We’re continuing our Hot Chocolate holiday making theme with some tubes of the sort of lip butter I need in the winter. It’s rich, creamy, and most importantly, long-wearing. This stuff sticks around for hours—an absolute must when it’s cold, dry, and generally bleh outside. You’ll only need seven ingredients; most of them are pretty common, and the two you might not have can probably be purchased locally at a drug store or health food shop. Let’s get buttery!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
This formulation is a Bee Better version of a formulation I first shared back in 2016; my Chocolate Lip Butter. It was one of my favourite formulations of 2016 and it still has fans (my patron Clare loves it!). I thought it deserved a bit of a refresh and another turn in the spotlight 😄
I began by fully converting formulation from weights into percentages (read this post to learn how). Once it was in percentages I was able to see the lecithin level was a wee bit high (~16% vs the maximum rate of 15%), so I reduced that. I also decided to swap the mango butter (which can be prone to going grainy in anhydrous products) for far more creamy refined lanolin. I didn’t know about refined lanolin back in 2016, so I never would’ve included much lanolin in a lip butter back then. That was actually one of the very first lessons I learned as a maker—I made a massive batch of lanolin-rich lip balm that ended up reeking of wet sheep. Most of it was eventually thrown out.
The 2016 version used some iron oxides that were pre-dispersed in castor oil for colour, but I opted for an (optional) mica since more people have micas than the pre-dispersed oxides. The original also included some cocoa absolute, which I decided to drop because it’s expensive and we get plenty of chocolatey scent from the cocoa butter. You can include some if you like; I’d use 0.2%, reducing the castor oil to make room for it.
Where does the hot chocolate-y goodness come from?
The star chocolatey ingredient in this formulation is fragrant, unrefined cocoa butter. Yum! This butter scents the lip balm, adds wonderful emollience, and hardens it a bit as well.
While soft butters like shea butter and mango butter have a creamy feel on the skin before they liquify, cocoa butter doesn’t. Cocoa butter is a firm, brittle butter than slowly melts down into a semi-rich feeling oil, which makes for glide-y, semi-glossy lip butters rather than creamy ones. And that’s why this formulation contains a trifecta of creaminess-boosting ingredients—they bring the creaminess, cocoa butter brings the chocolate-y-ness 😋
We get one more cocoa-y nod from the inclusion of 1% chocolate-y coloured mica. I used Satin Coffee from Yellow Bee (gifted), but you can use any mica you want.
Why is this lip butter so creamy?
I’ve included three of my all-time favourite “super creamy lip balm” ingredients in this formulation, plus a much-loved creamy ingredient combo. These creamy stars give this lip butter its long-lasting lip-moisturizing awesomeness.
Ingredient #1 is beeswax, which also hardens the lip butter. Beeswax has a fabulous unique creaminess that makes it beautifully suited to lip balms. It’s really hard to replicate the creaminess of beeswax with vegan waxes, which is a bummer. If you want to re-develop this formulation to use a vegan wax, I’d recommend reviewing the wide array of experiments I’ve done with lots of different waxes to learn how they feel and what they contribute to our formulations.
Castor oil, which isn’t a super creamy oil, teams up with the beeswax for a rich, creamy, slightly glossy combo. I wouldn’t call castor oil a creamy-magic ingredient on its own, but it’s gorgeous when combined with beeswax.
Creamy wonder ingredient #2 is a bit of a weird one: liquid soy lecithin. I used this in the 2016 original (and several other lip balm formulations). It’s not a common ingredient in lip balms and lip butters, but GUYS. It’s great. Liquid lecithin is like super-thick syrup, but if syrup was oil based. In high concentrations it’s really sticky, but in lower concentrations it makes things all kinds of creamy and moisturizing. It’s a wonderful emollient, slowing water loss and adding fabulous creaminess (and an amber colour) to our lip butter. I adore it and definitely recommend grabbing a bottle if you struggle with dry skin. It also has uses in baking, so it might be a good idea to see if you can find a food-grade bottle at a local health food store so you can bake with it, too.
You can also purchase liquid sunflower lecithin; I haven’t worked with it, but it should do as an alternative to liquid soy lecithin. Don’t try to use dry, powdered lecithin in this formulation.
Creamy ingredient #3 is refined lanolin. Lanolin is a fabulous ingredient for dry, irritated skin. Unfortunately, unrefined lanolin—the most common type of lanolin—smells awful. It has a strong, musty, sheep-y smell that is not the sort of thing I want hanging out directly under my nose. Thankfully, refined lanolin exists! It’s called “HPA” (highly purified anhydrous) lanolin. The only place I’ve found it for sale is at drug stores, where it’s sold as a breastfeeding ointment. You’ll find it linked in the formulation. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, I’ve heard from some readers that Pomegranate Sterols are a great alternative. I haven’t tried this ingredient, but it’s definitely on my list. This could also be a great option if you’re having a hard time finding refined lanolin.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
The Creamy-Sticky Continuum
Creaminess and stickiness are really closely related—especially so in lip products. A bit of tack/stickiness is part of the feeling of creaminess; without it, things just feel oily or greasy. That can mean that formulations that aim to feel really creamy can feel tacky to some people, because what is “tacky” and what is “creamy” is a very personal thing.
If you find the creaminess of this formulation tips into unpleasant tackiness, try swapping some of the lecithin for a liquid oil like sunflower oil or sweet almond oil. I would encourage you to give the creamy/tacky version a chance, though! I’ve grown to love a bit of tackiness in my lip products because it means they’re long-wearing and will keep my lips moisturized for hours.
How can I make this formulation vegan?
Please read the “Why is this lip butter so creamy?” section of this post for guidance on substituting out the two non-vegan ingredients: beeswax and lanolin. You will need to do some re-development work to get the formulation to work out, so start with 10g batches.
Relevant links & further reading
- Cocoa Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Beeswax in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Castor Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Lecithin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Lanolin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Coloured Mica in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Other lip balm/lip butter formulations:
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
Hot Chocolate Lip Butter
23.12g | 34% cocoa butter (USA / Canada)
17g | 25% beeswax (USA / Canada)
6.8g | 10% castor oil (USA / Canada)
9.86g | 14.5% liquid soy lecithin (USA / Canada)
10.2g | 15% refined lanolin (USA / Canada)
Cool down phase
0.34g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.68g | 1% chocolatey mica
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. I really recommend a measuring cup with a spout here rather than a beaker; Pyrex-style measuring cups are made of much thicker glass, and that holds heat better than thin glass, giving us extra time to work before the lip butter solidifies.
Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
After about 20–30 minutes everything should be completely melted through. Remove the water bath from the heat, remove the measuring cup from the water bath, and dry it off with a dishtowel. Set the measuring cup on a towel or hot pad to insulate it from the counter and stir the mixture with a flexible silicone spatula to combine everything.
Quickly add the cool down phase, stir to incorporate, and pour the lip butter into lip balm tubes. If you live somewhere quite a bit warmer than I do it might work in tins, but it’s too hard for easy tin application where I live. Leave the lip butter on the counter to set up.
And that’s it! Use as you’d use any lip balm and enjoy the long-lasting creamy moisturizing goodness 😄
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this product does not contain any water, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the formulation, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this formulation in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams, this formulation will make 68g, which will fill about 15 standard (4.5g) lip balm tubes.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- I don’t recommend making many substitutions in this formulation; there aren’t very many ingredients, and each one was carefully chosen to create the desired end product. If you start changing up the ingredients I recommend making a small batch to start to ensure you like it!
- You could use refined cocoa butter if you don’t want a chocolatey scent.
- You can use refined or unrefined beeswax. I have no vegan recommendations that will work seamlessly and provide the same level of creaminess.
- You could try Cera Bellina instead of beeswax.
- Don’t substitute the castor oil—it’s a very special oil!
- You could try liquid sunflower lecithin instead of liquid soy lecithin. Do not try to use powdered lecithin.
- Do not use unrefined lanolin unless you really like the smell of lanolin (I think it smells absolutely awful).
- I’ve heard from some readers that Pomegranate Sterols are a great alternative for lanolin, being both vegan and not smelling like sheep!
- You can use a different mica, or replace it with more castor oil if you don’t want to include it.
- You could use tocopherol acetate instead of tocopherol MT-50.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The chocolatey mica and beeswax were gifted by YellowBee.
The cocoa butter was gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.
I’ve tried to look this up but I can’t find answers anywhere: why don’t lip balms contain water? Does the skin on our lips work differently from the rest of our skin? Why can we use a nice hydrating cream on our face but not on our lips? I would love to know. I’ve been finding your formulations, articles and the encyclopedia extremely useful.
Because water is not required so if you add it you have to worry about compatibility issues and preservation issues. It is possible to add some amount of water but it would make a more complicated formulation and just as effective or less effective. The lips are exposed to saliva constantly whereas your face and other body parts are not. A lip balm needs a thick, oily, waxy consistency to stay on despite it being inadvertently licked at. Each body part has its unique requirements and the lips being so different from the face warrant a different type of formulation.
I’ve tried melt and pour lip balm base before and wasn’t thrilled with the result, so when I came across this recipe I decided to give it a try. This is by far the BEST lip balm I’ve used, and my family members loved them when I gave them as Christmas gifts!. I want to use the recipe with refined cocoa butter for a different scented lip butter for summer. Do I need to cut down on any of the oils when adding a flavor oil?