Professor Communication and Media
Denise is a devoted organic gardener who challenges herself to live as sustainably as possible in her home in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is a professor in the Department of Communication and Media at West Chester University with a Ph.D. from Kent State University. Her teaching and research areas consist of sustainability, close interpersonal relationships, integrating work and family, and conflict resolution.
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December 8, 2021
In the Garden of Deeden: The Kitchen “Cosmetic” Factory – lip balm
In Amazonia, native people have relied on the healing properties of medicinal plants for millenia. Take the tree Croton lechleri, locally known as Dragon’s Blood as just one example. When the tree’s bark is cut, it exudes a red latex sap. When rubbed between the palms of the hand the sap turns into a white cream that is soothing and healing to the skin. It is used for insect bites, cuts, abrasions, rough skin, and to staunch the flow of blood. When the sap is mixed in water and taken internally, it has been shown to be an effective anti-diarrheal.
So as many of us enter the cooler, winter season in northern latitudes, we, too, may experience dried, cracked lips, or rough, dry patches of skin. With no Dragon’s Blood nearby, what are you to do? Simple. Make your own!
I adore making my own personal care products for my own use and to offer as gifts. I’ve experimented with making shampoo, body lotion, hand cream, soap, sugar scrubs, aftershave, shaving cream, sore throat spray, and the list continues to grow. Below is my recipe for lip balm.
It’s almost embarrassing how easy it is to make some of these items, and they often don’t need a whole lot of special equipment. You’d be amazed what can be done with a stovetop (or microwave) and a hand mixer. It’s also a comfort to know exactly what is going onto my skin.
Once you get the basics down, it’s easy to swap out different oils based on your preferences. Do make sure you know this makes quite a lot, so this would also be great to also give as gifts. If you don’t want so much, simply cut the recipe in half. One reason for not making too much at a time is that some of these oils or butters can go rancid, and it will impact the flavor of the lip balm over time. Also, if you switch out oils or butters, be sure they are food grade.
You’ll also want to consider the container. I really like metal sliding tins, but I’ve found others don’t necessarily like having to dip their finger into the lip balm and apply it with a finger. Perhaps the most commonly seen dispenser is a small plastic tube like the one pictured below. They even sell a tray so that you can put a bunch of tubes into the tray without worrying they will fall over.
When planning the amount of product to make, note that the plastic tubes typically hold 0.15 oz and the tins hold 0.30 oz. You can find containers of various sizes depending on the materials and look you want for your finished product. I use my own beeswax since it is a relatively small amount. You can buy blocks of beeswax, or you can also buy small pellets (which makes melting faster than chopping off a piece from a block). It also is helpful to have a precise digital scale. If you measure everything separately, it can be pretty basic, but for projects where you might be adding ingredients into a container, it is good to look for one with a tare function.
The basic recipe for Lip Balm is:
- 1 part Wax
- 2 parts Vegetable Butter
- 1 part Liquid Oil
Lip Balm Recipe:
Makes 4 oz. batch
- 1 oz Clean Beeswax
- 2 oz Shea Butter
- 1 oz Olive Oil
- Essential Oil for scent/flavor (peppermint is great)
- Melt the beeswax gently in a double boiler on a stovetop. I’d avoid the use of a microwave as it is too easy to overheat the wax that can vigorously splatter and damage the microwave).
- In a separate container, heat the shea butter until it is fully liquid.
- Add the olive oil to the melted shea butter. This should warm up the olive oil enough so that it won’t make the wax harden. Combine the beeswax and all the oil, stir well.
- Add drops of essential oil to scent/flavor the balm (if desired) and pour into the sliding tins or other container of your choice.
- Label, and you’re all done!
Use the lip balm as needed and don’t forget it makes a great treatment for rough skin elsewhere such as hands and elbows. You’ll enjoy the healing power of plants and continue a long standing tradition of medicine making, passed down by our indigenous ancestors and contemporaries.