There is nothing like the feeling of giving a loved one a thoughtful, homemade gift that turned out nicely.
(For homemade gifts that didn’t turn out nicely: browse, giggle, and shudder at Craftastrophe.)
It’s even better when you know the gift is safe, healthful, purposeful, and you have enough left over to keep some for yourself!
Enter, the Sugar Scrub. Or Salt Scrub.
Both sugar and salt are soluble in water, so they provide just the right amount of exfoliation, and wash away easily. Whether you use sugar or salt depends on what you have on hand, and “marketing” your product. A Sugar and Vanilla Scrub sounds luxurious, but salt and vanilla just sounds gross. Likewise, a Lemon and Sea Salt Scrub for Kitchen Hands is incredibly appealing, but a lemon and sugar scrub sounds like either you just came from Candyland, or you need some vodka to go with that.
I based this recipe off one I found at WellnessMama’s, amended it a bit for my purposes, and the scrubs came out great! I’d love to share it with you.
Homemade All-Natural Bath Scrub
- Clean workspace that you can get messy, like a kitchen counter or table
- Work clothes (you are working with oils)
- One or more containers for the final product (I like 1/2 pint mason jars for this product)
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons
- Stirring spoon
- Cleaning cloths
- 12 Tablespoons sugar or salt or a mixture. Be creative! Try brown sugar or Epsom (magnesium sulfate) salt, too.
- 6 Tablespoons oil. The eating type, not motor oil or “baby” oil, which is a nasty petroleum product. More on oil choices later.
- 20 – 40 drops essential oil or extract of your choice.
- Optional: 1/2 tsp Tocopherol (vitamin E oil): either squeeze out supplement capsules or use liquid beauty product.
This amount fills one 1/2 pint mason jar. These are pretty cheap, hold just the right amount of bath scrub, and are easy to use. They can be found online, at Walmart, or at most hardware stores.
I made six different scents with three different oils and three different exfoliates the first time I tried this recipe, so I made each jar’s contents one by one so I could test what worked best. It may be easier to multiply this recipe based on how much you need. Always make a little extra!
A half pint = 1 cup = 16 Tablespoons.
Because you aren’t pressure canning, you don’t need to leave air space at the top of the jar. Fill them up so it doesn’t look like you are skimping!
1. In a separate bowl, measure out 12 level Tablespoons of sugar. If the sugar is stuck together, use your mixing spoon to break it up. I tried putting it through a sieve as I would with flour. That took way too long. And do use a separate bowl, because if you try to mix this in your final container, it will make a mess and make everything oily and not presentable.
2. Add 6 Tablespoons of oil.
I bought a cheap olive oil especially for this project, but it turned out to be “Robust”, or very dark with a heavy olive oil scent. While dark oils may work for heavier, thicker scents like vanilla, it did not work for lighter, complex scents. Unless you want to smell like you came from a food fight at Olive Garden, choose a less pungent oil.
I went to my pantry and sniffed all my other oils. What I found was “vegetable oil” and cheap “canola oil” (rapeseed oil) smells absolutely awful. Do not use this. I wouldn’t go with corn oil either. I use flax-seed oil to season my cast iron. I am so “over” the smell from using it frequently, there was no way I was using this. Almond oil is a really nice choice, although it is expensive and hard to find in large quantities. Super high-quality canola oil (rapeseed oil) may be acceptable if you have no other use for it. I have Spectrum Organic Canola, but I didn’t have enough and it’s too pricey to justify using it in my opinion. If I was going to spend such a price, I’d opt for almond oil. Soybean oil might turn out ok, and it’s pretty cheap. Coconut oil will need to be melted, but it has a wonderful, light smell and will make your product hard: harder to scoop out and use, but possibly safer to mail. I mixed light olive oil and coconut oil with success. Mainly, I opted for the light-colored olive oil.
3. Add your scent! The amount you use will be based upon how strong your oil smells, and how strong you want your product to smell, as well as how much product you are using. Plan to use less oil or extract for stronger scents, and more for milder fragrances. For my half pints, I used about 1/2 teaspoon of alcohol-based extracts, and 30-50 drops of essential oils.
For scents, I tried:
- Vanilla extract. Use the baking kind and make sure it’s the real stuff. This turned out beautifully, even with the Robust olive oil.
- Lavender extract. Don’t make this mistake. Be sure to get lavender essential oil. The extract is more expensive and made with alcohol. It doesn’t smell strong enough and doesn’t mix well with the oils. I ended up mixing in a Tablespoon and a half of actual dried lavender flowers into each 1/2 pint which subtly tinted the light oil and smelled so much better. I also made a few with coconut oil, which are perfect for sending through the mail, as they are unlikely to leak.
- Lavender and Vanilla combined did not work for me. The vanilla strongly overpowered the lavender, even when I switched to a lighter olive oil and barely added any vanilla. I think it would have worked if I had lavender essential oil and not extract. I ended up just calling these vanilla.
- Almond extract, which was my favorite.
- Eucalyptus essential oil. I thought this was a “manlier” option for people who didn’t like the girlier scents. I also ran out of old sugar so I used some salt with this too, and it came out smooth and wonderful. Very therapeutic if you are feeling ill, I would imagine.
- Lemon essential oil. I mixed in light olive oil and Epsom salts and put it in an open ramekin near my kitchen sink. I am just in love with how clean it smells and how soft it leaves my hands.
4. Decide how long you are planning for this product to last. There is no water in it, just oil, so it will last until the oil goes rancid. You are not eating this product, just smelling it. I’m pretty sure rancid oils are only bad for your health if you consume them internally. Check out the “best by” date, if there is one, on the container of oil you are using. That refers to the date on which it is still in good condition if it is not opened. Rancidity occurs when a fat breaks down due to exposure to light, air, and time. I have never experienced rancid oils or nuts, and i’ve eaten and sniffed a lot of old ones, so I think you’re going to be fine. Just don’t plan on making a ton of Bath Scrub for your bomb shelter and expecting it to be in perfect condition in 40 years.
An option to possibly increase shelf life is to add a “natural” preservative. Read this article about Parabens and Preservatives, and as with everything, take it with a grain of salt.
If you choose to use tocopherol (vitamin E oil), add 1/2 teaspoon. In my experience, these awesome beauty products you are making won’t last long enough to warrant any additional preservatives past an essential oil or salt. What I have heard is 1/2 teaspoon of supplementary or beauty tocopherol per measured cup “works” to prolong your product’s shelf life. I don’t really think it matters what kind, whether its mixed-tocopherols or a specific one, or if its tocopherol acetate or any other form. If you have some in your home, use that. Don’t buy an expensive one. I suppose opt for one with the most IUs (International Units) you can obtain.
While you’re at it, read the Vitamin E wiki. Turns out it’s really not good to take internally, although externally, it won’t hurt you.
I didn’t include grapefruit seed oil as a natural preservative after I did a little research. I don’t know of any natural, unadulterated sources of grapefruit seed oil so I don’t feel comfortable listing that as an option here. Read Grapefruit Seed Extract: What You Need to Know.
5. Stir! Mix everything together.
6. Carefully pour your scrub into your container. If your container has a lid, put the lid on.
7. Label your container for safety. List what the product is, the ingredients, and the “born on” date.
I used some old origami paper with a handwritten label and affixed it to my lids with clear packing tape. If this is too rustic for you, you could design and print out labels on your computer. Just remember the lid is going to get wet, so seal your label with something waterproof, like clear packing tape or possibly an earth-friendly sealer similar to Mod-Podge. Perhaps beeswax? It might get nicked and look crummy. Or, you could find some oak tag, pinking shears, calligraphy pen, hole punch, and raffia and tie a pretty label on. I recommend permanently affixing the label to the product, for safety’s sake, however. You never know whose babies might eat it and your recipient will need to give the information to poison control.
8. Some oils are sensitive to light, especially higher quality olive oils, so consider storing them in a dark or shady place.
- Clean your area before you begin. This is a light-colored product so you don’t want dirt, debris, or cat hair getting into your batch.
- Be careful not to cross-contaminate scents. Thoroughly wash your mixing bowl and spoon if you are making more than one scent.
- Test some out on yourself before giving it away as a gift to make sure it’s not too oily or to dry or too strong-smelling.
- Keep your receipts so you can total up how much these cost you to make. If you are prudent, the savings are huge over any commercial and less healthful product!
Did you try my Sugar (or Salt) Scrub recipe? How did it go for you? If you have any recommendations or insight on what worked well for you, email me.