Make It Miniseries: Coffee Sugar Scrub

If you’ve never used sugar scrub before, your skin is in for a real treat!  I think it should really be called Skin Polish, because that’s what it does: it exfoliates dead skin cells and leaves your skin silky smooth and soft with emollient oils.  And if you use it instead of shaving cream or soap, you’ll find that it also gives your razor a perfect glide, which helps prevent razor burn and gives a nice close shave.

Unlike salt scrubs, sugar scrub won’t sting the skin if you have any tiny cuts or abrasions – or if you happen to nick yourself while shaving.  Also, plain granulated sugar naturally contains glycolic acid, which is also a mild exfoliant.  It’s quick and simple to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now – if you made some coffee oil (I posted a tutorial on August 1) you only need to add sugar to it for a fantastic scrub.

Start with about ½ to 1 cup of oil, then stir in an equal amount of sugar.  You can use white granulated sugar, coarse demerara sugar, brown sugar, or a combination of any of these.  I found that demerara sugar was too abrasive; a smaller grain provided plenty of scrubbing action for my fairly sensitive skin.  My favorite blend is about half white sugar and half brown sugar.  The warm molasses scent of the brown sugar blends nicely with the coffee scented oil.

Add more sugar if you prefer a less oily scrub.  Store your sugar scrub in a jar with a lid, making sure that no water is introduced inside it.  Water in the sugar scrub will provide an environment for bacteria and mold to grow, so use a clean, dry spoon or scoop to take out a portion of it to use.  Apply to damp skin and massage in, until all or most of the sugar has dissolved; rinse thoroughly.  Be careful getting out of the tub or shower because the oils on your skin and tub can be slippery!

And seriously, please try this when you shave your legs: one of my daughters swears by it.  She used to get razor burn almost every time she shaved, no matter how often she changed blades – nothing really helped until she started shaving with sugar scrub.

Natural Skincare Wonder #6: Castor Oil

For those of you who are old enough to remember being given castor oil as a “spring tonic” or to relieve constipation, I’ll spare you the horrors: this is a practice that has been pretty much abandoned these days.  Not only was the taste of castor oil pretty horrid, but attempts to cover it up were unsuccessful, and the severe stomach cramps were enough to make most people want to run and hide when the bottle of castor oil came out of the medicine cabinet.

Castor oil used to be promoted as a way to start labor when pregnant women were past their due dates, or even when they just wanted to induce labor.  Thankfully, that practice has also been discredited as unsafe, because castor oil not only stimulates uterine contractions but also stimulates the bowels, which can lead to severe cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration – not exactly what a woman in labor needs to complicate matters.

So even though castor oil has had a bad reputation for internal use, it can do amazing things for the skin and hair when used externally.  Castor oil comes from the castor bean, which is pressed to extract the oil.  Cold pressed castor oil is preferred to oil which was processed with chemical solvents, usually hexane.  Castor plants are native to India and Africa, where castor oil is used in many ways, as the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are well known.  Castor oil is a viscous, thick oil that can be combined with other oils that are thinner (such as jojoba or olive oil) and will help to allow the oils to spread more easily. 

These are a few of the wonderful things that castor oil can do for you:

  • Softens and Conditions the Skin – due to its highly concentrated fatty acids, castor oil deeply penetrates the skin and helps prevent moisture loss; its anti-inflammatory properties help soothe inflamed skin from sunburn and other irritations.

  • Fades Scars, Uneven Skin Tone, and Slows Aging – over time, castor oil will reduce hyperpigmentation or dark spots/age spots by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, which helps keep skin smooth, plump, and elastic.

  • Massage Oil – castor oil’s anti-inflammatory properties help to relieve muscle pain and soreness, which makes a massage even more effective.

  • Hair Regrowth Treatment – castor oil is an effective treatment for hair loss and also promotes faster hair growth; ricinoleic acid, found only in castor oil, helps to balance the pH of the scalp and increases circulation; it also supports keratin in the hair to make it stronger, smoother, and less frizzy.  When hair is damp, use a dropper to apply small amounts of castor oil to the scalp and massage it in; cover with a towel or shower cap and leave in for several hours, or overnight.  Most, if not all, of the oil will absorb, especially if left overnight.  Wash as usual.

  • Grow Thicker, Longer Eyelashes – apply a tiny drop of castor oil to each eyelid before bed to condition and promote eyelash growth.

Castor oil is yet another truly amazing natural beauty aid – tomorrow’s blog post will be the last in this series for the week, and I’m going to tell you about what a wonder jojoba is.  (Did you know that jojoba isn’t an oil at all? Even though it acts more like an oil, jojoba is really a wax.)

Natural Skincare Wonder #4: Coconut Oil

Indigenous people all over the world, from Thailand, Indonesia, India, Nigeria, and Somalia, to the Philippines, Panama, and Jamaica, have known for hundreds of years about the health benefits from eating coconut oil  – and using it on their skin and hair for amazing results.

But in the mid 1950’s, doctors began to advise their patients to avoid all saturated fats, based on a medical study that concluded that eating saturated fats caused heart disease.  Recent research has shown that those earlier studies were flawed, and that not all saturated fats are unhealthy.  In fact, coconut oil is a saturated fat that has many health benefits that are more remarkable than even those native people had realized.

Today, coconut oil is being used by some physicians in the treatment of liver and kidney diseases, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and even HIV and AIDS.  Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) in coconut oil will accelerate the metabolic rate activity to in turn accelerate healing – and that same activity works when coconut oil is applied to the skin.

Coconut oil as a stand-alone skin softener and conditioner is a “new” trend that just happens to be a very old tradition.  Coconut oil also works well as a leave-in conditioner for the hair – also an old tradition practiced by island natives and people who had an abundant supply of fresh coconuts.  Today, coconut oil is readily available in grocery stores, health food stores, and online.  But how do we know what type is the best?

There are basically two types of coconut oil: unrefined (also called “virgin”) and refined. Unrefined coconut oil has a light but distinctive “coconutty” scent, while the refined version has no scent.  For optimum quality and benefits, refined coconut oil is the best.  Use coconut oil sparingly – a little goes a long way – on skin after a bath or shower to retain moisture and give skin a healthy glow.  Use a tiny amount (pea size or less) on the ends of hair; may be applied to damp or dry hair.

For a more luxurious creamy version, try whipping your coconut oil – here’s how to do it:

Coconut Oil Whip (Makes 8 ounces)

This whip makes an excellent moisturizer for the body and face, a deep conditioning mask for hair, a tamer for hair frizz and fly-away strands, a safe and gentle makeup remover, a luscious lip balm and myriad other uses. In whipped form, coconut oil is much easier to dispense and apply. Only a small dab is needed for most applications.

8 oz. virgin coconut oil, chilled (oil must be solid)

10 - 20 drops essential oil such as lavender, lemongrass or sweet orange (optional)

Place the chilled coconut oil in a 4-cup container. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the oil for 5 – 7 minutes until light and very creamy in appearance. Add essential oil, if using, and whip for an additional minute to disperse evenly. Spoon into a container with a tight-fitting lid and store in a cool, dry place. Ambient temperature of 76˚F or more will result in the coconut oil whip deflating and liquefying, which only affects the texture. (Note: Avoid getting water into the container. Use a spoon or cosmetic spatula to scoop out.)

Tomorrow’s blog post is about lavender essential oil – one of my very favorites!