I am Elsa, a MSc Environmental Entrepreneurship graduate and social media content creator, passionate about sustainability and circular economy.

I am Elsa, a MSc Environmental Entrepreneurship graduate and social media content creator, passionate about sustainability and circular economy.

DIY Matcha Sugar Scrub

DIY Matcha Sugar Scrub

As many of you probably know, I took the Marine Conservation Society's challenge to #GoPlasticFree in July 2018 and it was a month of research, learning and finding new ways to eliminate single-use plastics in my life. The cosmetics industry plays quite a big role in adding up to the mountains of plastic waste that we generate every day. Identifying and questioning your habits is the first step to take: What do I buy and how often? What is it for? Do I really need it? If so, can I find a plastic-free alternative?

I am terrible at remembering to moisturise my skin, and even if I do remember I hate the very sticky and greasy feeling that moisturisers leave on my skin. Many of the plastic free moisturiser options out there are quite sticky and greasy and not something I could use every day. So, most of the time I don't moisturise and I realise that my skin might not appreciate being neglected. However, I think I have found a solution for my problem - sugar scrubs made with coconut oil!

To reduce plastic waste, I decided to look into making your own cosmetics products and body scrub jumped at me as a fun and easy multi purpose (exfoliate and moisturise) product to start with. By making your own scrub you can be sure that you are scrubbing your skin with safe, natural ingredients and that you are also not pouring harmful things down the drain. In this blog post I will talk a little bit about sustainability of sugar and coconut oil, share my easy recipe for Matcha Sugar Scrub and also list a few other ideas for easy sugar scrubs that you can try making at home.

The two main ingredients you need to make your own body scrub are:

Sugar

Depending on how much abrasion you are looking for your scrub to have you can choose from many types of sugar. I chose to go with granulated sugar for this body scrub, but if I was making a face scrub, I might use slightly gentler caster sugar instead. Then there is the choice between cane sugar (tropical climate) and beet sugar (temperate climate - grown in the UK)... Both of them are rather evil: they contibute to soil erosion and they are very needy for pesticides and fertilisers leading to harmful run-offs and pollution.

I have chosen to use British beet sugar instead of cane sugar and my reasoning behind this decision is that cane sugar is one of the worst crops in the world in terms of biodiversity loss, it is more water intense than sugar beet and by buying local I can support local economy and hopefully cut down some CO2 emissions from transportation etc. This sugar also comes in a paper bag - recyclable! Answers to sustainability questions are usually not black and white and therefore, if you would like to learn more about sugar production, I would recommend starting your research by reading Sugar and the Environment - Encouraging Better Management Practices in Sugar Production and Processing by WWF.

Coconut Oil

I was approached by Dr Bronner's to try their Organic Virgin Coconut oil, which can also be used for cooking! Currently many coconut oils still have a plastic strip/seal around the lid to keep it in place and avoid leakage so this product is not entirely plastic free. Most coconut oils come in glass jars and so to reduce waste, make sure to clean and reuse the glass jar that the coconut oil came in after you have used up the oil. You could possibly also use other kind of oils for making a sugar scrub, but coconut oil is great for its consistency, smells lovely and it has done wonders to my skin!

Many oils are problematic when it comes to sustainability, but coconut oil definitely is one of the better ones out there. Like many other plants used for oil production, it is grown in mono-culture, which can have a negative impact on the environment.

"It takes the average coconut tree 10-30 years to reach peak production, where it will yield approximately 400 coconuts a year, and almost every one of those coconuts will be picked by hand – the trees are stubbornly resistant to cooperating with machinery. Furthermore, around 95% of coconut growers are small-holders, in stark comparison to palm oil production, owned and controlled by a handful of corporate giants. " - Zoe Neilson, Sustainable Food Trust.

If you would like to learn more about sustainability of coconut oil, read Zoe Neilson's article for the Sustainable Food Trust: Coconut oil on the rise: Will this latest ‘fad’ oil be better for us?.

A word of caution:

~ Before you get to making the Matcha Sugar Scrub, a word of caution here: whenever making your own cosmetics, make sure you test the product or ingredients on your skin to make sure that they won't cause you an allergic reaction (be aware that some ingredients like essential oils should not be in contact with your skin if they haven't been correctly diluted first). Also, remember to maintain good level of hygiene throughout the making and use of the product to avoid contamination and make sure that the body scrub stays good as long as possible. Do not use a body scrub or any other cosmetics if it looks like it has passed the best-by date. ~

DIY Matcha Sugar Scrub

Making your own body scrub is very easy. For this sugar scrub you need four ingredients: sugar, cocont oil, matcha green tea and used green tea leaves (fine). You will also need a clean air- and watertight container for the body scrub and a clean mixing bowl and spoon. Matcha green tea and green tea are both well-known antioxidants and great for the skin: they can reduce toxins and aid skin regeneration. Matcha is very strong and therefore only a little bit is enough. Adding used green tea leaves to the body scrub is a good way to find a new use for waste, however, make sure that the leaves are small enough and will not clog your drain (I used a handblender to blend mine). The sugar acts as an exfoliant and coconut oil leaves your skin soft and moisturised.

The ratios of these main ingredients are rougly 80% sugar and 20% oil so I mixed

  • 400ml sugar
  • 100ml coconut oil

together in a large bowl. Then I added

  • 1/2-1 tsp of matcha powder
  • 1-2 tsp of used green tea leaves (fine)

to the bowl and made sure it was all well-mixed.

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Store your body scrub in a clean, air- and watertight jar and keep away from the hottest and wettest parts of the bathroom. To ensure good level of hygiene, I use a spoon to scoop the amount of body scrub I want to use and take it to the shower with me in a tiny container (I use a very small plate - see photo below). This way you can make sure that water does not get into your body scrub jar and contaminate the product.

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This recipe is nearly plastic free and minimal waste. Sugar comes in a recyclable paper bag, matcha green tea and coconut oil both come in reusable/recyclable glass jars with metal lids, however, this coconut oil, like many other coconut oils, comes with a thin plastic seal around the lid to avoid leakage. One jar of coconut oil will last for a good while though, so I at least manage to significantly reduce waste this way. Green tea I buy loose.

Other sugar scrub ideas...

Do some research and see if your favourite tea might have any health benefits for your skin. You can also add brewed tea, but only about 1-2 tsp to the amount of sugar and oil mentioned above (if you addicentally put in too much, just add a bit more sugar to soak up the liquid). You could also use old coffee grounds (great antioxidants and meant to be great at fighting against cellulite), but again make sure that they will not clog your drain. If like me you do not fit the mold and do not drink coffee, you could ask your local coffee shop for a little bit of used coffee grounds .

Some recipes also suggest using fruit juices, like lemon, lime and grapefruit (full of vitamin C and meant to have a brightening effect for the skin), but if you do want to try these ingredients I would recommend making a smaller amounts of body scrub more often as the fresh ingredients may affect the shelf life of the scrub. You could also use essential oils for your body scrub, but bare in mind that essential oils are very strong and you should never have undiluted essential oils in contact with your skin. A recommended dilution for essential oils is 1-2% of the amount of carrier oil (coconut oil in this case) so for this recipe with 100ml coconut oil you could add 1-2ml of essential oil.

When it comes to shelf life, my batch of body scrub has lasted well for over 2 weeks now - I use it pretty much every other day. It has also helped a lot with keeping my skin soft and moisturised.

Let me know below or by commenting on my Instagram post @elsaannukka if you have tried to make the body scrub - I am curious to find out what you think. Hopefully you'll love it as much as I do!

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