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Handmade 101
Formulating Cosmetic Scrub Products
Author: Allison B. Vought
Friday, September 25, 2015

A cosmetic scrub is a polish or a gel containing tiny coarse granules or abrasive materials along with various additives to exfoliate the outermost layer of skin. Scrubs can be divided into the following types by their composition:

  • Scrubs of herbal origin - ground apricot, peach pits, apricot kernels, powdered herbs or spices, sugarcane, oatmeal.
  • Scrubs of mineral origin - kaolin (white clay), volcanic pumice, zeolite, sea minerals, sea salt.
  • Scrubs of water insoluble natural origin - shell of egg, shell of crab, sand, pumice.
  • Scrubs of unnatural origin - polystyrene beads, polyethylene or oxidized polyethylene beads, synthetic wax beads, aluminum silica crystals.

Cosmetic scrub products are generally comprised of two (2) primary components:
  1. Product Base - vegetable oils & butters, mineral oil, gels, liquid cleanser, lotion or cream
  2. Exfoliant - sea salt, sugar, pumice, herbal powders or a combination of multiple exfoliants.
Secondary components of exfoliating scrubs may include:
  • Fragrance or Essential Oil
  • Preservative
  • Stabilizers
Simply put, exfoliation is the application of a technique or combination of techniques to remove dead cells from the upper layer of skin (epidermis). It accelerates the natural process of desquamation, the shedding of the outer layer of skin, specifically the stratum corneum. The number one benefit to using a cosmetic scrub is that skin instantly seems smoother and silkier. A scrub also allows other cosmetic products like moisturizers or serums to penetrate the skin better. This is because exfoliating removes the surface layer of dead cells which can limit how much of the active ingredients in your skincare products get through.

When should you use a body scrub?
  • To keep skin glowing and healthy use a gentle body scrub regularly. If you have sensitive skin, use a gentle abrasive, such as oats, fine sugar or salt, as opposed to larger grains.
  • Before a leg wax to remove the dead skin cells and make epilation (the removal of the hair) easier.
  • Before applying a self-tanner. Removal of the dead skin cells will create a smoother skin texture and therefore help to provide a more even faux tan.
  • After exposure to the sun. During hot summer months, your skin can quickly become dry and flaky. Body scrubs can give skin a silky, luminous glow. However, do not use a scrub on sunburnt skin.
  • Before a body wrap or mud treatment to open the skin’s pores and prepare the skin for the wrap treatment.
  • As part of your facial routine to brighten and even skin tone, or before using a facemask.
Last year, Illinois became the first state in the United States to ban the sale and manufacture of personal care products containing polystyrene microbeads, which was introduced through Illinois legislation bill SB2727. The law aims to prohibit the manufacture of such products by the end of 2018 and the sale of products by the end of 2019. In recent weeks, a number of state legislatures in the United States have targeted and even outlawed microbeads. Although numerous varieties of exfoliants are available on the market, we should consider that most of these additives are literally flushed down the drain and affect sewers, septic tanks and ocean life. Formulators have a responsibility to create not only safe products, but also sustainable ones.

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