Category Archives: Sugar Scrub

The Oatmeal Challenge

The results of our first ever Scrub Evaluation pointed us in the direction of improving an existing Oatmeal Scrub recipe of Brooke’s.

We got together at Puja’s house with the sole intention of brainstorming what we need to do differently to perk up our current existing recipe.

The oatmeal scrub tested in our scrub eval, while great, had some weaknesses we want to correct:

  • Weak scrubbing power due to only using brown sugar
  • Large oatmeal grain size, leading to excessive clumping, but fell apart once coming into contact with water.
  • Great moisturizing power, but was on a lot on the greasy side
  • Smells like a cookie, but was, for lack of better word, underwhelming for a scrub.

So, while we chomped on homemade blueberry yogurt cookies, stuffed down endless chips with guacamole and spicy chutney, we were listing out ideas for experimenting different variations that would lead us to the right recipe.

Just a little background – as engineers, we were trained the moment we start to pack as much factors into as little splits as possible. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we could do the entire experiment within three splits, and that should give us a good direction of what else needs to be done after we receive the response.

Here’s us, “brainstorming”, which is pretty much making Brooke work on the laptop while Puja and I chilled and acted busy in front of the camera. But I pinky swear we contributed!

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One thing we decided early on was to dress up the scent of our scrub. Since it already smells like a cookie due to the oats and coconut oil, we decided to go all out, and bump up the aroma by adding vanilla extract and cinnamon powder. The final product does smell a lot more like a festive oatmeal cookie and reminded us that Thanksgiving is just right round the corner!

The main factors we want to evaluate with these three splits are:

  • Scrubbing power – evaluated by brown, white or mix of both
  • Moisture and feel – evaluated by safflower oil only, coconut only, and both
  • Aroma is a mix of all ingredients since coconut oil and brown sugar added in a nutty and sweet molasses smell in addition to our vanilla and cinnamon powder.

This is what our plan looked like in the beginning. All we know is we wanted to start with half cup of grinded oatmeal. Everything else is a question mark.

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Once we are done planning, we need to lock down another key factor – the size of the oats. It has to be smaller as the original big grains were not doing our scrub any favor.

We processed the oats, tested the scrub efficiency for different oat size, and finally decided on three pulses on a Ninja blender. Think normal rolled oats, cut into quarters, and you will roughly get the final size.

Basically, anything smaller is too fine and got lost when scrubbing. Anything bigger simply falls apart during scrubbing since it’s too big and unable to bind to both oil and sugar. “Ahhh, a quarter of the original size is just right!” is what Goldilocks would have said, if she’s here sipping wine, and grinding up oats with us. But she’s probably still lost in the woods somewhere.

Once the oat size is determined, we rolled up our sleeves, topped up our wine glasses, and got to work chopping, measuring, mixing, testing the consistency, changing recipe ratios, adding in oil tablespoon by tablespoon, stopping only when we found the consistency we like while recording every increment for each ingredient. Breathe. Then we added vanilla essence and cinnamon powder. With each increment of the ingredient added, we sniffed the scrub, tested it by scrubbing our hands, sniffed our hands, added more cinnamon and vanilla, change record on our recipe sheet, breathe again, drink more wine, and finally we got a result we like for our first variation.

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Ecstatic, we spooned that into a jar, labelled it, top up our wine, clinked it, sipped that and repeat for test 2 and three.

And finally, after couple of iteration of testing and recording, we created three variations of our oatmeal scrub. And coming from a group claiming we are very “creative”, we stayed true to our engineering spirit by fondly naming it Test 1, Test 2 and Test 3.

131121 - 5Our final recipe for Test 1, 2 and 3.

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And now, it’s time to find some good friends and get them to test and provide feedback.

Will we ever change the recipe? Sure, it’s always going to be a work in progress. Plus, what worked for us may not be what everyone liked. But with loads of good wine and patience, we should be able to keep coming up with nice scrubs.

Oh, and while Mummy Puja is busy making grown up scrubs, little Twara is busy eating Brooke’s blueberry yogurt cookie. Such a delicious cookie, you gotta love it!

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For all of you out there – have you ever made a oatmeal scrub? What do you look out for in a oatmeal scrub? We are still learning, but so far the process was really fun 😀 If you are willing to share your recipe with us, we’ll really appreciate it.


The Scrub Evaluation

The first ever scrub evaluation we did started unintentionally, with no plans or design.

It was more of a “Hey, how about we’ll each bring a scrub that we made, and then let’s exchange notes!!”

That ‘how about’ moment (via text message) led to 30 minutes of non-stop scrubbing, notes taking and discussion. At the end of our first scrubbing evaluation (or eval for short), we were left with ultra-smooth hands that slightly hurt because of the extensive scrubbing. On the bright side, we went out declaring we now have ZERO dead skin. And it glows. Probably even in the dark.

Because there weren’t any rules or guidelines, we made five very different types of scrubs.

This is what we made:

  • Puja – Grapefruit Turbinado Sugar Scrub (P1)
  • Janette – Rose and Lavender Sugar Scrub (J1), Coffee Coconut Sugar Scrub (J2)
  • Brooke – Oatmeal Brown Sugar Scrub (B1), Lemon Scrub (B2)

This is the breakdown of what went into each scrub.

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To determine effectiveness and desirability, we created a simple scoring system centering on moisturizing factor, scent desirability and scrubbing effectiveness.

Each is ranked on a number scale – 1 being least desirable and 10 being most awesome.

We then gave our honest, brutal feedback and it quickly became apparent that the three of us have very different perspectives on how a good scrub should behave.

There are, however, common points as observed from boxplots plotted for each factor.

1.      Scrub Effectiveness – Data and Observations

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  • We found that white sugar generally scrubs better than brown sugar. Brown sugar is way too fine and dissolves quickly under just a tiny bit of water. Blend of both might negate this issue, while maintaining gentleness.
  • We all agreed that turbinado sugar is too rough on the skin. It actually hurts a lot more for me because I generally scrubbed really hard. There were scratches resulting from the scrub on my knuckles, and I dare not imagine using it on my body. It would, however, be perfect in a foot scrub.
  • We thought oatmeal was gentle. In fact slightly too gentle even with addition of brown sugar. It was wildly lacking in oomph factor in the scrubbing department. The only saving grace was that Brooke didn’t own any food processor. Lack of food processor, and the refusal to spend hours chopping oatmeal into fine dust resulted in large granules of oatmeal that still delivered some scrubbing power. But because her oatmeal was so chunky, adding coconut oil resulted in a scrub that smells and looks like a yummy granola bar. Not willing to give up on that yummy smelling scrub, we agreed that we need to look into a optimal oatmeal granule size.

2.       Moisturizing Factor – Data and Observations

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  • We had 4 different oils that day – almond, safflower, coconut and olive oil. Olive oil and coconut oil, while really moisturizing, leaves a pretty obvious greasy residue on our skin, a feeling which both Puja and me were not very keen on.
  • On the other end of moisturizing spectrum, we found that almond oil and safflower oil are really quick absorbing; hence it is the least greasy of the five scrubs. But the moisturizing factor wasn’t as long lasting as the coconut oil and olive oil.
  • One surprising fact that we uncovered is that natural coffee oil excreted when coffee beans were grinded was really moisturizing. Comparing the rose scrub to the coffee scrub, while both used the same amount of safflower oil, the coffee scrub actually leaves a softer, silkier feeling. And data supports this observation. This is something that we will continue to look into.
  • Conclusion –A blend of oils is definitely needed to achieve the right moisturizing factor and feel.

3.       Aroma – Data and Observations

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  • Only the Rose and Lavender Scrub used fragrance oil, and that results in general overall swoon from the panel of judges (aka us). Lemon scrub smells nice, but was lacking the depth and could benefit from some lemon essential oil. So will the grapefruit scrub. Oatmeal remains yummy due to coconut oil and molasses from brown sugar, but the consensus is that it could be tweaked to smell even more delicious, say addition of vanilla and cinnamon maybe.
  • One last thing we note was that coffee scrub is messy. Period. Coupled with the fact that I used the oldest, most oxidized coffee beans I have around, the resulting aroma is faintly (Or shall I say strongly?) reminiscent of burnt cigarette butts. No matter how much coconut and vanilla I added, it just simply wasn’t enough to mask the smell. And this is our first lesson on quality ingredients = quality products.

Plotting the averages onto a radar chart, and by looking at areas under each triangle, we found two clear winners – Oatmeal Brown Sugar and Rose & Lavender Sugar Scrub.

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We like Rose & Lavender Sugar Scrub because of a few factors – It smells awesome, thanks to the addition of rose fragrance. The fragrance lingered on for at least 5 hours after scrubbing. It delivered the right scrubbing consistency, had kaolin clay added which helped in softening the skin and safflower oil which is light and leaves virtually no greasy feeling. Most importantly, it had beautiful rose petals and lavender flowers added, making us feel extra pampered. The only drawback we found was the loose consistency. Having a loose powdery-like scrub means that it falls apart really easily, resulting in product waste down the drain. So my mission for this week is to figure out the correct Sugar : Clay : Oil ratio to get to a good scrub consistency.

We also like the Oatmeal Brown Sugar Scrub because it was gentle, and smelled SO YUMMY! Addition of coconut oil made the whole scrub smell like a yummy cookie dough. Oatmeal was gentle enough, but we feel like we could tweak the Sugar : Oat ratio to still deliver a gentle scrub that actually scrubs properly. We might need to explore a blend of white and brown sugar as brown sugar on its own doesn’t hold up well during scrubbing tests. We most definitely need to look into the oat size. We also liked the addition of coconut oil due to its moisturizing properties, but the scrub was simply too greasy. Overall, we need to relook into the Oat : Sugar : Oil ratio, or to create a blend of sugar and oil to keep the scrub gentle, and yet eliminate the greasy residue.

So, our mission for this week is to tweak these two scrubs. And that starts with a design of experiment (DOE). And maybe getting Brooke a food processor.

In the meantime, it’s time to find our guinea pigs, erm friends, buy them coffee, and get them mentally prepared for 30 mins of non-stop scrubbing action. Hey, that’s what friends are for, right? At the very least, they can claim their hands now glow in the dark. All thanks to The Soap Engineers! 😀