DIY Skin Care: Make Your Own Emulsified Scrub

Sugar scrubs (and salt scrubs) are pretty simple to make. By simply combining oils and sugar, and a little bit of fragrance, anybody can create a workable skin care product in just a single step. 

However, the simple scrubs may get the job done, but they leave much to be desired when compared to professional products like emulsified scrubs. Well, the good news for you is that you can easily make your own emulsified scrub, as well! Emulsified scrubs are similar to a sugar scrub, but on contact with water they become a rich and creamy exfoliating lotion, soothing and cleansing, leaving behind no oily residue - just soft, pristine skin. 

Emulsified scrubs are fairly simple to make, so if you're new to DIY skin care products, don't feel overwhelmed. They're a great way to make personalized product for yourself or a unique and useful gift for friends, and of course, they're wonderful to use. Today we'll cover a basic recipe for an emulsified scrub which you can tweak for your own needs and tastes, giving you plenty of room to flex those creative muscles. 

The Secret of Emulsified Scrubs: The Emulsifier If the emulsifier is the "secret" of an emulsified scrub, it's a poorly kept one - I mean, it's in the name. Even still, the key of what makes an emulsified scrub work so well is just what you'd think. The emulsifier's job is a simple one: it allows oil and water to mix. 

A simple enough concept. However, when you make your emulsified scrub, you're not going to be adding any water. So, why use the emulsifier, you may ask? Because the water is added when the emulsified scrub is used!

By adding an emulsifier to a water-free scrub, it only starts doing its thing when water is introduced - in other words, this is a product that starts working when you start using it! The instant water is introduced to the emulsified scrub, the whole mixture turns from a familiar, scrub-like mixture into a creamy lotion which rinses away clean, leaving no oily gunk behind (because the oil gets mixed into the water. 

When you're done, you're left only with clean skin and a wonderful aroma. Pretty cool! So, now that you know how an emulsified scrub works (basically), let's talk about making one. 

Let's Make an Emulsified Scrub
  • Here are the basic ingredients you'll want to put together in order to make an emulsified scrub:
  • Softer butter (shea): 5%
  • Harder butter (cocoa or kokum): 4%
  • Oils: 45% (check out our pure & organic sea buckthorn oils for DIY here)
  • Emulsifier: 5%
  • Co-Emulsifier: 5%
  • Preservative: 1%
  • Essential Oil: 1%
  • Exfoliant: 34%
  • Now, let's break that down a little bit.

Butters for an Emulsified Scrub
When we say "softer" butters, we mean butter with a low melting point. The most common example here is Shea butter, but there are others. Harder butters include butters with higher melting points, like cocoa butter or kokum butter. Some butters lie in between, like mango butter - this could be used in either category. You can use whatever combination of butters you like (or have on hand). Have fun and be creative! 

Oils for an Emulsified Scrub 
You are free to get creative and use any oil (or combination of several oils) that you like. If you have infused oils, you can use those to add a little extra magic - try to pair it with the other fragrances and materials you're using. For instance, a coffee-infused oil with a brown sugar exfoliating scrub is basically heaven in a tub. [To add the powerful healing properties of sea buckthorn seed oil, check out raw oils for DIY here]

Emulsifiers for an Emulsified Scrub
Emulsifiers are sold in most places that sell essential oils and other such products. Conditioning emulsifiers (which are usually intended to be used in hair conditioner) work well, but the go-to for emulsified scrubs tends to be emulsifying wax. There are plenty of varieties to choose from, made from a variety of natural ingredients. 

Feel free to experiment with these, and talk to your supplier about what you're looking to do, what materials and fragrances you intend to use, and they'll be able to help you pick the best emulsifier for your needs. A co-emulsifier is technically optional, but they help to stabilize and thicken the mixture, so I like to use them. Common co-emulsifiers include cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and soy lecithin.

Preservatives for an Emulsified Scrub
Whoa - why are we talking about preservatives in a natural skin care blog? Aren't these bad things? Listen - your emulsified scrub doesn't necessarily need a preservative. However, if you choose to skip it, you have to make sure that you keep the mixture and the container completely free of moisture. 

For the purposes of an emulsified scrub, that means dipping wet fingers into the mixture is forbidden! Without a preservative, one wet finger could contaminate the entire product, leaving you (or worse, your client) with a useless tub of goo. Let's avoid that by using a broad-spectrum preservative. There are several natural options for this - I like Optiphen Plus, a natural paraben free preservative, but feel free to talk to your vendor about other options.

Exfoliant Grains for an Emulsified Scrub Exfoliant grains in an emulsified scrub can be the same sort of material you'd use in any other body scrub. You can use finely ground walnut or almond shells, or, if you want a grain that will dissolve completely, sugar, salt, or brown sugar are lovely choices.

I enjoy using brown sugar, but I've also had great success with raw sugar, fine Himalayan salt, and plain old fine granulated sugar or salt. Want to mix them up? Do it! Get creative and see what feels (and works) best on your skin. When choosing an exfoliant grain, just make sure that the pieces aren't too big, that there are no sharp edges or rough surfaces. If you use nut shells, make sure you get them ground fine enough for use in a body scrub. 

Remember, the whole idea here is to exfoliate, not to scratch. Fine salt is a perfect benchmark to use - choose an exfoliant around the same texture (or finer) and you'll be very happy.

Putting It All Together: Making Your Emulsified Scrub
Once you've assembled your ingredients and measured them out using the percentages provided, it's time to put it together:

  1. Melt butters and emulsifiers slowly, using low heat.
  2. Add oils.
  3. Remove mixture from heat, stir, and let cool.
  4. Add preservative and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy (5 minutes or so)
  5. Add exfoliating grains and essential oils (or other fragrance)
  6. Give it a final whip to distribute grains and fragrance
  7. Transfer to final container - try using a piping bag for easy transfers
And that's it! You're all done. Now get to work and make yourselves beautiful! Let us know how it turned out in the comments.