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There’s not much that feels better for your skin than exfoliation — plus, it’s a great way to get smooth, soft skin.

While there are different ways to exfoliate your skin, sugar scrubs are some of the most popular in online beauty communities. While there aren’t many nutritional benefits of ingesting sugar, luckily there is value to putting sugar on your body.

Treat yourself to a little TLC with one of these DIY sugar scrubs using at-home ingredients that you can grab from the store.

What is a sugar scrub — and why should I use it?

A sugar scrub is pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a body scrub made primarily of sugar. The sugar is typically paired with a humectant for moisturizing and a botanical or essential oil for fragrance and aromatherapy.

There are a number of benefits to exfoliating with sugar scrubs, including that they can slough off dry skin and help with acne, explains celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross of SkinLab. The sugar granules gently buff your skin as you rub it across your body while the oil moisturizes.

One caveat: Ross adds that it’s important to use very fine-grain sugar, as using coarse sugar can lead to small microtears on your skin.

Skin care expert and founder and CEO of Beauty Kitchen Heather Marianna delves deeper into the benefits of using sugar scrubs.

“Not only are they luxurious and smell delicious, but sugar scrubs are also made using common, natural ingredients in your home and therefore less expensive than other exfoliating products. Unlike microbeads, sugar dissolves easily and is also safe for the environment.

“Using the proper ingredients in your DIY sugar scrub can hydrate the skin and create a dewy glow as well by exfoliating dirt and dead skin cells, unclogging pores, stimulating blood flow, and lightening the appearance of scars and unwanted marks,” she adds.

Where can you use a sugar scrub?

According to Marianna, sugar scrubs are safe to use on most parts of your body, “because sugar dissolves easily and is not abrasive.” She recommends your arms, legs, and even your bum.

You can also use a sugar scrub on your neck, feet, or lips.

DIY sugar scrub recipes are all made generally the same way. To make a sugar scrub at home, keep some basic ingredients and tools on hand such as:

  • mixing bowl
  • mixing spoons
  • measuring spoons
  • carrier oils such as coconut, jojoba, grapeseed, almond, or olive oil
  • essential oils
  • sugar

Here are some easy-to-make sugar scrub recipes to try that are beneficial for your skin and your wallet.

Unless otherwise noted, instructions for all recipes are to combine ingredients, mix well, and use immediately. You can store them in airtight containers, but it’s best to make smaller batches.

Aloe vera sugar scrub

Research shows that aloe vera is very soothing and healing. Combine it with sugar for extra soft and moisturized skin.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. aloe vera gel (straight from an aloe plant is even better!)
  • Sprinkle of sugar (start with a teaspoon but you can use more if you want)

Coconut-lime body scrub

Use this mint and lime-infused body scrub for a refreshing feel on your skin.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint essential oil
  • Zest of 1 lime

Cane sugar face scrub

As mentioned by both Ross and Marianna, most of these sugar scrubs are safe to use on your face. But if you’re looking for an even more pared-down scrub, this 3-ingredient recipe is for you (you can even leave out the essential oils if you want).

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. cane sugar
  • 2 drops of water
  • 1–2 drops of essential oil, such as orange, lemon, lavender, or tea tree

DIY lip scrub

One note: For any scrub you’re putting on your lips, you’ll want to use superfine sugar, as the delicate skin on your lips is more prone to microtears than other areas of your body.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. superfine granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. almond oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey

Brown sugar scrub

Brown sugar: It’s delicious in coffee and great for your skin. Plus, unlike salt scrubs, brown sugar is generally gentler on the skin, making it ideal if you have sensitive skin.

One note: It can leave you feeling somewhat sticky, so make sure to thoroughly rinse your skin off after using this scrub.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup carrier oil, such as coconut, jojoba, olive, almond, or grapeseed
  • Few drops of essential oil(s) of choice (optional)

Lemon scrub

There is something exhilarating about the smell of fresh lemons. If you love citrusy scents, this DIY lemon sugar scrub will be perfect for you.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon

Honey sugar scrub

Honey has become ubiquitous in beauty and wellness products — for good reason. According to a 2016 study, honey contains antioxidants and antimicrobial properties that could help in repairing skin tissue, protecting against UV damage, and killing germs.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp. honey

Coconut oil sugar scrub

The great thing about a coconut oil sugar scrub is that it smells fantastic without an added fragrance. It’s almost like being on a tropical vacation — if you close your eyes hard enough, it’s like being on the beach, right? Right?

For this recipe, you’ll want to combine the dry ingredients and then add the coconut oil and vitamin E.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups turbinado (raw) sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp. vitamin E oil (optional)

Almond oil sugar scrub

Not a fan of coconut oil? No problem. You can easily sub out coconut oil with another oil of preference.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. almond, jojoba, or olive oil

Optional ingredients

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (be sure it’s without alcohol)
  • Few drops of vitamin E oil
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon

OR

  • Few drops of essential oil of choice, such as spearmint, lavender, or grapefruit

Green tea sugar scrub

Green tea is a great and easy addition to a homemade sugar scrub. Plus, it contains numerous health benefits: It’s full of antioxidants, and it’s anti-inflammatory. According to a 2013 study, cosmetics that contain green tea may be able to reduce sun damage to the skin.

Ingredients

  • 2 green tea bags
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

Directions

  1. Add the tea bags to hot water and let steep until cool.
  2. Mix brown sugar and coconut oil in a bowl.
  3. Add cooled tea to the mixture and combine.

Sugar scrub cubes

For when you have more time, these DIY sugar scrub cubes are fun and would make great gifts.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup “melt and pour” soap base
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. jojoba oil or other oil of choice

Directions

  1. Chop soap base into smaller pieces. Melt in a microwave-safe bowl using 10-second intervals (it melts quickly).
  2. Pour a thin layer of sugar on the bottom of a glass baking dish.
  3. Combine melted soap, sugar, and jojoba oil. Pour the mixture over the layer of sugar in the baking dish.
  4. Let it dry and harden for about 5 minutes.
  5. Cut the hardened mixture into small squares.

How often should you exfoliate?

Generally speaking, it’s safe to exfoliate your skin two to three times a week. More than that can leave your skin dry and irritated. If you’re unsure how often you should exfoliate or if you have a skin condition, consult a dermatologist before using any body scrub.

How to add it to your routine

When it’s time to exfoliate, applying a body scrub, sugar or otherwise, is easiest in the shower or bath. Gently massage the scrub into your skin in a circular motion. Rinse thoroughly with warm water afterward and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock in the moisture.

Marianna and Ross also both note that exfoliating a day or two before you plan to wax or shave can help you achieve a smoother shave and prevent ingrown hairs.

You may want to avoid using a sugar scrub if your skin is:

  • chapped or broken
  • red or swollen
  • sunburnt
  • healing from cosmetic surgery or chemical peels

DIY sugar scrubs are a great at-home option. They’re not only quick and easy, but they’re more affordable than many store-bought options.

Using sugar combined with other natural ingredients creates a homemade exfoliant that can cleanse, soften, and moisturize your skin when used gently.

Most individuals can benefit from body scrubs. However, if you have a skin condition, such as eczema, it’s best to talk with a dermatologist first. And avoid using scrubs on skin that is sunburnt, cracked, or irritated.


Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website, WildHearted.com.