26 Natural Exfoliants to Add Into Homemade Soaps

Natural exfoliants
Gentl and Hyers / Getty Images

Exfoliation is very important to overall skin health because it keeps your skin smooth and removes dead skin particles. A little bit of scrub and grit goes a long way of giving your skin a rejuvenating and radiant glow.

Along with dozens of natural colorants (both cold process and melt-n-pour) that create different shades in soaps, there are also many natural exfoliants you can choose from and include to give your soap some scrub factor.

Experiment with the following exfoliants when the inspiration strikes you to make soap. You can start with a single favorite or even combine two or three exfoliating ingredients into your next soap creation.

Most Common Soap Exfoliants

These exfoliants are easy to find and many soap makers use them. They're popular for good reason—they work well and they're readily available. If you're just starting out with adding exfoliants to your soap, it's a good idea to try these tried and true ingredients first to see how you like them.

  • Calendula: Chopped or ground flower petals retain their yellow color.
  • Chamomile Flowers: You can also make tea from it and use it in place of water.
  • Coffee Grounds: Coffee can tend to bleed like mint, so some people brew it first.
  • Eucalyptus Leaves: Be sure to grind—eucalyptus can be a bit scratchy if in larger pieces.
  • Lavender Buds: Grind them quite a bit or they tend to look like mouse droppings—they turn brown in cold process soap.
  • Loofah: You can use either whole, sliced, or ground—this ingredient is especially popular in melt-n-pour soaps.
  • Oatmeal: Different amounts of grinding give different effects—coarse is very scrubby, whereas finely ground is very mild.
  • Patchouli: Can be a little scratchy, but smells amazing.
  • Peppermint and Spearmint: Be careful of "botanical bleed" and other challenges with mints.
  • Poppy Seeds: Lemon poppy seed soap is gentle and energizing.
  • Pumice: A popular choice for those with extra rough hands.
  • Rose Hips: Use finely groundgreat for both color and scrub factor.
  • Rose Petals: These flowers create a nice scrub, but remember they do turn black.
  • Sandalwood powder: This powder makes a really lovely purple color, but beware it can also be very scratchy.
  • Tea leaves: While soothing, tea leaves will likely bleed so be sure to read these tips for using tea before adding them to your soap.

Unique Soap Exfoliants

Some of these examples are harder to find and working them into your soap can be more difficult. If you're an experienced soap maker looking to evolve your product, these natural ingredients will help you create a truly special exfoliant experience.

  • Clays: Try rhassoul, kaolin, bentonite, pink, red Moroccan, French green, and other varieties. The addition of clay in soap mostly affects color, though they do create gentle exfoliation.
  • Coconut flakes: Sprinkle some on top or incorporate in your soap—a great combination with coconut milk soap.
  • Corn meal: This grain brings a nice and scrubby effect.
  • Fruit seeds: Experiment with cranberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, apricot pits, etc.
  • Jojoba beads: Jojoba beads are especially effective in melt and pour or rebatched soap. If you use it in cold process soap, you have to make sure that the gel stage doesn't get above 160 degrees.
  • Kelp: Use with caution as too much can smell fishy.
  • Oatstraw: In addition to a soft scrub, oatstraw imparts a light green color.
  • Rosemary: Can be a bit scratchy, but has a refreshing scent.
  • Sunflower petals: These petals hold up as well as Calendula, but they are quite beautiful.
  • Tapioca pearls: Best in melt and pour soap.
  • Fruit fibers: Blackberry and raspberry are good choices. Some soap makers also rave about these in sugar scrubs.

As you can see there are as many types of botanical exfoliants are there are types of soap makers. Add a little exfoliant to your next batch and see how you like it!