We discovered Pueblo Science during the Ontario Culture Days events in the fall. They hosted a Painting with Science event, and the kids and I had so much fun making art and learning about the science behind the ways that colours were made and mixed.
Pueblo Science is all about getting kids interested in science through hands-on experimentation, and what could be more hands-on than making your own lip balm from scratch? The facilitator I met in the fall told me that they had a recipe up on their blog, but I wasn’t able to find it. Instead, I surfed around and got a sense of what goes into natural lip balms. Then I started experimenting.
My husband put a lovely pot of pure shea butter from Little House in the City into my stocking for Christmas, and I’ve been wanting to make lip balm for months, and with the deadline for this post AND Valentine’s Day looming, I finally got it together to make some with Youngest last week. We decided that pots of lip balm would make great Valentine’s Day favours, so that’s our plan for this year for the Grade 1 and Grade 4 classes my sons are in. Youngest asked if they could be flavoured like Skittles. (I have not bought the necessaries for that yet, but I’m thinking that essential oil of orange or lemon would work well. If you have done this, and you have ideas, let me know!) For three nights, while his brothers were at hockey, we experimented with different recipes to find the perfect consistency and aroma for our product, and I’m now happy with what we’ve got.
Here’s what we did and what we learned:
Our first attempt taught us how to deal with failure gracefully and with no swear words. We did pretty well on that front, actually, when our double boiler capsized spilling molten wax into the boiling pot of water. We did not swear even a tiny bit while we cleaned that sh*t up. Melting waxes and butters is messy.
Our second attempt taught us that there is a good reason for experimenting in small batches before beginning mass production. Our first batch was too waxy and hard to apply. It also did not smell and taste all that great–not bad, but not great– making us realize that there’s a good reason for the scents that get added to beauty products.
Three is the magic number, and we got the recipe almost there with our third attempt. I used too much honey, making the batch a bit too soft, so the recipe below, from our fourth and final batch, has the perfect proportions. I also used vanilla extract for flavouring the third time. That’s not the way to go. Vanilla extract is suspended in alcohol, which is not only drying, it does not incorporate well with the wax and oils. If you want to scent your balm, I recommend using an oil. The fourth trial, I used vanilla oil in a jojoba suspension, and our final product is as delicious as it is nourishing. I wiped up the spills and rubbed it into my hands and cuticles, and it works wonderfully for those applications, too.
Nathalie’s Lip Balm Recipe
Ingredients (the amounts in parentheses yielded enough to fill six lip balm tubes)
one part grated beeswax (one teaspoon)
one part honey (one teaspoon)
two parts shea butter (two teaspoons)
two parts jojoba oil (two teaspoons)
a few drops of your favourite edible essential oil (two drops per teaspoon of mixture)
a mother’s patience
You will need a double boiler (after my little glass jam jar capsized, I put a big mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water), a popsicle stick for stirring, and pots or tubes for the balm. I got my tubes at my local health food store for $o.69 each, and glass pots from Little House in the City for $1.30. I also washed out some small pots I had half-filled with cosmetic samples for my experimental batches. I just used a steady hand to pour, but you might also want a glass eye-dropper to fill the lip balm tubes.
Melt the grated beeswax in a (very firmly anchored) double boiler. Turn off the heat, but keep the beeswax in the double boiler to keep everything warm. Add the shea butter and jojoba oil. Once those ingredients are melted and well incorporated, mix in the honey. Mix well. Add scented oil last if desired. Pour into lip balm pots or lip balm tubes. Allow to set, then put on lids and you’re ready to go!
- beeswax is a solid at room temperature, but becomes liquid when it is warmed
- oil and water do not mix
- wax and water do not mix
- beeswax is occlusive, it seals in moisture and protects lips from becoming dried out by environmental factors (dry air, cold and wind)
- honey is a humectant, it helps to retain moisture by attracting and absorbing the moisture in the air, and drawing the water vapor beneath the surface
- jojoba’s chemical structure is similar to human sebum, the oil our bodies produce to waterproof and lubricate the skin
- shea butter has been in use for thousands of years as a cosmetic for hair and skin, references date back to Ancient Egypt