I love a good scrub, and DIY body scrubs have always interested me. You don’t always have to spend a lot of money to get the best beauty results, and I like the idea of making something from stuff you have laying around the house. Essentially, all you need are gritty ingredients mixed in with something to bind them, and voila, you have your very own DIY body scrub.
Thinking about the best body exfoliators, there’s really not that much difference between them. It tends to come down to texture, the effectiveness of any accompanying skin smoothing ingredients like oils, and their scents. Whether you’re treating dry skin on legs or ingrown hairs, what you really need from a scrub is some gritty texture to buff away dead skin - the rest tends to be bells and whistles.
I like a challenge, so attempting to create some pampering products from my household basics excited me. Did my bathroom get slightly trashed in the process? Yes. Did I curse my job while scrubbing coffee from the plug hole? Yes. Did my skin feel super-silky? It certainly did. If you’re looking for a super cheap way to get smooth skin, these DIY body scrubs might just be the answer.
How I evaluated the DIY body scrubs
For me, a scrub needs to be really gritty, leave my skin feeling smooth and soft, and have a luxurious, spa-like scent. I've been spoiled by trying luxe brands' scrub offerings, so really, the whole experience counts for a lot.
I'm also prone to neglecting my body when it comes to my beauty routine, only really slapping on some scrub and the best body moisturizer when I get my legs out in the summer. The best body scrubs, DIY or otherwise, have to be something that I really want to use, that doesn't feel like another chore.
In the summer months, I'm committed to the best self tan, so I rely on body scrubs to buff away those pesky orange patches and create a good canvas for the next application. These DIY body scrubs might be the answer for how to remove fake tan in those situations where I haven't necessarily got my whole beauty kit with me - like when I'm on vacation, or when I'm visiting family.
1. The salt scrub
Ingredients: Sea salt, olive oil, lemon (optional) | Ease level: 8 | Mess factor: 6
This was the first of the DIY body scrubs I tried, and I went in with very low expectations. I expected it to be a bit of a faff and predicted the whole process would amount to little more than a messy bathroom. One sweep of this made me realize that I was totally wrong.
It went on quickly, with the ingredients binding together nicely to create a paste that didn’t slide off in that annoying way that others can. The chunky salt was the perfect texture - potentially a bit too chunky if you have sensitive skin, but it worked perfectly. I like a scrub to be really gritty, otherwise, I feel like it’s not working hard enough. The oil made my skin feel silky soft too, and my legs looked nicely smoothed and tan-free.
Ok, so the ingredients do give off a foodie vibe. Maybe the lemon was a step too far, I was essentially one twist of pepper from making myself into a salad. My reasoning was that lemon juice would help brighten skin and banish tan - which it did. Next time I’d swap the lemon for a few drops of essential oil, to elevate the experience and create a more appealing scent.
The verdict: Overall, I was impressed. This combination really made me question my DIY-averse mindset. If I didn’t have a back stock of body scrubs in my bathroom (the life of a beauty editor, eh), I’d definitely use this combination to remove fake tan and smooth skin.
Overall score: 9
2. The sugar scrub
Ingredients: Brown sugar, coconut oil, green tea (optional) | Ease level: 6 | Mess factor: 8
With the salt scrub going so well, I started on this one with bright-eyed optimism. I’ve used versions of sugar scrubs before, so I was pretty confident this would work. I’ve also been known to nab a packet of sugar from a hotel tea station to buff away dead skin on my lips before applying my best red lipstick. It’s my favourite beauty hack.
At first the coconut oil had solidified so it was a bit fiddly to blend everything without the consistency going watery. The scent was pleasant enough - sweet and faintly coconutty, like a Bounty. The mixture was a little bit too wet so a lot of the scrub ended up sliding off my legs before I had a chance to buff it in. Adding some more sugar helped, although the sugar itself wasn’t quite gritty enough for me, so I don’t feel like it scrubbed as well as the salt. However, if you have sensitive skin and a sweet tooth, you may enjoy this genre of DIY body scrubs.
The verdict: This went ok - not particularly well, not particularly badly. Sticky was the overall feel. I added green tea to give it an antioxidant boost, but to be totally honest I doubt that had any real effect. Even the best cleansers and scrubs don’t sit on your skin for very long, so there’s no real need for them to include snazzy actives or acids, as they get washed away before they can kick in.
Overall score: 6
3. The coffee scrub
Ingredients: Coffee grounds, water, oil (any) | Ease level: 8 | Mess factor: 10
My first mistake was applying this while standing on my best towel - my best white towel, no less. I was warned that of all DIY body scrubs, coffee scrub is the messiest, and I really should have remembered that before slathering this on haphazardly. I eventually stepped into the bath before things got really chaotic.
It goes without saying that if you’re not a coffee fan, you won’t enjoy this. The coffee scent is quite powerful, especially if you use a neutral oil like sunflower or olive. I opted for coconut, which created a nice, frappuccino-inspired aroma. The grit level was nice, buffed with little effort, and removed my patchy tan.
There are other benefits of coffee DIY body scrubs too. The theory is that it contains high levels of caffeine, which is a go-to treatment for cellulite. I’d take that promise with a pinch of salt, although I do believe if you used it daily (if you can be bothered to give your bath a deep clean every day), you may see a difference to cellulite and dimpling - that could be down the caffeine, but also the general buffing and scrubbing, which helps smooth everything out.
The verdict: I think of all of the body scrubs I tested, this is the best option to DIY. Any pre-made coffee scrub is essentially exactly this, so you might as well get the same product for less - or even free - if you have coffee at home already. I'll warn you though, it took forever to get my bathroom fully cleaned afterward.
Overall score: 8
Should you try DIY body scrubs? My final verdict
Overall I’m really impressed with how my adventures in DIY body scrub went. I had very low expectations, having tried some of the poshest body products in the past and - to be honest - being a bit snobby about the whole thing.
Anyone can try DIY body scrubs, and you can cobble them together without having to spend any money. They're an easy product to create - think two parts grit, one part oil, with some water if it needs loosening up. You can pick endless combinations to create your perfect concoction, made just for you.
The salt scrub was the clear winner for me - nicely gritty, with a silky result. I’ll definitely use it again, but with some nice essential oils to mix up the scent. The coffee scrub left my skin soft and espresso-scented for the whole day, which to be honest I really liked.
But the mess factor means I'd be far less likely to use it often. I'm all about beauty products that make life easier, not harder, and the added chore of cleaning tipped it into the 'no' category for me.
Rhiannon Derbyshire is the Senior Beauty Editor for Woman & Home and other publications.
She started interning for magazines while working alongside her Fashion Journalism degree. There, she was lured to the beauty desk, seduced by matte lipsticks, posh shampoos and every skincare product imaginable. A first-language Welsh speaker, she can tell you why the best mascaras are always high street, why SPF is a non-negotiable all year round and how to find the exact right red lipstick in two languages.
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