Monday, May 12, 2014

Skin Care: Exfoliation | Scrubs: Sugar vs Salt?

Salt and Sugar scrubs explained

I hope ya'll got a chance to read about Skin Care: The Basics. If not, now might be a good time to catch up. This is a second post in the skin care series. I am a practicing Licensed Massage Therapist that knows about the anatomy of the skin, it's function, metabolism, etc, and I have learned my fair share regarding skin care. I am licensed in doing body mud and seaweed wraps, and salt and sugar scrubs. But most of what I offer today is based off of my own experiences creating the knowledge I have. 

Long before my success in making some DIY Whipped Body Butter and Homemade Lotion, I was using a DIY body and face scrub. If there is one thing I feel I am pretty serious about, it is skin care. Not just care of the face, but actually all the skin: arms, hands, elbows, knees, legs... I kind of feel like since it's the only skin I've been given, I need to take care of it.

In addition to routines of using sunblock, and lotion and/or body butter everyday, I exfoliate. Frequently I might add. My version of frequently is 4-6 days week. So I am going to try to help you out so you know a little more about what you might not know you are looking for. :)


First, why do we need to exfoliate? Because the cells on the surface of your skin are the oldest ones. They are the ones responsible for contributing to that dull look in your skin. When you exfoliate, it stimulates the vascular supply (blood supply) which increases the metabolism in the skin encouraging more cell regeneration. The exfoliation process helps to remove these older dead cells revealing the younger skin beneath. Newer skin cells also tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And as you age, this layer of dead cells become thicker. Exfoliating also unclogs pores that might later turn into either blackheads or whiteheads. In removing dead skin cells from the surface, you can reduce issues you might have with itching due to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. 

If you are good at moisturizing but not into exfoliating, you might reconsider. Given the top layer of the skin is the oldest and the deadest (is that even a word?) moisturizing helps just as far as it penetrates. And if you do not exfoliate, you might just be moisturizing mostly dead cells? Whaaat??? Just moisturizing all the grossness!?! Then it makes a ton of sense to just keep moisturizing it, right? {I am not saying to stop moisturizing if you don't want to exfoliate, I am saying you will get way better results if you start exfoliating}

With so many resources it is really easy to become overwhelmed in a search for not only purchasable items of scrubs but a recipe for a DIY product. In searching Pinterest for "homemade body scrub" I had thousands of results that could then be narrowed down by vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and even paleo. I understand the need for choices, given the fact I have skin sensitivity to fragrance and some petrolatum's. So these are also great influencing factors for making my own products.

Let's address a few things first in the scrub department: sugar vs. salt. Yes, there is a difference and yes you will benefit knowing the differences.

  • Did you know not all salts do the same thing? There is regular table salt, Himalayan Salt, and Dead Sea Salts among many others. The way, and if it is refined can impact your homemade product.
  • Sea salts contain about 84 minerals, and these minerals are found within the human body. These minerals are actually absorbed through the skin (26 seconds is all most things take) and therefore are beneficial to the body.
  • When salts are in an oil base, the oil acts with the salt to "polish" the skin and help moisturize the newer skin beneath (the type of oil is important too).
  • Salt has antiseptic qualities. These scrubs are capable of killing infection causing bacteria- so it can reduce inflammation associated with breakouts and pain that might accompany.
  • Salts draw out impurities in the skin.
  • Gentle enough to use everyday.
  • Sugar has glycolic acid that assists in conditioning and moisturizing the skin. It also helps guard the skin from harmful toxins.
  • Sugar is alpha-hydroxy rich so these scrubs moisturize.
  • You can use them to help soothe razor burn.
  • Gentle enough children can use them (my 2 littles use it on their hands and arms in winter).
  • Can be used on all skin types.
  • Sugar granules tend to be smaller, therefore a less abrasive quality then salt (if you are looking for abrasives, they can be added though).
  • Even if you have acne, sugar scrub can be used-just be careful how much.
Okay... so there are the basics in regards to sugar and salt scrubs. But what medium do you put them in? I know there are choices but I am going to give you my opinion. I have used DIY salt or sugar scrubs that use olive oil, safflower oil, almond oil, jojoba oil etc. These are all great oils with great qualities. Then I tried coconut oil. Hands down I will recommend coconut oil- for a couple of my own reasons. First, oils that retain a liquid form at room temperature cause the sugar or salt to settle at the bottom of the jar. It is hard to get the actual scrub out. I used them in the shower until I spilled the oil on the tub floor. Not a real biggie until you add the fact I have just completed my 2nd knee surgery in a year and I am like a toddler on stairs and the bathroom. Slipping hazard! In my massage practice, I use coconut oil because it doesn't go rancid, and it doesn't stain sheets or clothes. So when using a scrub with an oil base, and then you dry your face, you don't have to worry about the excess getting on your towel and going rancid in a few months {oh yes, even if you wash it regularly it does that!}

Here are the properties of coconut oil:

  • It is Anti Microbial
  • It is Anti Bacterial
  • It Heals and Protects Skin
  • It is Anti Aging
  • It is Anti Fungal
  • Contains anti oxidants that penetrate the skin
  • Strengthens skins connective tissues (also when consumed)
  • Hinders oxidation slowing the formation of brown spots (I think we could all benefit from that)
  • Doesn't go rancid, so it an be stored at room temperature and you can make larger batches of product.
  • Smells delicious!
That is a pretty impressive list! Maybe you can see why I am a fan? Coconut Oil con be purchased cost effectively in many places. Our local Bountiful Basket Co-Op has it! So does Sam's Club and Costco, even Walmart so it should not break the bank to get some.

I use regular White Granulated Sugar in these recipes. As for the salt, I started out by using the Coarse Kosher Morton's Salt. I had great results! Since then, I have switched to a Dead Sea Salt.


As for storing these batches of recipes, it is a really high tech system that I might have to blog about separately:

:} Yes, I am being a complete smarty pants. But seriously, this is what I use. It is airtight and water proof. Moisture doesn't seep in. They don't shatter if you drop them. I fill one of these little containers and I am good to go for a few weeks. Then I just refill it from a big container.

Alrighty then, let's get down to some recipes...


1 Part Coconut Oil
2 Parts Salt

Melt the coconut oil, add the salt. Mix well. Pour on cookie sheet and let it solidify You can put in the fridge to speed up the process. Before putting in an airtight container, I use a fork and knife to break it up to crumbles.


1 Part Coconut Oil
2 1/2 Parts Sugar

Melt the coconut oil, then add the sugar. Pour onto cookie sheet and let it solidify You can put in the fridge to speed up the process. Before putting in an airtight container, I use a fork and knife to break it up to crumbles.


2 Parts Coconut Oil
1 Part Salt
1 1/4 Part Sugar

Melt the coconut oil, then add the salt and sugar. Pour onto cookie sheet and let it solidify You can put in the fridge to speed up the process. Before putting in an airtight container, I use a fork and knife to break it up to crumbles.

Just a note on how you should be using scrub on you face: There is good way, and there is a better way, and then there is a best way. The good way is the regular way. The better way is to make sure your skin is dry. The best way is to make sure your skin is dry, fingers are damp and use circular motion on your face with your fingertips. Then, use the palms of your hands on your outer cheeks and throat. Using a scrub for about 3 minutes will stimulate skin for cell renewal. After exfoliating always make sure you moisturize to help the skin restore itself and give it a chance to regenerate.

I hope this all makes sense. If you have questions please email me or leave a comment.

I am not an esthetician. I am not a dermatoligist. I am not a doctor.  I am not offering medical advice.