Lip Balm

28 Dec
Finished products!

From left to right: Honey-Lemon-Rosemary with sparkle gloss, Honey-Peppermint with pink gloss, Plain Lemon

Winter is good for many things: Skiing, and sledding, and making snow men, and enjoying sweaters and scarves. What winter is not good for, however, is lips. As soon as the cold weather comes along, my lips start snapping and cracking and flaking out. It’s completely unattractive. It’s also quite uncomfortable.

So I have combated this with excessive amounts of lip balm. Seriously, I have stashes of lip balm EVERYWHERE. I counted no fewer than eight tubes in my possession: Two at my work office, one in my home office, one in my purse, one in my travel toiletry bag, one on right next to my earrings and necklaces on my dresser, one in my makeup bag and one in the inside pocket of my winter coat. At $2 a pop, that means I’ve invested at least $16 into the prevention of chapped lips.

For $16, I bet I can make my own. A lot of my own.

Challenge: Lip Balm

There are hundreds of lip balms out there. Most of them are similar to ChapStick Classic lip balm, containing white petrolatum and mineral oil (by-products of petroleum production/distillation), several types of waxes, camphor and other fragrances, and food coloring. ChapStick offers sunscreen protection, which homemade does not, and it’s made mostly with products created in laboratories, which most people don’t have access to. So, it’s not a very good comparison product.

For a closer comparison to homemade, I’m choosing to use Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, a natural lip balm, which contains beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, peppermint oil, lanolin, tocopherol, rosemary leaf extract, soybean oil and canola oil.

Homemade lip balm contains*:
2 tsp. sweet almond oil (can be replaced with coconut or canola oil if you’re allergic to nuts)
½ tsp. beeswax
½ tsp. cocoa butter, deodorized (optional, for softness)
½ tsp. honey (optional, for sweetness)
5 to 10 drops of essential oil

adding sweet almond oil to the beeswax

Combine oil, beeswax, etc...

To make the lip balm, combine oil, beeswax and cocoa butter in a ceramic or glass bowl.

microwaving the mixture

Nuke it!

Microwave until the wax is melted, about  1 minute. (You can also use a double broiler, if you prefer stovetop action.) Then stir in the honey and the essential oil.

Pouring the melted mix into tins

The mix is hot. Avoid pouring this on your hands. Seriously.

Pour or spoon into the storage container(s). Let cool. Use with abandon.

The recipe above makes enough to nearly overfill 2 tins, or to three-quarters fill 3 tins. With the help of mi madre, I made two batches with the honey: One with peppermint oil, which gives you that tingly feeling, and one with lemon and rosemary oils. Yum. You can also add ¼ tsp. lipstick shavings or lip gloss to the melted mixture to add color or sparkle to your lip balm, but the results will be very subtle on the lip and will make male testers skittish about trying your product.

This is actually the second recipe we tried. The first batch we made contained simply 1 part beeswax, 2 parts sweet almond oil and 3 drops essential oil. Also a good recipe, with a firm texture. Buy you need more than 3 drops of essential oil, and you have to add it post-microwaving. You can play around with your ingredients to come up with a balm that suits your personal preferences.

Time and Cost Comparison

The store-bought lip balm was $1.99 for .15 ounces. That works out to $13.30 per ounce. I found it easily, right by the checkout in a gas station.

The homemade lip balm took about 10 minutes per batch to prepare. Between the various recipe and flavor testing adventures, we made 11 tins of lip balm (2.75 ounces). I estimate** that we used about $14 worth of ingredients total, which includes the $4.75 spent on the tins. That works out to about $5.09 per ounce.  However, to get this kind of savings, you need to make quite a lot of homemade lip balm – we invested about $35 in supplies, and we already had the essential oils on hand.

Ingredient Comparison

The major differences between Burt’s Bees and my own homemade lip balms were the number and type of oils; the lanolin, which is a protective wax that comes from sheep’s wool, and tocopherol, which is essentially vitamin E.

Scent/Feel Comparison

The store-bought lip balm has a cool, tingly, minty feeling and a minty (or, as some called it, medicinal) smell. It has a much firmer texture and is less silky. The homemade test batch has peppermint oil but doesn’t tingle, has a more subtle scent, and is softer in texture (due, presumably, to the cocoa butter) and sweeter in taste (due to the honey). Two testers decidedly preferred the homemade, two were comfortable using either homemade or store-bought.

PITA Factor

1. This is incredibly fast and easy to make. Measure, melt, mix, pour. Done.

DIY or Buy

DIY if you’re in need of bulk lip balm, either because you’re an obsessive balm user like myself, or because you want to give homemade lip balm as a gift. (It makes a really delightful gift.) However, given the fact that the supplies are hard to order in ½ tsp.-sized quantities, if you simply need a single lip balm, you’re better off buying. And in that case, I encourage you to read up on the ingredients that go into your lip balm to ensure that’s really something you want to be putting so close to your mouth.

*These ingredients can be found in natural food or nutrition stores, or through cosmetic supply stores online. We bought everything except the essential oils from an online store that I refuse to name, as they took more than two weeks to mail our order, and took several days to respond to our questions about the shipment. We used doTerra brand essential oils – check out, which is the site for (full disclosure) my cousin’s doTerra business. While you’re shopping for ingredients, look for something to store your lip balm in. We used small .25-ounce cosmetic tins, but you can find lip balm tubes or small pots that also work well.

**I say estimate because it’s incredibly difficult to know how much volume is in a drop of essential oil. Also, we bought in bulk, and prices may vary wildly on this particular DIY adventure.


3 Responses to “Lip Balm”

  1. Ashli Norton 05/19/2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Buying a large bottle of pure organic unrefined shea butter and refilling it from a bulk purchase is effective and as cheap, but I understand why you did the experiment like you did – it’s more comparable.

    Shea butter has a natural SPF, is known for it’s healing and moisturizing properties, and last a long time on your lips.

    One pound of organic shea butter = $12 shipped from mountain rose (buy bigger bulk, it becomes even cheaper)

    Melt a little on the stove or in microwave, pour into measuring cup, and pour into your tins. Takes appx. 1 min. to do all of this

    Cost per oz. = $0.75


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