When I was in sixth grade, I remember my mom handing me a tube of cherry Chapstick and telling me to use it. Since that day, I’ve never been without some type of lip balm in my pocket. In my late teens I moved on to something called Cherry Ice, and from there to Blistex Lip Balm. Just like everything else in this world, things just kept getting more expensive, but since I’m not even sure my lips produce their own moisture at this point, going without is not an option. I started experimenting with making my own homemade lip balm.
What’s so great about homemade lip balm?
I’ve already hit on the primary driver behind my adventure. That was cost. Just two months ago my grocery bill for the month was $350. Now, those same items cost me $525. Saving money any where you can helps. Spending several dollars on .15 of an ounce of anything is crazy. Homemade lip balm costs less than a dollar a tube. I want to say it costs about fifty cents, but it really depends on the cost of your supplies. It is significantly less than buying lip balm from the store.
There’s another benefit to homemade lip balm. You get to control the ingredients. A quick search will show you some of the ingredients in store bought lip balm: camphor, cetyl alcohol, cetyl palmitate, isopropyl myristate, isopropyl palmitate, isopropyl stearate, menthol. I know what some of these ingredients are, but not all of them. Homemade lip balm has between four and six ingredients.
Basic Lip Balm Theory
Lip balm is a combination of liquid and solid oils and waxes heated together. Lip balm should be solid at room temperature (and in your pocket) but should melt slightly as you smooth it over your lips. The ratio of ingredients is roughly 40% liquids, 25% solids, 15% brittles, and 20% beeswax.
Liquids are easy to understand. Almond oil, hemp oil, canola oil, olive oil, and grapeseed oil are just a few examples of liquid oils.
Ingredients that fall into the solid and brittle categories can be easy to confuse. They are both solid at room temperature, but a brittle oil is super hard at room temperature. You have to chip it apart. Cocoa butter and palm kernel oil are the most common examples of brittle oils. Solid oils are softer at room temperature. Mango butter, palm oil, and coconut oil are examples of solid oils.
Beeswax is just that. You can buy it in natural and refined varieties. Natural has a yellow color. Refined is almost white. I have used both and color does seem to be the only difference. Just go for whichever one you can find at the best price unless the yellowish color bothers you.
Other Items You Need
In addition to the ingredients you want in your homemade lip balm, there are some tools you need and two that are optional.
- Digital scale – if you get one that has a zero, or tare, function, it will make things easier.
- Pyrex measuring cup
- Empty tubes or small tins to hold your homemade lip balm
- Tube filling tray – the one I use is pictured at the top
- Vitamin E – you can use liquid or the gel capsules
- Food grade coloring – this is the first optional item. If you want a color, you’ll need this.
- Food grade flavoring – this is the second optional item. It allows you to add a scent or flavor.
- Double boiler
- 1 ounce Apricot Kernel Oil
- .5 ounce Hemp Oil
- .94 ounce Mango Butter
- .56 ounce Cocoa Butter
- .75 ounce Beeswax
- 3-5 Vitamin E gelcaps
- Approximately 25 empty tubes if that is what you are using
Combine oils, butters, and beeswax in a Pyrex measuring cup.
Using a microwave, heat everything using 20-30 second bursts.
After the entire mixture is liquid continue using the same method, but stir in between each 20-30 second burst.
Continue heating and stirring the mixture in 20-30 second intervals, after everything has become a liquid, for about 3 minutes total. This means if you are using 20 second intervals, you will do this nine times total.
Stir the mixture constantly for 30-60 seconds so it can cool. Add 3-5 drops of vitamin E. Stir again. I just use a sterilized pin to punch a hole in the gelcap and squeeze them into mixture. Note: If you see any swirls or layers in the mix, put it back in the microwave for some more heating and stirring before you add the vitamin E. Do not heat it again after adding the vitamin E.
Pour into tubes or tins. I group my tubes together so they cool slowly. Others put their newly made lip balm in the fridge for freezer to chill it quickly. Either way, allow everything to cool, and then enjoy!
Do I have to use the exact same ingredients you used?
Nope. Feel free to use any ingredients you want so long as they adhere to the ratio of liquids, solids, brittle, and wax. You don’t have to use two types of oil either. That’s just my preference.
What if I don’t want to make 25 tubes?
This one is easy. Just do some simple math to figure out how much you need. If your containers are .15 ounce, multiply the number you want to make by the volume. Then multiply the total by the ratios given. This will tell you how much you need of each ingredient.
What is the vitamin E for?
It is a preservative. This makes your homemade lip balm shelf stable for months.
My lip balm is grainy. Did I do something wrong?
Graininess can occur if you don’t heat it long enough after the ingredients liquefy. You are mixing ingredients that melt and solidify at different temperatures. Ensuring everything is melted and stirred well so you have a single homogeneous mix is important. The graininess won’t make the lip balm less effective, but it will make it less appealing.
Some people claim you need to heat the mixture to 175 degrees F for 20 minutes. That is for people using a double boiler rather than a microwave. The recipe I gave is the same one I have used for almost 15 years. It works without the need to worry about double boilers and thermometers.
Have you ever used shea butter?
No. I read somewhere that using shea butter greatly increases the chances of graininess. For that reason, I use mango butter instead. Mango butter also adds a slight fruity scent which I like.
This lip balm is getting soft in my pocket especially in the summer. What can I do to solve that?
Increase the amount of beeswax from .75 ounce to .8 or .85. Just a little bit more beeswax will ensure it stays solid even in the summer heat.
Why do I have to do this in short bursts in the microwave? Can’t I just heat it for several minutes at a time?
Oils can bubble and pop unexpectedly in the microwave. Short bursts minimize the chances of a big mess. If you want to spend your time cleaning a waxy, oily mess from the roof of your microwave, go for it. If you want to make lip balm, use short bursts or a double boiler.
When would I add the coloring or flavoring if I decide to use it?
Add it at the same time you add the vitamin E towards the end.
So, what do you think? Is this something you’d try? Have you tried making lip balm before? Do you have a favorite homemade lip balm recipe of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.