Salt vs Sugar Scrubs: Which One You Should Use When (Plus A Few Easy DIY Recipes)


Have you ever had a spa scrub (or used a scrub from a bath and body store)? There’s something just absolutely heavenly about the way you feel. Personally, I’m lucky to have a friend that’s an organic aesthetician, so I get a professional quality scrub absolutely every opportunity I get. After all, sugar and salt scrubs are natural exfoliates that not only make your skin feel soft and smooth, but they also open your pores so that you skin can do what it’s supposed to do – Get rid of nasty toxins and prevent your body against infection.

However, sometimes our schedules just don’t mesh – We’re both self-employed, sometimes that can get a little hectic. Lucky for me, it’s super easy to make sugar and salt scrubs yourself (I’ll post a couple of super basic anyone-can-do-this recipes at the bottom of this article so you can see for yourself). So when I can’t make it in to visit a professional, I can still get (completely organic!) professional quality care at home.

It did occur to me though that not everyone knows which scrub to use when – or why for that matter – which spawned the idea for this article. So here’s the difference between them, plus a few recipes you can easily follow so that you can make and start using your very own! Trust me – You’re going to love the way you feel when you’re finished exfoliating.

But Wait! You Already Have A Walnut/Apricot Shell Exfoliate, Right?

That’s all well and good if all you’re wanting to do is exfoliate. But if you’re looking for something that’s really going to take your skin to the next level as far as a glow is concerned, these are what you want.

Because salt and sugar scrubs both naturally dissolve while you’re using them, they actually end up gradually morphing into a polish while you’re exfoliating your skin, perfecting it to a whole other degree!

Don’t miss: ‘Time Freeze’ DIY Ice Cube Facials – Why And How You Can Do It

Not to mention that most of the apricot/walnut shell exfoliates that you buy at the grocery store are loaded with all kinds of parabens and other things you probably don’t want to be absorbing through your skin. I assure you that after using one or more of these scrubs just once, you’ll throw out whatever it is you’d been using to that point.

So What’s The Difference?

Which one is the right one to use? Well, the answer is that it really depends on what area you’re focusing on:

scrubSalt Scrubs

First of all, if you’re going to use a salt scrub you’re going to want to make sure that it’s been made with some kind of sea salt – Table sale is absolutely useless here (in addition to – you know – everywhere else).  Sea salt helps draw toxins from your body and can act as an anti-inflammatory if you suffer from sore muscles.

Because the edges of sea salt granules are relatively sharp, the scrubs are pretty strong exfoliates and should be reserved for the dryer areas of your body – Your elbows, heels, legs, knuckles, etc. Stay away from any sensitive areas with a salt scrub and avoid using it altogether if you have any skin abrasions unless you’re ready to deal with a lot of stinging.

scrub1Sugar Scrubs

Sugar scrubs can be made with table sugar as well as with unrefined sugar. Table sugar granules are rounder than those of sea salt which makes them perfect for use on the face as well as other sensitive areas on your body. It makes a great mild scrub since it dissolves rather quickly in water and it leaves your skin feeling super soft.

If you’d like an extra special treat the next time you’re in the bath, exfoliate your skin with some brown sugar scrub (recipe to follow) – The smell is absolutely divine and will linger on your skin (and in your washroom) for hours.

Don’t miss: The Ultimate DIY Makeup Guide For All-Natural Beauties

Unrefined cane sugar is slightly more abrasive than table sugar, but it’s still not as irritating to your skin as a salt scrub can be – It can be used all over your body to keep it soft and smooth, but you should avoid using it on your face (especially if you have sensitive skin).

How Often Should You Use Them?

Again – It really depends. A sugar scrub can be used two or three times a week if you’d like since it’s not very abrasive, but you should stick to using a salt scrub no more than once a week to avoid irritating your skin.

Now that you know what they’re really for and when to use them, here are a few recipes you can make yourself so that you can start polishing your skin to perfection as soon as today:

Powdered Sugar

Take your favorite oil (coconut, almond, jojoba, olive, etc.) and put a little bit of powdered sugar in it (also known as icing sugar) – If you don’t happen to have any all you need to do is put some granulated table sugar into a food processor for a minute or two). Add a touch of your favorite flavored extract or essential oil if you’d like (completely optional, but some of them carry some pretty incredible benefits themselves). Massage the paste into your lips for a minute and then lick it off – Your lips will be incredibly smooth.

scrub2Table Sugar

Have a banana laying around in the kitchen that’s too brown to eat? Great! You can make it into a sugar scrub that will make you skin feel and smell amazing when you’re finished using it!

Mash the banana in a bowl (leave it more on the chunky side, add two or three tablespoons of granulated sugar and some vanilla extract or your favorite essential oil (again – Optional, but definitely worth it. Do your homework). When you’re in the shower, pat and massage the mixture all over your body then rinse off with warm water. Strawberries work as well, especially if you’re looking for a more abrasive exfoliate.

Brown Sugar

This one is hands down my favorite – Not only does it smell amazing (even for hours after using it), but it can actually be eaten (and really isn’t half bad in coffee). Simply mix equal parts of your the natural oil of your choice (I use coconut, of course) and brown sugar, add a little vanilla, and enjoy your ride to scent heaven.


I don’t actually use salt scrubs at home usually – The sugar scrubs seem to work just fine for me and smell good enough that I have no reason to stray from them.

That said, here’s an amazing sounding lavender salt scrub from Queenie and the Dew that’s sure to help you relax after a stressful day.

Alternatively, if you need a salt scrub that’s going to energize you after a particularly busy day, after a particularly hard workout, or something that’s going to help you get going in the morning, mix equal parts of sea salt and your favourite oil and add at least 1Tbsp of orange, lemon, and/or lime zest (1Tbsp total, not each).

These recipes will not only make your skin happy, they’ll also make your bank account happy (The average scrub goes for around $30)! If you make your own body scrub, feel free to share your recipes in the comments section!

And don’t forget to Pin this post if you liked it – You can also get more diet, fitness, natural eating, and healthy tips by following us on Pinterest!

Salt VS Sugar Scrubs

  • Candace Jane Maree

    Do you use light or dark brown sugar? And is there a place you can suggest for getting perfume and flavor oils?

    • Kirsten Jasper

      I wouldn’t think that there would be any trouble using any “shade” of brown sugar. Brown sugar is simply table sugar with molasses in it, so it just depends how much molasses scent or stickiness you would like.

    • Shanda de Vries

      Hey Candace,

      I use light brown sugar, but only because it’s what I usually have on hand. If you only have dark in your cupboard, feel free to use that. It’s really a personal preference thing.

      As for the oils, try Mountain Rose Herbs.

      • Hollywood22

        It really doesn’t matter what kind of sugar you use; the author seems misinformed. Apparently she doesn’t know table salt IS sea salt. Where do you think it came from? All salt is sea salt. Another misleading article by a faux-it all

        • Shanda de Vries

          Again, “It’s really a personal preference thing”.

          And actually, table salt is generally mined from underground salt deposits and then heavily processed to eliminate minerals. After most of the good stuff is gone, they then put additives in it to prevent clumping (not always, but usually).

          Thanks for reading!

          • Hollywood22

            So basically you’re saying you don’t know where table salt comes from. Where do you think the “underground salt,” as you put it, came from? It’s very ignorant to spread this kind of information. Did you know sea salt is also process and only contains hundredths of a percentage more “minerals” than your “underground salt?”

            BTW, salt itself is a mineral sweetie. Do a little more research before updating your blog next time.


            A licensed nutritionist

          • Shanda de Vries

            I did actually, and I never said that salt (sodium chloride) wasn’t a mineral. I prefer things in their most natural state, salt included. Again, a personal preference thing. In my experience, sea salt works better.

            I assure you that I do my research, and I encourage others to do the same. I do appreciate your comments though!

          • Hollywood22

            Can you provide a link to the science that backs that up?

          • vexx

            Salt is produced from salt mines or by the evaporation of seawater (sea salt) or mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools – Wikipedia

            Oh, here’s one more; “Salt is all around us. Underground and on the earth’s surface in the dried up residues”

            Also, do you know that meteors that stroke Earth contained salt? I think they don’t teach that in nutritionist school

            I guess being a “licensed nutritionist” doesn’t entitle you to research anymore 🙂



          • Hollywood22

            *face palm*

            You’re getting there vexx! Now, how do you think those salt deposits got to where there are being mined from? Go ahead, do your research. I’ll be here 🙂

  • carters_mom

    Thank you for writting this I’ve always wondered about the difference. I do have a question though, for the scrub using the strawberries what would be the ideal shelf life for this item? TIA

    • Shanda de Vries

      Hey carters_mom!

      You could probably get away with storing it in your refrigerator for about a week, but I’d suggest simply making smaller batches (what you’re going to use up immediately). While I’ve never actually experienced it myself, I can’t imagine that a cold scrub feels very good in a hot shower.

      That said, I assume that you’re a busy mom. If you do decide to try out the storing method, please let us know how it works out.

      Thanks so much!

      • changeanimal

        I got a good giggle from the comments… Other than that thanks for the post!

  • Mia

    Would a salt scrub potentially help with acne to detox the area? Or do you think it would just irrate the skin more?

    • Shanda de Vries

      Hey Mia,

      Provided you’re using a sea salt in your scrub (as opposed to table salt), it should definitely help!

      Thanks for reading!

      • Hollywood22

        Again, where do you think table salt comes from? It IS sea salt.

        • Angie

          Why do you continue to post in such a pissy manner? We get it. You are WAY smarter than the rest of us who are being misguided by the recipe for salt scrubs.
          Get over yourself and go away.

          • DrShoemake

            Get over myself? For stating a fact? Someone is spreading
            misinformation, I corrected her, and she proceeded to remove my comments
            and block me (luckily I screen capped our conversation, and have posted
            it on my website, and am using it as an example for my students). That is rather coward of her, as she can’t handle the facts either it seems. I
            said nothing “pissy,” rather simply stated that salt and table salt are
            nearly identical in nutrition and minerals. As she called it “underground salt” IS the same thing as sea salt. Where do you think “underground salt” came from? The biggest difference is
            the manner of extraction; you obviously did not read my comments if you
            think I was commenting on a salt scrub recipe lol. Spreading misinformation on the internet is all too rampant, and very irresponsible. The fact that she continues to block and delete comments of those stating the truth speaks volumes of her and her knowledge, and is currently being discussed on my website. She is nothing more than another uniformed blogger with no experience.

          • vexx

            Actually I deleted your comments, not her. Being a webmaster for almost 9 years, I’ve rarely marked comments for deletion, but in your case, I made an exception. Usually, I don’t reply in regards to my actions, not because “i’m always right” – instead I developed a keen eye for people like you.

            Normally, if I were you and I’d give my arguments to the writer…seeing that I’m basically contradicted against the fact that I bringed, I’d say F You and your site and I’d be gone forever. Instead, you decided to insist on every god damn reply..and you started annoying the readers..and that bothers me.

            If you remember me from my previous short postings, I tried to show you some proof that you were half wrong…you ignored it. Let me summarize some things for you, I don’t want to bother the rest of the readers with some petty internet fight.

            – nobody in their right mind gives a f if the salt is mined or extracted directly from the sea (unless you’re a salt Nazi and you need your medication)
            – as I said from my previous postings, some amount of salt found underground on our planet comes from meteories that stroke Earth milions of years ago. I won’t bother searching for articles, you can do that yourself.
            – most of the underground salt is indeed sea salt that got a nasty treatment by mother nature. That basically means 10 million years ago a sea was “swallowed” by a mountain, got dry and formed a saline formation. That saline formation SUFFERED a lot of chemical reactions all those years and it’s not considered sea salt anymore since there’s a difference between “mined salt” and the salt extracted from our seas. If you’d do your research before getting all menopausal on us poor souls, it would be much better, for the internet as a whole.
            – your signature, “A licensed nutritionist”…means you’re a condescending person that thinks a piece of paper taken only you know where/how, makes you look smarter. It doesn’t ..and any person with a bit of decency knows that EVEN if you’re a genius in your field, you CAN be wrong and you DON’t have the right to act all superior when it comes to constructive criticism. Oh and for the kicks, while writing this, I’ve did a bit of research on how to be a licensed nutritionist and I laughed a bit…but that’s just a bonus

            Now, we can do this in 2 ways:

            1. you start acting like a decent person and contribute to the conversation in a positive way even if you bring facts that contradict the author.
            2. you can move along and call me an asshole…I’ll be ok, I promise 😉

          • DrShoemake

            You get your feelings hurt just as easily as the blogger when it comes to facts! Licensed nutritionist is only part of my title (I got quite a laugh while getting my PhD as well, but most of it was from hysteria), which was brought up because my knowledge was questioned. Don’t be offended, I’m sure if you moderate hard enough, you too can accomplish something someday.

            I glanced by your factoid about meteorites was moot, as that really had nothing to do with the immediate topic at hand. Interesting, but besides the point. As for my responses, I could say “f you and your site” as you so eloquently put it, but I am not an animal, and am capable of having educated discussions without being offended. I do, however, get slightly perturbed when people misrepresent the truth in favor of something they “believe.” You can have your opinions all you want and no one can argue that, however when your believes completely contradict facts, on a public forum at that, it’s completely understandable that someone would want to correct you. Most rational people don’t lash out or become offended when presented with truth; usually that’s an act reserved for the closed minded. Clearly you only want people who believe exactly what you do to comment. As for your reference to “people like me,” that’s a rather presumptuous assessment, which further leads me to believe you’re offended by all who question your belief system. I won’t call you an asshole, as judging by your retort, you truly seem like person with issues, and I don’t want to contribute further. Pardon me for correcting your blogger with truths. I’ve never been called anything other than a decent person, but thanks again for the laugh 🙂

          • DrTrout

            Dear DrShoemake,

            Salt was discovered when Eve sneezed for the first time on Adam. He was like … “Wtf woman, I taste some wired stuff !” And that was salt… it was a damn salty snotty (I bet you know what I mean). Obviously, Eve was an educated woman and she was blowing her narrow nose into the sea every day (not only on Adam, even tho he was starting to enjoy it). That became a tradition and after a while, eventually, God had enough and, after a few salted sandwiches and some beers, he decided to flood earth (Moses and all that shit). Before you knew it, Eve’s salty mucus was all over the damn place; dinosaurs died, aliens left earth, salt water fishes appeared and penguins start doing movies. Even that nasty snake died drowned in salt.

            Because I’m a fucking licensed historian.

            With all this being told, dear licensed nutritionist DrShoemake, you’re the reason “Dr” can also mean “Delusional retard”.

            With deep love,

          • DrShoemake

            I’m not sure why you people can’t handle facts, or at the least, are so offended by them. Educated conversations be da mned! Next you’re going to tell me you don’t eat gluten, even though you don’t have a gluten allergy. This is why misinformed blogs are dangerous. Bless your heart dear; ignorance is one thing, but refusing to educate yourself further, or refuting facts, is another.

          • DrTrout

            Jesus woman! Stop embarrassing yourself. There’s no wonder why there are so many fat people on this earth, with “licensed nutritionists” like yourself.

            You talk about facts when you don’t even know to do a simple Google search. Get out of your cave and get some help, if it’s not too late already.

          • vexx

            Let’s end this or I’ll close the comment section for this article. Some people think webmasters are janitors with mouse skills while others believe in the Boogie man. Until then, let’s keep things civilized and factual. Many people will find this article very useful no matter what.

          • DrShoemake

            No one is embarrassing themselves except those who refute facts. I believe in being as natural as possible, but pseudo-science does nothing to help anyone, nor do your petty insults.

          • DrTrout

            “No one is embarrassing themselves except those who refute facts.” Since that’s all you did on all your comments in this article, refute facts…. I’m glad you finally agree with me and hopefully, you will stop embarrassing yourself. Honestly, you’re not even funny anymore, it’s just sad and I’m starting to feel pity for you (and this ain’t an insult).

          • DrShoemake

            It doesn’t seem you know the difference between fact and opinion; I wasn’t trying to be funny either. In the future, remember that it’s okay to admit your previously beliefs were incorrect; no harm, no foul. What’s not okay is to deny the truth. I’m a believer in naturopathy, however pseudo-science is another ball game. Your retort is childish at best. In fact I’m not even sure you know what you’re arguing about, and that you just insist on being loud. When you have something to say about the original comment, count me back in to that conversation. Until then, have a good day.

      • Pepper Caselman

        I’m a little confused at all I have read about scrubs for the face. I promise I’m not a Dr. unless you count maybe at BS. 🙂 I’m asking and looking for real knowledge. Most cites, suggest sugar scrubs and or honey for the face, as well as stated above that “sugar granules are rounder than those of sea salt which makes them perfect for use on the face as well as other sensitive areas on your body”. The other question, if there is any broken skin, regardless the type of salt, or where it magically came from (he he), wont it set that open skin on fire? Not to mention that as one is trying to wash the salt off due to burning it could cause them to instantly need to use the potty but not make it. Therefore causing their face to be on fire and not even the wet pants can’t stop it. LOL Wouldn’t it be like having badly chapped lips and eating french fries excessively salted? OR is salt in fact a better scrub for the face AS LONG AS there is not broken skin? I’m not questioning your reply to her but rather asking what you found during your research. Thank You
        To dear Dr. Shoemake, if your single I have a man for you!!! He also can never be wrong and will argue to his last breath even when you show him prof. Perhaps you two can just sit around and debate each other all day. Let me know if you would like a number.

        • Shanda de Vries

          Hi Pepper,

          I would avoid using salt on the face altogether (it’s just too abrasive) and opt for sugar instead. Save the salt scrubs for places like your feet, knees, elbows, and other places with super dry skin. Here’s an excerpt from the article above:

          “Because the edges of sea salt granules are relatively sharp, the scrubs are pretty strong exfoliates and should be reserved for the dryer areas of your body – Your elbows, heels, legs, knuckles, etc. Stay away from any sensitive areas with a salt scrub and avoid using it altogether if you have any skin abrasions unless you’re ready to deal with a lot of stinging.”

          Your face is just too sensitive an area for such harshness. Hope this helps answer your question.

          Thanks for the laugh! Hope that you’re having a fabulous day 🙂

        • Shanda de Vries

          PS – If you’re asking because you’re looking to treat acne (as Mia was), I’d suggest making more of a salt water mixture (more salt than water, obviously) and using that.

          Thanks for reading!

    • DrShoemake

      Either salt will work; a sugar scrub would be beneficial as well. 1 part salt/sugar to 2 parts oil (olive or coconut). For acne, I would recommend adding frankincense, as it in both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. If the scent isn’t appealing, you can try lemon juice and honey. However, keep in mind that you may have to play around with the formula, as everyone chemistry is different. It could work, or cause a bigger flare up. A big misconception is that you have to dry the area out; make sure to moisturize in addition to any treatment you’re using.

  • Emmett

    Sugar scrubs in the bath tub is a great DIY recipe for a yeast infection

    • Hollywood22

      As long as you don’t use it inside your lady bits, you’ll be fine

    • Miss Ann Thropic

      First, I would hope no woman is using the scrub directly on or inside her vagina….Second, a candida overgrowth AKA yeast infection has much more to do with diet (how much sugar one consumes), the pH of the body, and the balance of good and bad gut bacteria. As long as you are not putting sugar on your vag, you should be just fine, if you do by accident somehow get some down there, simply rinse it off and apply coconut oil directly to the area after your shower. Coconut oil naturally kills yeast on contact. Ladies, there will always be a Debbie Downer in the bunch….. and people wonder why I call myself Miss Ann Thropic.

  • Andy Lee

    I am so excited to try the brown sugar scrub! Thanks!. I’m pinning!

  • Betty Hudson

    Love scrubs! Got a salt scrub as a gift and love it to exfoliate my legs. I want to try the sugar scrubs for the rest of me, using lavender essential oil.

  • chic

    how long can I store these scrubs? =)

    • It depends on what ingredients you use. Those including foods (like bananas, strawberries….etc.) are best if you make and use right away. If you just mix salt/sugar with carrier oils, essential oils and other stuff that keeps well (like dried flowers for example) those you can store in a cool place (even in the fridge during summer) and they can surely keep for at least 1-2 weeks. When an oil goes rancid it smells funky….that’s a pretty good indicator your scrub has gone bad 🙂

  • Nicole Gallucci

    I just was wondering what the lip paste thing is actually called. Trying to explain it and calling it a lip paste thingy is getting a little odd. :p

    • Shanda de Vries

      Hey Nicole!

      Haha, I can imagine! Just call it ‘homemade lip gloss’ or something like that.

      Thanks for reading!

  • tee O

    fyi, pinterest won’t let this pen go through says it’s inappropriate – check into it – it’s great info to have