The Hype Behind the Coffee Scrub: A Guide on Caffeinated Beauty

This might sound ridiculous, but...I don't really like coffee. 

I'm sure all you early-morning risers, creatives and commuters out there probably just spat your coffee at your screen reading that wee statement, but nonetheless, it is true. 

Don't get me wrong: I like coffee sometimes. The odd cup of cold brew in the Summer or peppermint mocha in the Winter is a welcome one; who am I to turn down a delicious beverage which will keep me alert and improve my cognitive function? But when it comes to being a faithful coffee drinker loyal to a local cafe, let's just say that isn't me. I left my regular coffee-drinking days behind me in Sweden. 

As much as I don't enjoy coffee on a daily basis, the oddly contradictory thing is that I do...in my beauty routine. I may not consume coffee by the cup full each day, but I do use it in my daily skincare regimen, and it's become my secret weapon to smooth, glowing skin. And I'm not the only one; in fact, coffee has become such a popular beauty ingredient that the brew you find in the bottom of your coffee cup could readily be used on your hair and skin. Who knew, right?

You've probably become most familiar with coffee and its integration into beauty products via coffee scrubs. Let me preface the rest of this article by stating that I love coffee scrubs. Sure, there's coffee oil for your face and coffee shampoo for your hair...but they simply don't compare to a coffee scrub. Not even a little bit. Coffee scrubs wake you up in the morning, smooth your skin, give you a glow and can even help with cellulite - not that you need it. You should be proud of your cellulite; embrace that shit. 

But really, everyone wants smooth skin and a glowing complexion; you've probably just disregarded coffee as a way to achieve that. Choosing the right scrub can be hard, figuring out how to use it in a way that works for your skin can be a challenge, and you may be unfamiliar with brands crafting natural scrubs free from those weird, synthetic fragrances and preservatives. Luckily for you, I've tested and tried more than a few coffee scrubs in my day and have pretty much experienced it all when it comes to coffee and my body. This guide is the result of my trials and tribulations with coffee scrubs, and if you're looking to incorporate one into your beauty routine, this guide may just lend you a helping hand. 

How They Work

The first thing to know before using coffee scrubs is how they work. Mostly known for battling cellulite, coffee scrubs are so effective because of coffee's diuretic properties. Essentially, coffee itself is a diuretic which works by dehydrating skin and fat cells in the body. That may seem a bit scary - and maybe a bit unhealthy? - but in truth, it's good news for those looking to tighten and tone their skin. As coffee in your scrub works by drawing fluid away from the cells, the cells subsequently shrink in size and what results is a tighter, more toned complexion. It's the secret behind coffee as a solution to cellulite, but it also makes it a powerful ingredient for toning your complexion and creating a smoother, more even tone to your skin. Coffee also packs a stellar punch of antioxidants that help brighten the skin; just another added benefit. 

Why You Should Use One 

Unlike many other common exfoliating ingredients - like sugars, sands, and even nutshells - coffee doesn't tear away the delicate cells on the surface of your skin. It instead delivers antioxidants and nutrients to the skin, along with a dose of caffeine, to help scrub away dirt, oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. And in case you were wondering why that's a good thing - and why it should be incentive enough for you to use one - the build up of dead skills inhibits the growth of new ones, which could be why you can't seem to get rid of minor scarring, dullness, or fine lines. New skin cells do, after all, play a role in keeping our skin looking youthful, plump and line-free. You can easily make your own coffee scrub at home, and those available to you from brands often function as more cost-effective, less-abrasive solutions to those hella expensive scrubs filled with chemicals and weird, artificial additives. 

What to Look For 

If you're stumped when it comes to finding the right coffee scrub, the first "rule of thumb" is that you should always avoid those which contain artificial fragrances, dyes or synthetic ingredients. Especially if you have sensitive skin, these fake additives can be irritating for your complexion and have zero benefits for the skin. They may also cause you to break out or experience adverse reactions that a natural coffee scrub wouldn't. Your best bet (and what I've had most luck with) is to use a coffee scrub with a limited ingredient list, one that utilizes real coffee (and not just coffee oil mixed with nutshells or sugars) and a binding ingredient like coconut oil. Your coffee scrub should boast real coffee with no artificial fragrances or colorants. 

Any coffee scrub I've had positive results with has always been one with a base of two key ingredients: real coffee grounds and a natural oil (like coconut, or grape seed). Some scrubs will contain essential oils to help the skin and add a touch of natural fragrance, but as long as these are not synthetic fragrances, your skin should be fine. For a scrub which will help tone the skin and keep wrinkles at bay (or lessen their appearance), look for a scrub which includes Vitamin E oil. Most coffee scrubs do, so you're in luck!

How to Use It 

How you use your coffee scrub is based entirely on your own preference, but you should always ensure the scrub your buying is safe for your skin. You may find, as I sometimes have, that some brands will make coffee-based body polishes with an ingredient like shea butter, which may be too heavy for the skin and could cause breakouts. Often, brands will provide information about how and where to use their coffee scrubs, but one with a limited ingredient list like Wilderness Soap Co's has, in my experience, worked well for my body and face. My advice is to avoid using coffee scrubs on your face that contain heavier butters or oils, and reserve those for your body instead. 

Application wise, the best way to reap the most reward for your skin from your coffee scrub is to take a small scoop, mix it with a little bit of water (most are not moist enough on their own) and massage the scrub into your skin gently using upward circular motions. You do not need to scrub away at your skin like you're scrubbing grime from floor tiles, because the ground coffee will do the tough work for you. You can leave the scrub on your face for a few minutes after massaging it in, or simply rinse it off with water or a washcloth. If your skin is sensitive to coconut or other oils, use a toner afterwards to further clarify the skin. When using a coffee scrub on my body, I typically use a body brush and scrub my body in upward motions while I'm in the shower. I often end up with smooth, hydrated skin ready for lotion or body oils. 

Hot tip: use a coffee scrub in the morning when washing your face or showering to wake up the sense and give yourself a wakeup call. You can also use coffee scrubs on your hair at the roots to scrub away product buildup and dead skin cells on the scalp. 

Coffee Scrub Recommendations 

BeautyJacalyn BealesComment