Exfoliating Caffè Latte Face & Body Mask




Introduction: Exfoliating Caffè Latte Face & Body Mask

Who doesn't love a good jolt of caffeine to wake you up? Every morning, I fix myself a latte to get going. I love treating myself to the vanilla iced cold brew latte from Sightglass, my favorite coffee shop in San Francisco (which is where I took the above photo). I love how decadent and filling - and inspiring, apparently - a good latte can be.

So of course my DIY antenna shot straight up when I started seeing a major buzz around bath and body products that contain caffeine - like this fantastic eye cream by 100% Pure - and I got really interested when I started seeing actual coffee grounds in products, like the very, ahem, well-brandedMr. Bean Body Scrub. I love this mainstreaming in the beauty industry of holistic health principles - so many brands, corporate and indie, are using healthy, organic, often edible ingredients.

That said, the more "natural" products I see on the market, the more inclined I am to just save time and money by using the great raw ingredients I already have at home. Given my obsession with lattes, that's where I started for inspiration for this DIY. Everything I put in my morning latte is chock-full of ingredients that are awesome for skin, and what else would I do with all those espresso grounds anyways?

After experimenting in the dual laboratory that is my kitchen and my shower, I've created this exfoliating latte face & body mask recipe. Read on for info on how to choose the right edible ingredients for your skin type, the recipe that I developed for my specific skincare needs, and some tips on how to make the best of your exfoliating treatment!

Step 1: Raid Your Kitchen Cabinet

The great thing about making your own bath and body products is you can usually find everything you need in your kitchen, and you can tailor your products to fit your exact skincare needs! For this exfoliating latte face and body mask, you'll need four basic ingredients:

  • Used coffee grounds
  • Cream
  • Sugar
  • A binder

In the next few steps, we'll go over how to choose the right type of coffee, cream, sugar, and binder for your personal skincare needs.

Step 2: Pick Your Brew

Coffee: Friend or Foe?

I've been a big coffee drinker since high school. I fell in love one day while I was totally exhausted in French class and let my friend get me a cup of coffee from the corner store. All of a sudden I felt alive again, and that was it. As I became a health-conscious adult, I was concerned with the debate on whether coffee is good or bad for you. After years of casual research and personal experimentation, I've developed some boundaries around my coffee consumption that works well for me.

Basically, stick to the good stuff. Like most foods, the quality of the coffee you're consuming is important. Look for organic, fair-trade coffee. Avoid pesticides and chemicals in your coffee as much as possible. This is possibly even more important when selecting coffee that is going on your skin. When you eat or drink something, whatever doesn't serve as fuel for your body gets filtered through your internal organs. When you apply something to your skin, the toxic crap doesn't get filtered, and if the molecules are small enough, they will absorb straight into your body through your skin.

So don't put pesticides and preservatives on your skin. Common sense.

Benefits of Coffee for Skin

  1. Organic coffee beans are full of anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory -- and skin aging is the result of inflammation. Two plus two equals four.
  2. Caffeine, applied to the face, constricts small blood vessels, reducing in brightening of undereye circles.
  3. Caffeine temporarily dehydrates fat cells and improves blood circulation, reducing the appearance of cellulite when applied to your -- wherever you have cellulite. :)

There is a ton of information out there on the benefits of coffee for your skin. Google it. Try it. See for yourself.

Why Espresso?

I initially tried a coarse French press grind -- it's way too rough, even for my feet. Espresso is fine enough for my face and body -- though I would recommend being much more gentle when exfoliating the face, perhaps not even physically rubbing as much as just leaving the mask on and gently rinsing, since the acids from the sugars and milk will provide gentle chemical exfoliation (we'll go over this in future steps).

One thing about espresso is it's a darker roast, meaning it has lower caffeine content than a lighter roast, which could work in your favor if you prefer to shower at night. If you want more of the blood-vessel-constricting, cellulite-blasting effects, try a lighter roast and just get it finely ground. I'm sensitive to caffeine, so I only use this product in the morning. Yes, your skin absorbs caffeine into your blood stream, so keep that in mind when deciding when to use it!

Step 3: Pick Your Fixings

Pick Your Cream

By "cream" I really mean anything containing lactic acid, a chemical naturally found in many dairy products.Lactic acid is a keratolytic product, used in medical and cosmetic procedures to eat away dead skin cells and soften keratin, resulting in softer, smoother skin.

Recommended sources of lactic acid:

  • Organic milk from cow, goat, sheep - powdered is nice because it keeps in the freezer for longer.
  • Sour milk products like yogurt or kefir.


If you're vegan, you can either buy pure lactic acid which is not derived from dairy, or forget the lactic acid and try using cocoa butter instead! Cocoa butter is high in stearic acid, which is an ingredient often found in skin cleansing products. You'll get less of an exfoliating effect and more of a deep-cleansing product.

Pick Your Sugar

It's pretty widely understood that sugar is bad for you at this point -- it causes inflammation in the body, causing everything from PMS to cancer to aging. So why should you put sugar on your skin? The difference is when applied to skin, it doesn't "feed" and damage your cells -- it acts as a surface exfoliant because it's another alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) compound like lactic acid. The acid in cane sugar is called glycolic acid, another ingredient used in isolation in cosmetic products for its exfoliating properties.

Recommended sources of glycolic acid:

  • Cane sugar: Contains the highest concentrations of glycolic acid that you can find in a grocery store, so it's good for normal, healthy, and aging skin types, but not so good for sensitive or damaged skin.
  • Blackstrap molasses: This is the byproduct of cane sugar production. It contains less glycolic acid than cane sugar, but it is higher in iron, calcium, and magnesium (since those are what were stripped out of the cane sugar to begin with). Great for all skin types, including sensitive and damaged skin.

Pick Your Binder

A binder is anything that will turn your scrub into a paste. I tried to use the scrub without a binder, and the shower sprayed the espresso grounds all over the place, making a huge mess. With a binder, the product has some slip and rinses off clean. So use a binder!

  • Agar agar: Made from seaweed, agar agar used widely in Asian cuisine for its health benefits and thickening properties - for example, it is used in Kohi Zeri ("coffee jelly"), a popular and delicious dessert that I used to enjoy when I lived in Japan. As a cosmetic ingredient, it conditions the skin with sea minerals and hydrating properties.
  • Guar gum: Another common plant-based food thickener and dietary fiber. Used topically, guar gum acts as a hydrocolloid barrier similar to those used in hospitals as wound dressings - the guar fibers bind with water to create a soothing gel barrier that promotes hydration and skin healing.
  • Gelatin: Usually made from boiling the bones, ligaments, and tendons of cows or pigs - if you are pro-animal consumption, here is a quick list of the health benefits of consuming gelatin. It is very high in a protein called collagen, which you need to keep your skin, hair, and nails healthy and strong.

Step 4: Put It On!

My Recipe

  • 1-2 cups previously-brewed espresso grounds (1 cup if you plan to use as a mask, 2 cups if you prefer a physical exfoliation)
  • 1 cup goat milk powder (plus water as needed)
  • 1/2 cup Blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tbs Guar gum

I chose espresso grounds because, as I mentioned earlier, it felt way more pleasant on my skin than the coarser French-press grounds.

I already happened to have organic goat milk powder that I use to make a quick lactic acid mask (by combining with apple cider vinegar).

I chose Blackstrap molasses because my skin is sensitive to acid chemical peels, which I can deal with if it's just on a monthly basis, but I love how this stuff smells so much that I've been using it a couple times a week, so I wanted something more mild. I also tend to work hard, play hard, and not sleep enough (working on it - aren't we all?), so my skin tends to look "tired" -- the nutrients in the molasses seem to bring me back to life.

As for why I chose guar gum -- I happen to have a huge container of it and am trying to use it up. I'll try agar agar next time because my skin just loves anything containing sea minerals.

All of the above ratios are approximate, and the ratios will vary based on which type of coffee, milk, sugar, and binder you choose. Generally speaking, first mix the grounds, milk, and sugar till you have a mixture that is slightly thicker than a latte. Then add your binder little by little, stirring all along, until you have a mixture that is the consistency of pudding. It's going to smell awesome, and you may be tempted to eat it. (It tastes great, if a little gritty.)

As a face mask, apply liberally and leave it on for 15 minutes. The guar gum provides a nice texture for applying to the skin, and I was pleased to find that it didn't dry out and crumble all over the place. It also had a nice slip to it, was very easy to rinse off, and left no residue. My skin was hydrated and smooth and my pores were tighter. Perfect.

As a body scrub, I found that I needed to use 2 cups of espresso grounds to really feel the physical exfoliation. It left my skin smooth, glowing, and smelling delicious.

Bonus Tips

Store your scrub in an airtight container in the fridge, NOT in your bathroom or shower. There is a ton of water in this recipe, which will result in mold if left unrefrigerated for more than a couple hours, plus tons of yummy edible ingredients that are just as appetizing to bacteria as they are to us humans.

This advice applies to everyone all the time, but especially so if you've just undergone any degree of chemical exfoliation - WEAR SUNSCREEN. I like MyChelle SunShield - it's a mineral-based sunscreen, the coconut one smells light and lovely (they also have an unscented version), and it leaves no greasy or white residue like other mineral-based sunscreens.

Finally, and this goes for all DIY bath and body products: Experiment! Your skin changes based on your environment, hormonal cycle, stress level, all kinds of environmental factors! What works for you one day may not work for the next. For this reason, it's best to whip together this scrub from scratch every few days.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on Instagram @KirikoKikuchi or shoot me an email at KirikoKikuchi@gmail.com if you want to nerd out about healthy beauty tips!

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    've tried for several days to download this and it keeps failing with messages about flaws. I download a lot and this is the first time I've run into this. And yes, I'm downloading it for my wife. Exfoliation isn't really my style... She loves the instructable by the way. Thanks


    8 years ago

    Wow. This was really thorough and informative. Thanks for providing explanations for all the components as well as your process for coming up with the final mix--as someone who's super paranoid about skin products, that makes me feel much better about trying this :D!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great project. Very well done! Thanks for sharing this.