Body scrubs help remove dead skin cells. If a person uses one on their face, it might refresh their complexion. Many natural body scrubs are on the market, but a person can also make their own, often with common kitchen ingredients.

The goal of using a body scrub is to exfoliate the skin — to remove dead skin cells. It might contain a mechanical or chemical exfoliant.

Mechanical exfoliation involves using a rough ingredient or a tool, such as a brush or sponge, to remove dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of chemicals, such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids, to dissolve the cells.

A person should consider their skin type when they think about how to exfoliate. For example, as the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) points out, mechanical exfoliation may irritate dry, sensitive, or acne-prone skin, so a light chemical exfoliant may be more appropriate.

This article looks at the benefits of a body scrub, the ingredients in do-it-yourself (DIY) scrubs, and a list of recipes to try.

A DIY body scrub exfoliates mechanically. It physically removes dead cells from the top layer of a person’s skin. For some, this helps smooth the skin and improve its appearance.

Other methods of mechanical exfoliation include:

  • brushing dry skin
  • using a loofah
  • using face cloths

A person may find that scrubs work better than other methods. And a person may prefer to make their own because they can choose the ingredients and moderate how abrasive they are.

For example, those who prefer a more gentle scrub may choose a finely ground powder as the base, and people with dry skin might add hydrating oils.

In addition, a person who makes and uses a DIY body scrub knows that it has no unwanted additives, preservatives, or chemicals.

And because most recipes contain common, inexpensive ingredients, a person may save money by making their own, rather than buying a scrub.

Some ingredients may suit a person more than others. Below we look at some of the options.

Salt

A 2021 review of salt’s effects on the skin confirmed that it can be a therapeutic agent for a wide range of skin disorders, including:

Salt also has antibacterial properties. A salt scrub may benefit people with skin conditions that worsen when bacteria become trapped in the skin’s pores.

However, coarse salt may be too abrasive for regular or sensitive skin. If a person wants to try a salt scrub, salt with a finer grain may be a better idea.

Coffee

Many skin care products now contain coffee in some form. A 2021 study found that spent coffee ground oil boosted the skin’s collagen levels. The researchers concluded that this oil is a promising ingredient for brightening the skin, improving its elasticity, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles.

The caffeine in coffee may have additional benefits. For example, a small 2015 study found that a topical cream containing 3.5% caffeine effectively and safely reduced the appearance of cellulite.

A person can use fresh coffee grounds for a coarser body scrub or brewed grounds for a softer scrub.

Herbs

Research from 2011 proposed that various herbs might treat acne, noting that many common herbs contain the active compounds in over-the-counter acne treatments. Basil, mint, rosemary, and sage, for example, contain salicylic acid, which the AAD recommends for treating acne papules and pustules.

DIY body scrubs usually contain a carrier oil to make the application easier.

A carrier oil can also dilute essential oils that may cause skin reactions. A person might consider using one of the following carrier oils in a DIY body scrub.

Coconut oil

A 2018 study recommends this for use in skin care products, as it helps ease inflammation and could enhance the skin’s barrier function.

Evening primrose oil

This contains omega-6 fatty acids. Though some people use it as an alternative treatment for eczema, there is currently too little scientific evidence to support its use for any health condition.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil has a long history of use for skin and scalp conditions.

A 2021 review notes that this oil is similar to sebum, the oil that the skin naturally produces. The researchers note that jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit sensitive skin, and its high molecular weight and low viscosity make it an ideal oil for softening dry, scaly skin. The authors go on to mention that jojoba oil penetrates the skin quickly.

If a person would prefer not to use oil in their DIY body scrub, they might consider honey or aloe vera gel instead.

Both ingredients have well-documented benefits. For instance, honey is known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties, all of which may benefit skin health, according to a 2017 review.

A 2019 review of 23 trials found that aloe vera helps the skin retain moisture because of its mucopolysaccharides, amino acids, and zinc.

Aloe vera gel also contains magnesium lactate, which can prevent itchiness and irritation by blocking histamine production, the review noted. As a result, this gel may be a good choice for people with sensitive skin, who may find essential and carrier oils irritating.

Learn more about the benefits of aloe vera here.

To make a body scrub at home, a person needs:

  • a bowl
  • a spoon and spatula
  • a manual or electric whisk
  • measuring devices, such as spoons or cups
  • pipettes to add colors or fragrances, if a person desires

The basic ingredients for most DIY body scrubs are:

  • an exfoliant, such as sugar or salt
  • something to bind the scrub together, such as coconut oil or honey
  • essential oils or fragrances, which are optional

People can use the following basic template for making a DIY body scrub:

  • 1 part oil
  • 2–3 parts exfoliant, depending on the substance a person uses and the texture they want
  • an optional 10–15 drops of an essential oil

Combine the ingredients in the bowl, then store the scrub in an airtight container.

Below, find a range of body scrub recipes a person can try at home.

Coffee scrub

Coffee scrub recipe

This makes a fragrant body scrub with two exfoliating ingredients — coffee and brown sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coffee grounds
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of fractionated coconut oil

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Place the scrub in an airtight container.
  3. Store it in the refrigerator to prevent mold, and use it all within 2 weeks.

Note: Some oils solidify at cold temperatures. Placing the container in warm water can help warm the mixture back into a liquid.

Sea salt scrub

Salt is another popular base for DIY and store-bought scrubs. Salt scrubs can be coarse, making them useful for areas with rougher skin, such as the feet.

Sea salt scrub recipe

This recipe contains sea salt, which typically has a coarse, flaky texture. If a person wants a softer scrub, they can substitute salt with a finer grain.

Ingredients:

  • 1–1 ½ cups of salt
  • 1/2 cup of fractionated coconut oil
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • grated zest of 1 lime

Method:

  1. Add all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Stir thoroughly until the texture is even.
  3. Test the texture, adding more salt or oil if necessary.
  4. Spoon the mixture into an airtight container.

No oil green tea and honey scrub

If a person prefers not to use oil, honey could be a suitable alternative. Some types are antimicrobial, which may benefit skin health.

The polyphenols in green tea, meanwhile, may help protect the skin from UV light damage. Green tea also contains epigallocatechin‐3‐gallate, an antioxidant with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

No oil green tea and honey scrub recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of loose green tea
  • 1 teaspoon (tsp) of matcha tea powder
  • runny honey
  • 6 drops of lemon or bergamot essential oil (optional)

Method:

  1. Stir together the sugar, loose tea, and matcha in a mixing bowl.
  2. Drizzle in the honey gradually while stirring. Stop when the scrub has the right texture.
  3. Add a few drops of essential oil, if required, and mix again.
  4. Spoon the scrub into an airtight container.

Note: Citrus essential oils can irritate the skin. A person might leave out the lemon oil or opt for grated lemon zest instead.

Rose sugar scrub

Sugar is a popular scrub ingredient, as it is inexpensive and dissolves in water, making it less messy than other exfoliants. Also, a person can use fine sugar to exfoliate their lips.

Recipe for rose sugar scrub

This contains rose essential oil for fragrance and pink clay as another gentle exfoliant. It also gives the scrub a nice pastel color.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of fine white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of a carrier oil, such as jojoba or almond
  • 3 tsp of pink clay powder
  • 10 drops of rose essential oil
  • dried rose petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Place the sugar in a bowl and add the carrier oil, pink clay, and essential oil.
  2. Whisk the ingredients together until they combine.
  3. Either stir the rose petals in with a spoon, or place the mixture in an airtight container, and layer them as a decoration on top.

Some DIY body scrubs should stay refrigerated to prevent mold and bacterial growth.

Check any DIY scrub regularly for signs of decay, such as a change in consistency or scent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a scrub may stay good for 2–6 months.

Anyone who is unsure may prefer to make a new batch.

The first step is to do a patch test. This involves applying a small amount of the product to a small area of skin, then washing it off. A person might use the skin on the inner wrist.

If the skin shows no changes after 24–48 hours, it could indicate a low likelihood of a reaction to the scrub.

To use a DIY body scrub in the bath or shower:

  1. Dampen the skin with water.
  2. Apply the body scrub using small, circular motions for 30 seconds.
  3. Wash off with lukewarm water.
  4. Pat the skin dry with a clean towel. Rubbing may remove some oils left on the skin.

If the skin feels dry or tight afterward, apply a moisturizer.

If the scrub causes irritation, color changes or flushing of the skin, or any other adverse reactions, wash it off with a gentle cleanser, rinse the skin thoroughly, and do not use the scrub again.

People should not use any body scrubs if they have:

Speak with a healthcare professional about persistent skin concerns or symptoms.

The AAD warns that exfoliating may cause harm if a person does not do it correctly. The scrubs we describe above may not be suitable for the face.

To avoid an allergic reaction to a new essential oil, make sure to do a patch test with some diluted oil before using it in a body scrub.

Some essential oils that commonly cause reactions include:

  • tea tree
  • ylang-ylang
  • lemongrass
  • sandalwood
  • clove
  • jasmine absolute
  • narcissus absolute

For anyone who has never exfoliated, or who is unsure whether exfoliation is right for them, it may help to speak with a healthcare professional first.

Below are some common questions about DIY body scrubs.

Are DIY body scrubs effective?

Scientific evidence supports the use of many common ingredients in DIY body scrubs. The blend that one person prefers may not be right for another person, however. It is important for each person to find the ingredients and level of coarseness that suits their skin best.

Are DIY body scrubs safe?

Before deciding whether to exfoliate, the AAD recommends that a person identify their skin type:

  • Sensitive skin may burn or sting after the person uses a new product.
  • Normal skin is clear and not so sensitive.
  • Dry skin can flake, itch, or feel rough.
  • Oily skin can look shiny and feel greasy.
  • Combination skin is dry and greasy in different areas.

Anyone who is unsure of their skin type may wish to consult a dermatologist, who can also advise about exfoliation.

The AAD advises people with darker skin to avoid strong mechanical and chemical exfoliants. This is because any irritation in response may cause dark patches to develop.

It is also crucial to avoid using an exfoliant in areas with wounds or sunburn.

How long do DIY body scrubs last?

This can depend on the ingredients and how a person stores the scrub.

A DIY body scrub can be an inexpensive way to exfoliate the skin, as many contain everyday kitchen ingredients.

It is important to exfoliate gently, and a person should choose ingredients that suit their skin type.

Anyone who is unsure of their skin type, or concerned about skin irritation or symptoms of skin conditions, should consult a healthcare professional.