Spilling the Beans on Coffee Scrub: Used Grounds vs Fresh Grounds
There are two common methods of manufacturing coffee scrub: repurposing used coffee grounds and using freshly ground coffee. What’s the difference and why does it matter?
Out With The Old
There’s no question: repurposing used coffee grounds is a brilliant environmental initiative. It prevents the grounds from entering landfill and creates a circular economy that allows cafes to reduce waste while scrub manufacturers benefit from (often free) unwanted raw materials. However, there are several problems that arise from this method: namely efficacy and sanitation.
But First, Coffee
The primary reason ground coffee is used in face and body scrubs is its caffeine content. Why? When coffee is ingested it stimulates the brain, resulting in increased alertness. Similarly, when coffee is applied topically it penetrates the skin and stimulates blood flow, leading to better circulation. This has a host of benefits from tightening the surface of the skin, which reduces the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks, to reducing inflammation and swelling resulting in a smoother skin texture, and encouraging cellular renewal to reveal fresher, brighter skin.
The problem with incorporating used coffee into scrubs is that the grounds are missing the key ingredient for efficacy: caffeine. Caffeine is removed from the beans during the extraction process, so it ends up in a latte instead of in your scrub – making scrubbing with used grounds a little redundant.
Test The Waters
The other issue with used coffee grounds is bacteria. When water is introduced into almost anything it can create an environment conducive to bacteria growth. Ground coffee is no exception. Used coffee grounds have been saturated by water during the extraction process, after which they sit in open containers exposed to air. The combination of water, oxygen and coffee is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. There are two outcomes: a high risk of microscopic mould spores and microorganisms developing in the scrub and potentially leading to infection, or the introduction of a synthetic preservative system to fight bacteria, which means the addition of chemical materials.
In With The New
Freshly ground coffee retains its natural caffeine content, making it highly efficacious in delivering results. (Note: different species of coffee have varying levels of caffeine. To learn more read Spilling the Beans on Coffee Scrub: Arabica vs Robusta.)
Scrubs manufactured with freshly ground coffee are unlikely to require harsh synthetic preservative systems, as combining dry raw materials with high levels of good quality oil results in a product that is naturally uninhabitable for microorganisms.
Fresh Is Best, But What About The Environment?
Using fresh coffee in scrubs can be environmentally sound providing the process is conducted with integrity from end-to-end. Namely, sourcing certified organic coffee that has been grown and harvested sustainably; ensuring that the coffee is produced under fair trade agreements; and working directly with farmers to make sure that profits go back into the plantations and communities that rely on them. If coffee scrub manufacturers can adhere to high standards, there is little environmental or social degradation associated with the product.
And those used coffee grounds? They’re better off being composted or added directly to garden beds to create nutrient-rich soil.
The Take Away
Scrubbing with the right coffee has great benefits for the skin. Look for a scrub that contains freshly ground certified organic and fair trade coffee and has zero water content. Check the label and give it a miss if water/aqua is listed as an ingredient or the scrub contains preservatives: these are key indicators of poor quality.
At WØRKS melbourne, we source fair trade certified organic Robusta and Arabica coffee beans that have been grown and harvested sustainably. By working with fair trade partners we’re helping to ensure that marginalised farmers and workers are treated with respect and dignity, and are empowered through education, skills and resources. We source our beans whole and grind and blend them in-house for optimum freshness and efficacy. Our scrubs never contain water or chemical preservatives.