Few things are as luxuriant and revitalizing as spa treatments like skin exfoliation, but at $50 or more per service, the cost adds up quickly. Homemade exfoliation treatments are inexpensive, easy to make, and just as rejuvenating. And they make great holiday gifts!
Creating your own exfoliating scrubs lets you control the ingredients. Many commercially available face and body scrubs contain preservatives and other substances that aren’t necessarily good for your skin. In addition, a number of them contain micro-beads, which are actually tiny pieces of plastic that are so miniscule they go down the drain and into the water supply.
Benefits of Exfoliating
Dead cells can build up making your skin dull, rough, and flaky. On your face especially, dead skin cells accumulate to clog pores, causing blackheads and blemishes. Exfoliating—removing the dead skin cells by sloughing them off—cleanses, rejuvenates, and softens the skin to give it a healthy and smooth appearance. It can also help clear clogged pores, increase the rate of new cell production, and make the skin more receptive to the benefits of cleansers, moisturizers, and other treatments.
Exfoliating is a wonderfully healthy practice, but overdoing it by using scrubs too frequently or vigorously can irritate and even harm the skin, so err on the side of caution. In addition, overdoing facial exfoliation can backfire by increasing oil production that may cause acne.
Gentle use, two to three times a week, is the general rule of thumb, while tougher skin on the elbows, feet, and knees can tolerate stronger, more frequent treatments. Gently scrubbing your body can give you modest therapeutic benefits akin to those of massage, including stimulating blood and lymph flow, reducing stress, relieving muscle tension, and so on. Whether it’s energizing and invigorating or relaxing and soothing, exfoliating should be part of everyone’s skin care regimen.
Start with the exfoliating agent
Salt and sugar are great foundations for scrubs. Most sugars are fine enough for the face. In addition to the traditional white granulated sugar, consider fruit sugars, such as agave nectar crystals or stevia, brown sugars—light or dark, as well as demerara or turbinado, and honey. That’s right, the next time your honey crystallizes, don’t despair — make a scrub instead!
Coarser sugars and salts are better suited for the less sensitive skin on the body. However, they can be ground to a finer consistency for use on the delicate facial skin. Brown sugars (because of the molasses content) and honey are sticky, making them great for polishing the rough skin on elbows, knees, and feet.
Other readily available exfoliating substances include cornmeal, oatmeal, and ground coffee. (Yes, you can utilize used coffee grounds to DIY and repurpose at the same time!)
Next, Add Some Oil
As a next step, add some oils and other ingredients. Many scrubs contain at least one, if not several, type of oils that fall into two broad categories: carrier and essential.
Carrier oils, also known as base oils, “carry” the essential oils used in many scrubs. They are largely plant-based and therefore beneficial to the body. Given the variety of carrier oils, it’s easy to add more benefits and greater dimension to your scrubs. Popular oils include olive oil, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil, shea butter, and vitamin E oil.
Essential oils are key ingredients for customizing your scrubs. Most essential oils are extracted from plants. They are highly concentrated and meant to be diluted before being used on the skin, so be prudent when employing them. That means adding them by the drop, not the teaspoon! There is a tremendous assortment of essential oils with wide-ranging medicinal properties. They’re used to treat everything from anxiety and depression to eczema to insect bites, and many people swear by their effectiveness. But each person’s skin reacts differently, and some essential oils may be harmful, so be sure to research and use them with care.
A great way to begin creating scrubs with oils is to start with a simple body scrub using items you probably already have on hand. Blend two teaspoons of olive oil with one teaspoon of sea salt to effortlessly create a moisturizing, nourishing scrub. By simply adding an essential oil such as eucalyptus or lavender—just a drop or two will do—you can create a scrub that is either invigorating or calming, depending on your mood and needs.
Trying out different mixtures for your scrubs and coming up with signature blends can be deeply satisfying. Undoubtedly, your own skin will be healthy and radiant!
For more info on scrubs and ways to give them as perfect holiday gifts, check out the 2016 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, pages 60-63!