Not Martha

to make: adventures in lip balm

finished pot of lip balm
lip balm ready to use

My entire do-it-yourself obsession started with lip balm. Of course Martha Stewart was involved. Ok, ready? I spotted the lip balm kit in the Martha By Mail catalog — which belonged to my mother! I swear it! After one night of obsessive deliberation (think of it! my own lip balm! wow! I won’t have to worry about losing my little sticks because I’ll be swimming in the stuff!) I ordered it. It was immediately, irrevocably back ordered. For months and months. And months. (Ask me how long the essential oils soap kit took to get me. Ask me about how it arrived a full day before I loaded up the moving truck for California.) So in that time Google and I became close friends over the words “lip balm”, lip, balm, gloss, containers, “lip gloss”… You would be surprised the number of combinations a search on Google for “lip” and anything return a significant percentage of X-Files erotic fan fiction. (Mulder and Skinner?! Come on now.)

I landed at Majestic Mountain Sage, which has the best recipe I have found so far, this one. That’s the one I use (see below for the measurements I use for a smaller batch). This one is great too, especially if you’re looking for something which doesn’t include cocoa butter (some people are allergic) as it is really more of a guideline. I have also heard people gush over the one with honey in it. But heed the part of the directions that have you stir it while it is cooling, otherwise it’ll separate like, well, like honey and oil mixed together. They sell lip balm jars, lip balm tubes, all the ingredients you’d need, even little lip balm shrink wraps! There are several other suppliers online, check the resources page.


I ordered a bunch of stuff from MMS, got some oils and such from Nature’s Bin, cleaned out an old lip balm jar and had at it. Yay! By the time the stuff from Martha arrived I was way past the “kit” stage, but the containers are nice. The recipe from included in the kit created a greasy solid. The recipe from MMS produces something a little softer and glossier which I prefer.

Small coincidence, almost all of the ingredients and containers in the Martha kit were, in fact, supplied by MMS.

containers ready
various containers ready

That is how my do-it-yourself obsession became my do-it-without-martha’s-kits obsession.

mirror on bottom
showing the mirror glued to the bottom of one lip balm container – that’s the reflection of the camera

However, I’m still not happy with the lip balm. I don’t know what is missing, a sort of emollient, heavy, staying-power, wonder ingredient. I myself do not like my balms to be sweet, so honey is out. I have a bottle of jojoba oil that I haven’t tried out yet. As far as flavoring I prefer peppermint essential oil (I overdid the vanilla in the test runs, and still can’t quite stand it).

I present what I learned the hard way:

melting set up
set up for melting – pyrex measuring cup in about one inch of water

melting it
I bought a set of inexpensive utensils I use just for making lip balm and bath bombs, including a pyrex measuring cup I use to melt and mix the lip balm ingredients. I add a small amount of water to a shallow sauce pan, place the measure cup in it and heat on low as I add ingredients. I add the beeswax, shea butter and cocoa butter, and almond oil and let those melt. Then I add the vitamin e and the coloring and stir in well. Last I add the drops of peppermint oil right before filling the containers, because the oil will evaporate. I use a disposable droppers to fill the containers. I have read about beeswax becoming grainy if you heat it too high, too low, not long enough and too long. I have yet to get this straight. Honestly though, as long as the balm is for myself or my friends the graininess doesn’t bother me, it melts on your lips. If you are looking to make something to sell you might want to test different techniques to make sure it comes out nice and smooth.

starting to melt
the beeswax and coconut oil beginning to melt – add the color and the essential oil last

Get yourself some droppers. Pouring a hot oil solution into a tiny jar or tube is not fun. Turkey basters just won’t work here. The disposable droppers from MMS are nice because you can just toss ’em and not worry about how to get the scent cleaned off so you can reuse it. Also, if you’re making a very small batch (my proportions follow) they can measure out in milligrams what translates poorly as 1/16th of a teaspoon. You can also find small glass droppers or larger, graduated plastic ones at a drug store. Check around the eye/ear section, or in baby medicines. Be aware however, the oils in the lip balm completely wore off the plastic numbers on my cheap baby medicine dropper. I mean, undiluted orange essential oil can take the finishing off tables… Also, if you use the droppers to fill your lip balm containers it is extremely difficult to clean the dropper afterwards, the lip balm will harden in the dropper. You can clean it while alternatively running it under very hot tap water to keep the balm in a melted state. Or forget the droppers and pour it. If you spill, let the spill harden, it’s a lot easier to clean that way.

I bought a little whisk to use, but a toothpick works as well to mix

It seems like a favorite pastime on the GetCrafty boards is suggesting lip balm containers. I do not like those snap-lid pillbox types, I find they are not leak-proof, and unpleasant to open. The nice Lee Valley watchmakers tins (as seen so expensively as a wedding favor box over at Martha By Mail) do not have a secure lid, it just sits on top. The small Altoids tins are too large for my taste. I mean, you are rubbing your grubby fingers through there, I want something that has a bit more turnover. Avoid film containers, film is, you know, quite toxic. Anything too narrow and deep is likely to get on your nerves. I like the MMS style lip balm pots, low-profile lip balm pots, lib balm tubes and tins (lip balm container page). The regular pots have a indentation in the bottom deep enough to glue a 1″ circle craft mirror into, which is nice to have right there, believe me. The tins do rust, especially if you use them to store little things in your very small, very steamy bathroom. If you don’t want to buy bulk, Sunburst Bottle has no minimum (but be reasonable, they are a kind, small company and will lose money if you order only 35¢ worth of something) and carry pots, tins and tubes. Or, go to the drugstore, find a cheap lip balm in a pot, or some Bon-bons body glitter, or even a tube of store-brand lip balm (the chap-stick brand labels peel off very cleanly). Clean it out (this takes a bit of patience, and scrubbing with a nice, natural dish soap — a clean mascara wand and an old toothbrush are your friends here) really really well. Sterilize with alcohol if you like (boil at your own risk) and reuse.

get lip stick shaving for color
shaving off a little bit of pink lipstick to add some color

I admire people who strain beet juice to get a nice red color going or other nice natural things. However, a tiny sliver of cheap lipstick (Wet’N’Wild 99¢) is far easier. If you’re just going for a pastel pink, say, choose a hot pink lipstick, you’re only going to use a touch of it anyhow. Already pastel and shimmery colors don’t translate well. Don’t use food coloring. Don’t use food coloring paste. And, dear lord, don’t use pixie sticks and petroleum jelly, shame on you!

mixing in clor
mixing in the color to make a lighter pink

I don’t like sweet flavors. I just add a few drops of peppermint essential oil. Be aware that some citrus oils can make the area applied to photosensitive. A few places do have sweet lip balm flavorings. Before you use a wacky essential oil, check to be sure it isn’t a skin irritant. Don’t use candy flavorings (peppermint, vanilla) as these are alcohol based, and nobody wants that, now do we? Besides, it will not mix in correctly.

The types of oils you choose can really feel different. Try a few out. Avoid getting oils in the cooking section of stores, oils for cooking and oils intended for body use are often prepared differently. I think olive oil is ok though. Especially if it is from a smaller producer. Most recipes call for cocoa butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, etc.

filling container
I use a disposable dropper to fill the containers

cocoa butter
If you use cocoa butter the lip balm is going to smell and taste faintly of chocolate. It’s not mmmmmm cho-co-late, it’s reminiscent smell. Use coconut oil instead if you want to avoid this. Coconut oil comes in several forms, sometimes smelling highly of coconut. I bought a huge jar of Spectrum Naturals coconut oil which is a solid at room temperature (but beware, will melt on hot days) and doesn’t have any scent. I prefer the feel of cocoa butter. Be aware some people are sensetive to cocoa butter, Lush made a lip balm without any for this reason.

If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan there are a number of lip balm recipes which substitute candelilla wax (pure vegetable wax). Also, Lush sells a vegan lip balm, as well as a number of yummy vegan bath products. There are several good hemp seel oil lip balms you can find in stores as well.

filled and ready to cool
containers filled and ready to cool, I stick them in the fridge for a few minutes

I tried, oh how I tried, to put little shapes in different colors in my lip balms like you can find in Target. I even have the itty bitty cookie cutters to prove it. Because of things like contraction when cooling and surface tension, these proved fruitless, and messy looking. On second thought, it worked ok, just don’t expect a perfectly smooth surface.

If you’re all about the product and not about gathering bottles of oils you’ll never use again, several places, including MMS, sell a lip balm base you melt, add color and flavor, and pour into containers. Eee. Zee.

keeping it and sun issues
This lip balm will not keep forever. And it will melt in your pocket. And it will not provide any sun protection. So if you are outside get a lip product with a heavy duty sunscreen. And make sure it has uvb and uva protection (look for these ingredients: titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone (also called parasol 1789), or Mexoryl; and read this). The vitamin e (I squeeze one or two capsules into the mixture, you can buy bottles of liquid vitamin e at a drugstore and add a few drops of that) is said to help prevent spoilage of the oils. But this stuff is meant to be used, not kept.

instructions I attached when given as a gift

instructions for use:

  1. unscrew cap
  2. either hold cap or place cap somewhere where you will remember you put it in five seconds
  3. use finger (or brush for those of you who are so inclined and happen to have a brush and enough time to a. find it and b. use it) to place on lips
  4. check self out in little mirror on the bottom!
  5. if it doesn’t meet your lip needs (people are very picky about their lip balm, i am cool with this) may i suggest you use it as a cuticle cream?

lip balm ingredients: sweet almond oil, beeswax, cocoa butter*, beeswax, vitamin e, peppermint essential oil

* if you are allergic to cocoa butter do not use!! lemme know and i’ll make one without cocoa butter for you

my recipe as found taped to the side of my fridge
I approximate the strange amounts.

to make a very little
beeswax .13 .38
shea butter .17 .5
cocoa butter .17 .5
almond oil .2 .6
vitamin e 1 capsule or a few drops
peppermint oil 3 drops  
to make a few at a time
beeswax .5 1.5
shea butter .66 1.98
cocoa butter .66 1.98
almond oil .8 2.4 (11.83 ml)
vitamin e 2 capsules or a few drops
peppermint oil 10 drops  

06.23.01 additions

I made a batch using this mixture – it filled the three containers you see in the last picture above

beeswax .25 .75
coconut oil .33 .99
shea butter .33 .99
jojoba oil .4 1.2
vitamin e 2 capsules about 4 drops
peppermint oil 6 drops  

It came out with an interesting soft consistency, but a bit on the oily side for my taste. It shows sort of medium glossy on the lips though which is nice. Also, the beeswax separated into little beads, which don’t bother me because I know what they are, however, I’d fear giving it as a gift perhaps.

update 01.11.04
I need to add that the recipes you’ll find at places like Majestic Mountain Sage give the measurements for oils and waxes in weight and you should measure out your ingredients as such. I have been far too lazy to get a scale so I just used volume.

Also, a most excellent conversion calculator can be found at MMS – measurement conversion calculator. This is great for when you are drastically reducing a recipe down and need to know how much 1/32nd of a tablespoon is. Note: only works in Netscape browsers, type the number you know into the apporpriate field and hit enter on your keyboard – all the other fields should fill automatically.

another update 01.11.04
This recipe was sent into me by Maria, thanks! Note: measurements are by weight.

Lip Balm from Denmark
5 – 6 grams of beeswax (the scale couldn’t decide which one, so I’m guessing
it was very close to 6 grams – it was a little more than one teaspoon of my
beeswax, when it was grated)
1 teasp of shea butter
6 ml of castor oil (I read somewhere that this gives more glossy lipbalms)
6 ml of almond oil
5 drops of e-vitamin
5 drops of lemon EO

It is a really great lipbalm/gloss! I didn’t want to add any colour, so it came out looking yellow – I’m guessing partly because of the lemon EO. It’s hard enough to have in the lipstick container – and gives a really great gloss on the lips.

Oh, and it’s true that lemon might not be good in very sunny weather – it makes you burn (or tan) more easily. But the shea-butter actually works as a sun screen (factor 4 european – don’t know what that is in american sunproducts), so I guess it evens out.

update Jan. 3rd, 2007
A lot more lip balm recipes have been published on the internet since I originally made these. I encourage you to go see the how to create your own lip balm recipe page at Bleu Arts. She goes over equipment, ingredients and where to shop. Her instructions are wonderful.


127 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Justpeachy13 // Jun 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Question, I found beeswax at my local art supply store. Another site said to use only “cosmetic grade wax” anyone have an opinion? Is there a difference between candle and cosmetic grades. Sorry, but new to this and don’t want too many problems.

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  • 3 Chrissy // Nov 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I am curious on how to make goat milk lip balm does any one know how to do this? Or maybe in the above article maybe what I could substitute to put goats milk in there?

  • 4 Pat // Nov 23, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Hello! I just love the information that everyone has put up on this site. I have just started making lip balm but I have one little problem when using honey. How do you keep it from pooling? Thanks to anyone that can offer some advice!

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  • 6 Plato1 // Jan 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I love using sheer lip gloss/balms simply for effect. Never needed them for chapped lips. My secret for forever soft lips is applying a tiny bit of butter to my belly button twice a day, just s drop or two is enough. Don’t ask me why it works, but it does, & hasn’t failed me in the past 40 yrs. I keep the gloss only for occasions (rare & frequent), never for everyday use.

  • 7 Lisa // Feb 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I’m having a problem with my lip balm and I thought I’d ask you for help. Why is my beeswax and honey/oil solution seperating? My final product ends up being a gooey solution of honey and oil under the harden beeswax. Any solutions?

  • 8 megan // Feb 18, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Lisa – I’m afraid I’m no longer familiar with making lip balm the way I used to be. I do remember some people would stir as it cooled, but that prevented it from having a nice shiny top when it set.

  • 9 RC Kennedy // Mar 29, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I’ve been using Made from Earth’s lip balm for about a decade now and I’ve always loved it. It tastes, smells, and feels great on my lips.

    I’ve tried the other variations of their lip balm such as the blueberry, spearmint, and citrus. the citrus one is a bit too feminine for me. So I’ve come back to the original vanilla flavor and I’ll probably stick with it for awhile. The cooling instantly sooths my dry lips while the beeswax and oils leave my lips feeling soft and moisturized. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. Bottom line: There’s a reason people swear by this stuff. Give it a shot.

  • 10 Alchemilla // Apr 26, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    This is a great run-down on how to home-make lip balms. One thing I would definitely not recommend is adding anything from the Mint family to lip products. Mint contains menthol, which has a seriously irritating effect on skin… Even it feels cool and soothing on the lips initially and some people won’t use anything but a product containing mint, it in fact causes a deep inflammation reaction in the skin and a condition we like to refer to “lip balm addiction” – you know, the kind that makes you reach for your lip balm about 20 times a day and freak out if you’ve run out or lost it? Scent really isn’t necessary, but I guess if you really want something, a tiny bit of lavender or orange essential oils are quite nice in lip balms. Enjoy!

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  • 13 Leslie // Oct 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Majestic Mountain sage:

  • 14 Roze // Dec 11, 2011 at 11:24 am


    Just wondering what happened to the chapstick recipes that you had on here not too long ago?

    I came back today to get the recipe to make the chapstick again. I made it once about a month ago and L-O-V-E-D it!! Now I cannot seem to find the recipes on this page anymore. It’s as if they’ve been removed.

    Can you please bring back the recipes (particularly, your recipe for a small batch, not necessarily the one containing lemon essential oil). Or you can email it to me, if possible :-)

    Thank you for the instructions on how to make lip balm. A month ago was my first time making lip balm, and used your instructions and small batch recipe. I’m hoping to repeat the recipe so that I can make some for my best friend :)

    Take care and have a wonderful day!

  • 15 Bjoy @ Bees for Sale // Jan 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Fantastic! I know that pure honey can be used to make your skin look great but i can’t imagine that it can also be used in beauty kits. Very nice..

  • 16 Alisha // Jan 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    For the person who was wondering about re-using lip tubes….. i’d say it would be very possible, maybe if (in the case of just cleaning out a tube to re-use)you put the tubes in hot enough water to get most of the scum off and then repeat a few times with the hottest soapy water you want to- without ruining the tubes or,(In the case of wanting to re-do a batch and of course you want to save what’s in the tubes), just screw them out as much as much as possible, scrape off and dig out what you can and then repeat the first prcedure.
    Actually, I have never done this… I am just getting into this fun stuff- but it’s the sort of thing I would do!!!
    Of course this is probably best if it’s just for personal use – or maybe even friends. And it depends on the ingredients that were in there as some may come off harder.

  • 17 Deborah // Jan 24, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Natures Garden offers an awesome, low cost lip balm bit.

  • 18 Natasha // Apr 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    This is great. Maybe I could do something fancier than stinking my finger in the giant jar of coconut oil or using the leftover lanolin nipple cream from when my kids were newborns? Ha ha.

  • 19 Elizma // Apr 19, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Hi there.

    Could you tell me where you got your containers?

    Thank you.

  • 20 Daiva // Oct 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Thank you so much for this article!! What a great idea to put some lipstick for the colour! will try it this weekend! :)

  • 21 tanya // Nov 1, 2012 at 6:43 am

    what is the best way to get the melted balm into your containers? or just buy a bigger opening container so that it’s easier to pour into?

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