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The coffee scrub trend gets sparkly.

May 2, 2017

Coffee scrubs existed before the Aussie brand ‘Frank’ came into being but it would be hard to argue that they haven’t been a game changer in this area.

I’ve written a post about this here, as you can see my head is somewhat all over the place with this brand as I move from the shear ‘wow, what an achievement’ to ‘you want me to put WHAT down my plug hole’.  It’s confusing but ultimately this is a big WIN for Frank and their little Frankfurters and that’s gotta be good for something.

Frank shimmer scrub


So Frank coffee scrub………As far as cosmetic chemistry goes there really isn’t much to say about these loose scrubs. They are easy to make (just shake some stuff together and put it into a bag) once you’ve got the right ratio of wet to dry stuff and have addressed any potential for microbes (low) and oxidation (can be quite high, depending on the other ingredients).   When packaged in those food-type pouches they should have a long and happy shelf life.

When it comes to the money side of things  again it’s all sweet, especially if you can fill these scrubs with relatively cheap ingredients – salt and/or sugar while eeking out the dearest and most volatile (price wise) of ingredients – coffee.   While some brands (including Frank at the beginning I think) do go to the lengths of recovering used coffee grinds from cafes this strategy, this strategy may turn out to be more costly in the long-term as the quality, moisture content and contamination potential of this waste can lead to up-stream problems that might just prove too difficult to overcome.

So that was my first though.

Only now iconic brand Frank is upping the anti again by adding shimmer. Welcome thought number two….

So initially I was like ‘oh great,  now the coffee-down-my-plug-hole trend is adding little pieces of sparkly plastic to clog my pipes’  and I posted my thoughts to my Facebook page.  Well, it turned out that I’d posted prematurely and that what I thought was glitter was in fact mica based ‘shimmer’ – slightly different. Mica is not plastic, it is a naturally mined mineral, usually mined in open cut mines in north east India but that’s another story.  Apparently it is biodegradable but I don’t actually think that minerals biodegrade, they just integrate but that’s a minor technicality.

But all that did get me thinking about what this trend is doing to our plumbing.

I am a plumbers daughter so I can’t help but think about these (boring) things.  I have to admit to having spent a few Saturday afternoons with my dad and his long drain cleaning machinery as he stuck his hands into other peoples toilets while I made the tea, swept the floor and ran back and forth to the van to collect the tool he needed next.

I’d be lying if I said Coffee and shimmer down the drain doesn’t worry me…..

But I’ll get to that later.

My third thought was back to the brand and it’s insane ability to make people part with their money for something as unremarkable as coffee scrub in a bag. 

What I find interesting about all this is how a seemingly simple and not-really innovative product (in terms of formulation) has captured the imaginations of people around the world in what can only be described as a triumph of marketing and brand experience.  Clearly people love Frank and why wouldn’t they?  If you follow ‘Frank’ on instagram you find ‘him’ cheeky, flirty, personable, inclusive and fun!  You can become a Frankfurter (fan of the brand), can send in your happy snaps of you enjoying your scrub moment and can get the inside gossip on what the brand is up to next.  This is exactly what the 15-25 year age group want from a brand – a bit of  sexy, risque but safe (and mostly natural based on the ingredients list) fun for under $20.  Apparently their limited edition shimmer scrub has a waiting list of 55,000 people ( – OMG I think I’ve gone all FOMO and have go get me some….

And then my mind comes back to the brand ingredients and claims – those damn claims….

As a cosmetic chemist it is only natural for me to focus on the formula and as I mentioned in the beginning, it isn’t exactly rocket science but this is as good a time as any to remind people that a formula doesn’t have to be that complex as long as it does its job and that’s where I do start to feel uncomfortable.  I have taken issue with this brand (in my own head only – I am not the brand police) for some of the claims they have made about their product on social media in the past – claims to do with treating stretch marks, acne, eczema etc – and my inner madness at this has been why I’ve not mentioned the brand on my blog before.   Now excuse me for being the party pooper but I’d love to see some proper validated research relevant to this brand that shows it to do all of the things it promises online.  Maybe I’m being old fashioned or a stickler for the law but when I was growing up in the cosmetic industry we weren’t allowed to talk about things like eczema and acne (they sit in the therapeutic realm) and the word ‘cure’ was banned.  I don’t think things have changed and will be advising my clients to respect the laws of the land in which they make and sell their products.

And then my mind comes back to the drain.

So this stuff that people love is messy.  I guess that doesn’t put you off if a) you don’t have to clean the bathroom because you still live at home with your slaves (parents) or b) you live in a shared house whose bathroom is of dubious sanitation at the best of times but for people like me who own and clean their own I’m still worried about my plumbing and rightly so.  Coffee grinds and other solid particles should not go down the drain so while these products are very pretty, super fun and extra tactile they need to be managed appropriately.  My advice would be either to use it outside and get hosed off into the garden beds (coffee is compostable but shimmer may not be so welcomed by your veggies) OR  catcher into your plug hole prior to indulging.  One thing I do remember about my dad’s Saturday afternoon call drain call outs was that they weren’t cheap!

Finishing on a high. Thought number six.

As much as I have a few issues with the way this brand does stuff I can’t help but think that if I was a beautifully perky 17 year old with a tan and a nice bikini I too would be buying this and posting selfies of myself on my bedroom wall in the hope that someone would drop by and lick this sugary crap off me.  But instead I’m a tired 42 year old chemist who will spend a good part of the next few months advising brands on how to perfect their own individual version of the coffee scrub and capture their equivalent of Frankfurters.

Sure this blog post has been a bit of a push-pull, love-hate affair but at the very bottom of my heart lies a deep respect for the fact that the team behind this simple little product got it very, very right and have sustained and grown that over the last two plus years and that takes some doing.

So well done frank and your shimmer scrub. It looks truly magical and if I can find someone to clean my bathroom afterwards I will gladly give it a try.

Amanda x

PS: I do not take or ask for freebies from brands and am not in any way affiliated with Frank the brand or the company behind it.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Joanne permalink
    May 2, 2017 1:50 pm

    They turned over 20 million in coffee grains! For God sake what a Gen Y addiction is that? $20 to sell your body to the planet in a semi porn Instagram pic!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      May 2, 2017 1:52 pm

      Yep they sure do love it.

  2. francescapia permalink
    May 2, 2017 11:53 pm

    wow. I thought I’d seen it all! So this means that all these years I’ve been correct to worry about body scrubs going down the bath drain…. I’m moving house soon and have already told me sis no more scrubs in our new place!

    Thanks for yet another interesting article.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      May 3, 2017 8:41 am

      Living around the Sydney area one can’t help but notice the number of apartments being built. Let’s hope they aren’t the ones washing themselves in coffee grinds and shimmer 😉

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