How to Formulate & Customise a Scrub – Susan Elliott

This is a beginner’s guide to how to formulate a basic scrub and then customize it.
This basic scrub recipe is the one I used when I first started and it’s a GREAT RECIPE. Get used to a basic before you start customizing and then customize one ingredient at a time.
Learn percentages and grams.
An ounce equals 28.35 grams. I usually round up to 30 to help me calculate. I try to calculate a recipe that is divisible by 3 so the percentages are not too troublesome. I am HORRIBLE at math and I find this easy enough so don’t let grams and percentages throw you. Learn the “100 gram rule” and the “half and half and half and half and left over” recipe and you will never go wrong formulating a scrub.
It goes a long way when you want to change things up and most advanced formulators write recipes in percentages. If you’re horrible at math (as I am) just use 100 for every percentage recipe you come to and if you translate the recipe into grams, know that 100 grams is approximately 3.5 ounces. So if you like to make the same amounts every time you make a product, figure out how many ounces that is, convert it to grams and then go by the 100 gram rule. I like to make 4 8 oz jars when I make a scrub which is 32 oz. So just looking at the 100 gram rule with next to no math ability, I know I want to make a 900 gram batch. So whatever ingredient the person has in their recipe, I will multiply by 9 (this isn’t going to be exact but it will get you where you want to go). So if they have 10 % stearic acid, I know I want 90 grams of stearic acid. Anyway, that’s for later but this stuff scared me when I was new and I later figured out it was not that hard.
For formulating scrubs, start out with the “half and half and half and half and left over”recipe.
It goes like this:
If a recipe is 100 grams, half of that should be oils, (50 grams) half of that should be butters (25 grams) half of that should be emulsifiers (12 grams) half of that should be extras (7 grams)
What’s left over should be preservative and fragrance. If, for some reason, you don’t have enough left over for the manufacturer’s recommendations for the preservative, cut some of the oils (you should never ever cut the preservative and never go without one). But I’ve never seen that happen, so it shouldn’t.
The exfoliant will be 100-200 percent of your recipe.
When first starting out its best to use one kind of exfoliant in a scrub and then experiment as you go on. Sometimes too much salt or sugar can “break” an emulsification so it’s good to start at 100 percent and add more if you think it needs it. You can also start at less than 100 percent. The “balance” is to keep the thing together when it gets warm (sometimes the oil will start to sit on top in the heat, open the jar, use a SANITIZED spoon and stir.) Give your customers directions for the same in case it happens after sale.
You can also add things that don’t dissolve like jojoba beads (not microbeads) or walnut shells or orange peels.So say you wanted to make 2 8 oz jars of scrub. That is 16 ounces. 16 x 30 is 480 (you can always do exact grams if you want but I find this easier and I usually have left overs for testing)
half of 480 is
240 grams so we want 240 grams of oil, half of that oil should be coconut oil 120 coconut oil, 60 sweet almond, 60 olive. You can use any oils you like but I suggest you make half coconut no matter what recipe you follow. It makes a huge difference.
half of 240 is
120 grams so we want 120 grams of butter, 75 shea butter, 45 cocoa butter (you can use any butters you want in any amount)
half of 120 is
60 grams emulsifiers 40 grams ewax 20 grams stearic acid (you can play with these amounts but this is what I started with)
half of 60 is
30 grams extras example: 10 grams jojoba oil, 10 grams argan oil, 10 grams Vitamin E (you can use other extras like isopropyl mrystrate or cut the jojoba in half or use some exotic or expensive oil or something you’ve always wanted to try…like rosehip or macademia or some expensive oil you want to include
Use a preservative to the recommendations of the manufacturer
Left over grams for fragrance
Directions: melt the shea butter very slowly and then put in the freezer to temper it (you don’t have to do this but sometimes it’s grainy…not so important in a scrub but can be in a lotion or cream…so you might want to get in the habit of doing it). Then bring it out and remelt along with all the other ingredients except the preservative, vitamin E and fragrance.
Remove from heat. You can hit it with a stick blender or put it in the mixer. I think that using a regular 2 beater mixer is best. I’ve done it with a stick blender, with a Kitchen Aid and with a 2 beater “cheap” mixer and like the 2 beater cheap mixer the best. Sometimes the high shear from the stick blender is too much and sometimes the Kitchen Aid doesn’t incorporate the exfoliant well. Mix it all together for a few minutes and then put in the freezer.
Add the preservative at the the manufacturer’s recommended temperature.
At 120 add the vitamin E and fragrance and coloring if you’re going to color.
Return to the mixer and slowly add the exfoliant. It will thicken and firm up so don’t go overboard if you think it looks “thin.” Put into sanitized jars.
You don’t have to customize your oils but I infuse a lot so I use them. You can also play around with oils or add oils that you’ve heard of. I started by adding new oils in the “extras” and then if I liked them – move them to the main oils.
I customize for a pumpkin scrub using coconut oil, calendula infused oil, pumpkin oil, cinnamon infused oil. I customize it for a coffee scrub by using coffee infused sunflower oil that I infused using fresh coffee beans. For lavender scrub I infuse olive oil with lavender. For vanilla I infuse with vanilla beans. I have eucalyptus and peppermint infusions as well.
I customize using pumpkin butter, coffee butter, etc. If you start to add different oils and butters be sure to recalculate your emulsifiers and preservatives. It’s good to add one new oil or butter at a time so that you can really figure out what a difference it makes.
After you settle on the butters and oils you like you can then start with different emulsifiers. As you get more experienced, experiment with different emulsifiers. They can make a huge difference in your product. My “go to” emulsifier combination is ewax, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol and beeswax.
I also use veggie emulsifiers, naturemulse, glyeral stearate, polawax, BTMS. It’s important to read how the emulsifiers behave with other emulsifiers and other ingredients when you start changing things up.
As with the butters/oils/emulsifiers, as you get more experienced, try adding different “extras” being sure to account for them with emulsifiers and preservatives. Other extras: isopropyl myristrate (nice emollient, cuts down on greasy feeling), cocobetaine for foaming Exfoliants
Some examples of how to customize: For a pumpkin scrub: I use pumpkin flakes (large grains), fine atlantic sea salt (fine) and fine sugar at 100 percent for a “medium” scrub. I did a video on customizing a basic scrub to a pumpkin scrub here:…
For a lavender scrub I use pink himalayan sea salt at 100 percent and sprinkle some lavender buds on top
For a vanilla brown sugar cinnamon scrub I use cinnamon infused oil (you can just put cinnamon sticks in oil to infuse) a mix of demerara sugar, coconut sugar and fine grain sugar and vanilla bean specks.
For a kitchen hand scrub: use d-limonene (natural degreaser) as an “extra” or fragrance (it smells lemon-y (10 grams), epsom salt, pink himalayan sea salt, cranberry seeds, orange and eucalyptus essential oils
For a mechanics/gardner’s scrub use d-limonene, kaolin clay, french green clay, pumice, orange peel, epsom salt and pink himalayan sea salt. The pumice and clays might seem very fine but they are scratchy so don’t overdo it. A 50 percent salt mix with 50 percent clays/pumice/orange peel is a nice mix.
For a peppermint foot scrub: use pink Himalayan sea salt, pumice, cranberry seeds, peppermint essential oil (I have a video on the peppermint foot scrub)
For a coffee scrub: use coffee infused oil, coffee butter, ground coffee, half salt and half sugar, can also use powdered caffeine (wakes up the blood vessels). Freshly brewed coffee scent from Nature’s garden is awesome. (I have a video on the coffee scrub)
There are many more! Get creative! And remember, share basic recipes with newbies when you’re experienced. 🙂

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