By Kyla Winchester

Please note: Kyla has been making, testing and using skin care products for a long time, but she is neither a skin care expert nor a doctor. If you haven't used a similar product before or have any doubt about how your skin will react, do a patch test before use.

Self-care is great. Sometimes it feels like a chore, even if we do feel better after. I don’t want to add to your list of chores, but I want you to feel better. I also don’t want to stress you out if you don’t happen to have eucalyptus essential oil or jojoba butter or cammomile flowers just lying around waiting to be used. So here is a DIY recipe for self-care with items you already have in your cupboard.

Sugar scrub/coffee scrub

This is definitely a body scrub. It’s oil-based, which is great for dry skin, and it’s scrubby, which is great for exfoliating (removing dead skin). You can also use salt, if you’re short on sugar. Salt can be drying, but since you’re mixing it with oil it should be fine. Its’ definitely a body scrub since most of us need to be careful what oils we use on delicate facial skin, which can breakout if we liberally apply olive oil or coconut oil; so don’t use this on your face unless you’re a risk-taker. Even then, maybe don’t use it on your face, because scrubs can be a little harsh for facial skin. So this one time, don’t be a rebel—just use this on your body.

This is good at the end of a shower—scrub, then rinse off. If you use a thicker oil like olive oil, go easy and use hot water to rinse off. It’s okay to leave a little oil on your skin but too much and it might come off on your towels. Normally I would suggest you go out and buy almond oil for a body scrub, but most of us can only go grocery shopping once a week, so popping in to our local health-food store for some  fancy oils is probably not feasible. So if you have coconut oil or almond oil or grapeseed oil or sunflower oil, those would be a little lighter. But if olive oil is what you have, go for it, I won’t judge--just maybe use cheaper olive oil (your skin doesn’t care if it’s an expensive first cold-pressed batch from a heritage estate in Italy) and be sure to take a second pass at rinsing off.

If you use coconut oil, melt it first. Where I am, it’s still cool enough that ‘room temperature’ coconut oil is probably solid. You can melt it in a double-boiler if you want, but the microwave is just fine. For such a small quantity, put in a microwave-safe bowl and melt 15 seconds at a time until it’s clear.

Because this recipe is oil-based and contains no water, it should be fine at room temperature for a couple days. (Anything with water is prone to mold if we don’t add a preservative, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any skin-care preservatives handy.) If you use sugar, salt, or fresh or dried coffee grounds, there will be no water. You might be thrifty like me and add used coffee grounds; however if you don’t dry them out first they will contain water, meaning it shouldn't be left at room temperature. So either make a small batch and use it all at once, or put it in the fridge and use within a few days.

If you use fresh coffee grounds, keep in mind that other coffee scrub recipes say the caffeine can make it ‘stimulating for your skin’. I assume they are implying you absorb caffeine in your skin, so maybe don’t apply scrub made with fresh grounds before bed: sleep is precious, especially now, and also I don’t want you to be mad at me if it keeps you awake.

This recipe is unscented, because I assume you don’t have essential oils around your home and I don’t want to make you feel bad. If you do have essential oils, you can add one drop, since this is a small batch; and be sure to follow any directions on the bottle. If you don’t have any but are desperate for luxuriously scented body care, you can add one drop of vanilla (yes, the vanilla flavour for baking) or almond extract or mint extract — maybe mint extract and ground rosemary for a nice herbal scent—or any extract you think might smell nice. (Heck, if you have flavoured coffee syrup that would probably also be nice, but I haven’t tried it—just try a couple drops to start with, since it's not as strong or concentrated as extracts, but it's good to be cautious.) Whatever you add, just patch-test a bit of the final scrub on the inside of your forearm for 20 min, then wash off, and wait a day to make sure it doesn’t react with your skin. It shouldn’t, since things that are edible are often safe for skin too, especially mixed in with other ingredients — but extracts are also highly concentrated, so only use a drop in a small recipe like this, and patch-test just in case.  

One last thing: this is oil-based, so of course it leaves your skin a little oily. This is absolutely lovely and luxurious during cooler weather; however, it transforms into an icky experience when the weather is hot and humid and you’re sweating all the time. So if you want to use this when it’s hot, just be sure to rinse off thoroughly with hot water—hard when it’s hot out, I know—and with soap, especially if you use a heavier oil like olive oil.

The recipe

1 tablespoon sugar, salt, or coffee grounds

Approximately 1/2 to 1 tablespoon oil (melted, if using coconut oil)

Combine oil with sugar, salt or coffee until it’s all coated. Apply to wet skin then rinse off. If too much oil remains for your liking, soap will wash it off.