It’s that time of the year again—when every time you step outside you get a merciless slap in the face; when the name of the game is “layers,” and not checking your weather app in the morning might become a crime punishable by the loss of your toes. It’s winter, everyone.
I must confess that being a southern hemisphere transplant, I am not a big fan of the cold. But what I hate most about winter in the U.S.—I’m looking at you, East Coast—is definitely the way my skin, especially my lips, feels when exposed to low temperatures and freezing wind. The word “dry” here really doesn’t cut it—my skin feels uncomfortably tight all the time, and my lips just stay in a permanent and unglamorous state of chapped.
I’ve invested a lot of money on lip balms trying to right this wrong, but all of them only work for me if I apply them every five minutes and, honestly, who has the time? So I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own lip balm. And I’m not even talking about run-of-the-mill ointment to keep my lips from feeling like sandpaper. I’m talking about heavy duty stuff—hyper-hydrating, nourishing, organic, all-natural, preservative-free lip balm that will last you a whole year and will let your lips thrive in the cold weather.
- Time: 30 minutes (plus 1-12 hours waiting for it to solidify)
- Cost: up to $70 (for more lip balm than you’ll be able to use in a lifetime, so if that’s too steep, consider splitting the cost with other DIY lip balm enthusiasts)
- Difficulty: easy
Materials (for 2.5 ounces of lip balm)
- 3 tablespoons of organic shea butter
- 1 ½ tablespoon of grated beeswax
- 1 ½ tablespoon of organic cocoa butter
- 1 tablespoon of organic argan oil (or olive oil)
- ½ tablespoon of organic sweet almond oil (or coconut oil)
- 1 tablespoon of lanolin
- (Optional) 5 drops or 2 gel capsules of vitamin E
- (Optional) 10 drops of any combination of essential oils
- (Optional) mica powder of your liking
- Rubbing alcohol spray
- Microwave (or double-boiler pot)
- Metal or glass bowl, preferably with a pouring spout (if you’re using a microwave instead of a double boiler, use glass)
- Cheese grater
- Measuring spoons
- Kitchen mitt (or towel)
- Containers (purchased or repurposed—get creative)
- (Optional) disposable surgical gloves
1. Clean your workspace, hands, and tools thoroughly. You’re making a cosmetic product you’ll be putting on your lips here, so you’ll want to keep bacteria out as much as possible. Clean the surface you’re working on with a cleaning spray and a paper towel. Then clean your bowl, the insides of the containers, grater, and measuring spoons by spraying rubbing alcohol on them. Let them dry. If you want, you can cover your hands with disposable surgical gloves, but if you don’t have any or are not comfortable using them, thoroughly wash your hands instead. Don’t forget to wash them again if you need to step out of your workspace or take a call—your phone is gross.
- Note: If making lip balm or anything cosmetic becomes a hobby of yours, I’d seriously recommend getting tools you’ll use exclusively for that. This doesn’t mean you’ll get to skip this step entirely, but preparation won’t take as long.
2. Grate the beeswax. If you bought beeswax in pellets, you can skip this step. If not, use the smallest side of your grater to shred it down—the smaller it is, the easier it will melt. Put it in the bowl.
- Note: The role of beeswax in this recipe is to keep everything together and solid. But if you live in a frigid place, you can trade some of the beeswax for a bit of extra moisture—try using 3 ½ tablespoons of shea butter and only 1 tablespoon of beeswax. This will make your lip balm a little softer, but in the dead of winter, you won’t have to worry about any spillage. On the other hand, if your winters are a bit warmer or you’re exposed to high heating at home or your office, make lip balm that will endure high temperatures by adding more beeswax—2 tablespoons for every 2 ½ tablespoons of shea butter will do the trick.
3. Measure and add the rest of the ingredients—except the essential oil. First, add the shea and cocoa butters. If you have trouble with this, you can always put these in the microwave for up to 10 seconds at a time to soften them. Then, add the almond and argan oils and the lanolin. If you want to use what you already have at home, you can replace the argan and almond oils with olive and coconut oils. This substitution will make your lip balm even softer, though, since the replacements are more fatty than argan and almond oils. If you want to balance this out, up the amount of beeswax to 2 tablespoons.
- Note: Sheep secrete lanolin to condition and protect their wool, and it’s used in many cosmetics because it seals in moisture and is highly hydrating. In its more-refined form, lanolin shouldn’t have any smell, but if you purchased some that does have a bit of an odor—enough that you might not want to put it on your lips—replace it with shea or cocoa butter. This will make the moisturizing effect of your lip balm a little less lasting, but not less effective.
4. Melt your ingredients. If you want to keep things natural, use a double boiler to melt your ingredients, making sure the bottom of your bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water. If you don’t care about using a microwave (no judgment here) you can forgo the bain-marie and use that instead. Put your bowl in and heat it up in short spurts of no more than a minute. Use a clean spoon or a toothpick to stir your ingredients so they fully integrate.
- Warning: The bowl will be hot, so use a kitchen mitt or a tea towel to manipulate it.
- Note: All the ingredients have different melting and boiling points. You’ll want to keep the melting process nice and slow so you don’t burn an oil while trying to melt your beeswax—which will be the last ingredient to integrate into the mix. Use as many microwave sessions or as much time on the double boiler as necessary.
5. Pour in the essential oils and vitamin E. Once everything melts, get your bowl off of the stove or out of the microwave and let it sit for a minute to cool off. Essential oils are quite volatile, so if you pour them into something that’s super-hot, their smell and properties will evaporate before you’re done pouring your lip balm into the containers—and that’s just sad. Add your essential oil (or oils) and vitamin E one drop at a time and stir after you’re done. At this stage, you can get really creative—you can combine as many or as few essential oils as you want, as long as you only use 10 total drops. I added peppermint oil, since I love the minty-fresh feeling on my lips.
- Note: If you want to make tinted lip balm, this is also the time to do it—add mica powder in the color and quantity of your choosing. The finish and pigmentation of your lip balm will depend on how much powder you add, and the best way to learn is by experimenting. Set a little bit of the mix aside and play around with it—start by stirring in just the tip of a teaspoon of mica powder. Let it dry and try it on. If you want more color, you can melt it as many times as you want—as long as you do it slowly—to add or change pigmentation.
- Note: At one point, the lip balm might look extremely bright, but the color won’t actually transfer to your lips on application. Don’t worry—this is normal. Just try adding more mica powder until you achieve the desired finish. Keep in mind that no matter how much mica you add, your lip balm won’t turn into lipstick. Formulation for both these products is quite different, and even though you may be able to make a highly pigmented lip balm, it’ll never have the same effect upon application as lipstick.
6. Pour the mix into the containers and let it solidify. This can be tricky—especially if your bowl doesn’t have a pouring spout—but if you do it slowly, you shouldn’t have any problems. Open all your containers and pour the mix into each one, carefully. If it starts to solidify before you’re done—which is likely to happen as you start to run out of lip balm—melt it down and continue once it’s liquid again. When all the containers are full, put them aside to solidify. If you’re impatient like me, put them in the freezer (use a baking sheet to give them a flat surface to rest on), but if you don’t mind waiting, you can leave them at room temperature. Either way will have no effect on the look or effectiveness of your lip balm.
- Note: If you can, try repurposing store-bought lip balm containers. Whether they’re tiny jars, plastic tubes, or egg containers, they’re all great. If you have to buy containers, try getting some made out of materials that are either easily recyclable or reusable, like metal or kraft paper. I used half-ounce aluminum jars.
Bonus track: reuse those old egg containers
This section is for everyone who found that egg-shaped lip balm their 10-year-old niece left behind when she visited last spring. You’ve decided to recycle it—good call.
Egg containers—sometimes called EOS containers because of the brand that made them popular—offer a fun way to apply lip balm. They don’t require you to stick your fingers into the container—which means no taking your gloves off when it’s cold outside—and they’re big, which makes it less likely that you’ll lose them (the fate of most lip balms, anyway).
1. Get rid of whatever is left. Using a knife, carefully try to remove all the lip balm that’s still in the container. When most of it is out, you’ll see the wagon-wheel-like plastic piece the lip balm was attached to.
2. Eliminate the remaining lip balm by melting it away. Whatever you couldn’t get off in the previous step, you’ll be able to remove now. Using the tip of a knife, detach the wagon-wheel piece from the bottom of the egg container. If you used a double boiler to make your lip balm, drop the three pieces—top, bottom, and wagon-wheel—directly into that same water while it’s still boiling. Carefully remove them after a minute, making sure any lip balm that was still attached to the plastic has melted and floated away. Clean off any remnants with a paper towel and then sanitize the pieces by spraying rubbing alcohol on them. Let them dry.
If you used a microwave to make your lip balm, place a paper towel folded in two on the microwave plate. Put the three pieces on it—make sure any remaining lip balm can drip down and out of the container—and heat for two minutes. This will melt the remaining lip balm, which will be absorbed by the paper towel. Clean the pieces with another paper towel and repeat the process as many times as necessary. Once they’re clean, spray rubbing alcohol on them and let them dry.
3. Pour in the good stuff and let it sit. Attach the wagon-wheel piece to the top of the container by screwing it in, just as if you were closing your container. Pour your own lip balm through the wagon-wheel piece until it’s just barely covered. Let it sit overnight in the fridge until it solidifies. Do not open your container before the lip balm is completely solid. It may look like it’s done when you peek at it after a couple of minutes, but if you open it, the balm egg inside will break and you’ll have to start all over again.
- Note: Since the top of the container is round, you might find it hard to fill. Use an ice cube tray or an egg cup to help you stabilize it while you pour the mix in.
4. Attach the bottom of the container and enjoy. You’ll notice the wagon-wheel piece has two plastic snaps, one on each side. Align them to the corresponding spaces in the bottom piece of the container and push the halves together until you hear a distinct click.
And there you go—now you have all natural, completely organic lip balm to last you all winter and beyond. Keep in mind that this formula doesn’t include any preservatives, so the lip balm will only be good for a year. It shouldn’t rot or make you sick after that time, but oils do go bad and start to smell, so you probably won’t want to put stinky lip balm on your mouth anyway. As a precaution, consider writing down the date you made it on the bottom of the container with a permanent marker. That way, you’ll have a good idea of the product’s expiration date.