of course—gardeners!
Using a daily hand scrub after a day of work is an excellent way to stimulate and moisturize hands before bed. I like to use moisturizing coconut oil and a blend of ylang-ylang, carrot seed oil, lavender, geranium, and rose essential oils.
Healing Foot Scrub
A recipe like this Pampering Peppermint Foot Scrub takes the basic sugar scrub formula and uses coconut oil in conjunction with peppermint oil to soothe, moisturize, and cool feet.
If you have very dry, cracked skin on your heels, you can use the coarse sea salt or a 50:50 combination of brown sugar and white sugar. Just scrub gently as to not damage the skin further.
Pretty Pink but Not as Sweet
Swap the sugar for this Himalayan Pink Salt Scrub. Salt is full of minerals and a bit rougher than sugar. Choose a fine salt for most recipes, as coarse salt will be too rough on skin, even if you have tough callouses.
Again, it’s better to err on the gentle side to not damage skin when exfoliating.
So there you have it! As you can see, making a sugar scrub is a simple, effective way to treat, soothe and hydrate skin from head to toe! Which sugar scrub recipe will you try first?