How to: Emulsified Scrub Basics
Emulsified scrubs are pretty beginner-friendly to make, fun to personalize, and wonderful to use.
Today we're going to look at how to compose an emulsified scrub that you can tweak and tailor to your hearts content.
The Secret is In the Name: Emulsify!The 'secret' to an emulsified scrub is the emulsifier. (Not really so secret, come to think of it). The job of an emulsifier is to allow oil and water to mix.
An emulsified scrub is made without the addition of water.
So, why add an emulsifier?
When you add emulsifier to an otherwise water-free formula, it doesn't start doing its emulsifying thing until water is introduced.
In short, the product isn't fully activated until it is used.
And when water is introduced, the emulsifier magically morphs the scrubby mixture into a lotion-like solution that rinses away without leaving a greasy film on either your skin or your shower floor.
Yet your skin is left feeling soft, supple, and smooth as silk.
Are you ready to make an emulsified scrub?
LisaLise's Basic Emulsified Scrub FormulaSoft-ish butter: 5%
Hard-ish butter: 4 %
Essential Oils: 1%
Exfoliating grains: 34%
Butter NotesSoft-ish butters are butters with a low melting point such as shea. Both refined and unrefined can be used.
Hard-ish butters have a higher melting point such as cocoa or kokum butter.
There are also in-betweenie butters such as mango, which can as such be used in either category.
Try combinations of butters you personally like, and have fun with it.
Oil NotesYou don't need pricey oils in a scrub as they are rinsed off immediately, but do feel free to use any oil or combination of oils you like.
I have had lovely results using combinations of oils such as castor, sweet almond, apricot kernel, olive, and more.
Tip: Try using your own infused oils to add a bit of personalized ingredients magic. For example, the scrub pictured above contains a handcrafted coffee-infused sweet almond oil with brown sugar as the exfoliant. It smelled absolutely delicious and was a hit with my client.
Emulsifier NotesFeel free to experiment a bit to find the ideal combination for your personal taste.
For emulsifiers, consider conditioning emulsifiers (often recommended for use in hair conditioners) such as BTMS, or try an emulsifying wax. These are sold under numerous names and are often composed of a combination of ingredients. One example is 'olive emulsifier' which is a combination of cetearyl olivate & sorbitan olivate.
A co-emulsifier helps stabilize and thicken. Cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, or (soy) lecithin are possible choices.
Preservative NotesYou can choose to leave preservative out but will then need to keep the container completely free of moisture (read: dipping wet fingers into the jar is a no-no).
As I am a 'dip wet fingers into the jar' kind of person when using a scrub in the shower, I add a broad spectrum preservative.
Exfoliating Grain NotesThis can be finely ground exfoliating grains such as walnut or almond shells (be sure to use grains suitable for body scrub), or if you prefer something that dissolves completely, go for any kind of sugar or fine salt.
I've had great results with brown sugar, raw sugar, normal castor sugar, fine Himalayan salt, and regular fine salt.
You can mix and match them up to your hearts content.
Tip: Take care not to use salt that is too rough or has sharp edges of any kind. The whole idea is to exfoliate – not scratch – the skin. Fine salt gives a lovely scrubbing action without scratching.
Method For Making Emulsified Scrub
- Melt emulsifiers and butters slowly over low heat
- Add oils
- Remove from heat
- Stir and let cool until trace
- Add preservative
- Whip the mixture until you have the desired lightness and fluffiness. This shouldn't take more than 5 minutes. If you start whipping a titch too soon, you may need to alternate between whipping and chilling the mixture. If that is the case, then this step can take up to 15 minutes.
- Add exfoliating grains
- Add fragrance / essential oils
- Whip a final time to distribute everything evenly
- Transfer to final containers (I find using a piping bag to fill containers quite efficient)
Yes indeed you can use soft butters in this - it's all a question of preference. Have fun!
I'm I'm the US, and was wondering what you use asa preservative? Do you find optiphen to be broad spectrum enough?
To my understanding Olivem (did you mean Olivem 1000?) is a blend of cetearyl olivate and sorbitan olivate (not the same as cetearyl alcohol). You can get Olivem 1000 from Lotioncrafter at $5 for 2 oz.
Hope this helps!
1. would this be too greasy as a face scrub?
2. Could I just use Mango butter in place of the soft/hard butters?
3. Is cetyl alcohol plant derived/natural
Thanks for your help
In this recipe, you use 5% Emulsifier and 5% Co-emulsifier. If I do not use co-emulsifier and use only emulsifier at 10%, what will happen? Why do you need to use co-emulsifier in this scrub in addition to the emulsifier?
Thanks for your kind comment. You ask a great question as in this kind of formula, it may not make much difference. I say do a small test batch and see how it performs for you. :)
This was so so helpful, thank you!. I'm a beginner with skincare formulations and have been researching the use of emulsifiers in facial scrubs. My ingredients for a coffee scrub are Ground coffee, Dark Brown Sugar, Aztec Clay Powder, Avocado Oil, Olivem 1000, Vitamin E Oil & Sweet Orange essential oil. I have noticed that a lot of brands incorporate a small amount of water into their scrub during the formulation process, is this essential based on the ingredients of my scrub or can i not include water in order to prolong the shelf life?
I was wondrering if can i use olivem 1000 and estearic acid like emulsifiers for my scrub?
Thank you very much for clarifying this. In this case would you add the emulsifier in the oil phase, then the sugar & coffee followed by the essential oil at the end?
I love a good basic that can be personalized. Thank you so much for sharing .
You are most welcome :)
I'm fairly new to the 'all oil' scrub thing (infact I intended to find oil-in-water formulas but, hey what do you know... LOL)
Anyway, I saw you mentioned cetearyl olivate & sorbitan olivate (=olivem 1000 AND just the emulsifier I have on the shelf). What surprised me though, is that this is a O/W emulsifier that normally requires 75C to do its intended job.
By the time the above anhydrous product gets to the bathroom where water will be introduced to it, there will of course be a much lower temp. How will it still work and assist in rinse-off?
I made this scrub yesterday. I didn't make any changes.
I found it quite runny. After about 12 hours I could see oil sitting on the top. Did you think I didn't whip it enough or maybe I should tweek my oil ratio please? Felt lovely on my skin though 😍
What will it do for the scrub? Make it less greasy? Just not sure if it would be beneficial in a foot scrub. Please let me know you thoughts!!!
My body scrub base is a shea, I sometimes feel like it is a bit greasy after. Would adding an emulsifier cut that down a bit? Again, wondering how much per about 2500 g. My body scrub recipe is 1 KG shea, to just over 1 KG of a mix of sugars with oils accounting for another approx 1/2 cup.
What happens when you just use a co-emulsifier without a main? Pointless????
Thank you for any advice!
As to using a co emulsifier without a main emulsifier - this can work with some co-emulsifiers in some formulas.
Also, i wanted to make a strawberry-scented version with strawberry powder... it's water soluble though, any suggestions on how to incorporate it? Glycerine?
Great thank you from Australia!! :-)
Thank you, can't wait to try more
Would it be safe to make an emulsified lip scrub using emulsifying wax NF? Obviously, the lip scrub would come with instructions to rinse off (rather than lick off), but is e-wax NF safe for lips in a rinse-off application?
I would like to include a natural preservative in your emulsified scrub however many state that they are water soluble. What would be the best preservative to use. I live in Canada. Looked at Geogard ultra but it is also listed as water soluble. What preservatives have you used with this recipe. Thanks for your help.
I always enjoy reading your blog!!!
My name is Ageliki, and i'm from Greece!!
I am about to try your formulation and i am thinking to use rose petal powder which i made via freeze drying and milling.
Should i use the powder with sugar or skip sugar...
I am also thinking to ground sugar for fine particle size in order to use the scrub for face...
Thank you in advance!!
I will try it out!!
I was experimenting with this body scrub.I must to admit it’s very nice skin feeling after! Thank you for your formula!
I tried two variants.btms-50 in one recipe and I Cetearyl Olivate Sorbitan Olivate as emulsifier in another 5%.Co-emulsifier- Certyl Alcohol-5%.Shea butter, mango butter as softish butters5%.Cocoa butter as hardish - 4%.In both 25% sunflower oil and 10% avocado oil.Sugar-34% and another mixture of salt & sugar same%.
I have a question, please.While I am using it or washing it off it’s very slippery on a shower floor.I am just thinking that people might slip on it.Can I use something to make this wonderful body scrub less slippery? Any suggestions,please :)
My question is - if you have high enough of a salt/sugar content do you need a preservative? I have seen several other makers sell sugar scrubs without any. I know higher salt % inhibits bacterial growth and I've heard the same about sugar. Can you advise on this please?