After returning from a week in Toronto earlier this month my lips were a mess. Toronto is wonderfully humid whilst Calgary is… not… and my lips had been spoilt with all that decadent, skin-loving humidity. The return to Calgary saw my lips pitching a very uncomfortable hissy fit. Thankfully, I’d whipped up a batch of this creamy, occlusive, tinted lip balm before leaving. I’ve been loving softer, thicker lip balms lately—the type that you can really build up if need be. I’ve been trying such a lip balm from La Roche-Posay and figured I should try making one of my own (plus a tint because… 😍), and here we are!
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For thickeners I turned to a blend of cera bellina and stearic acid. Cera bellina is a modified beeswax that creates oil gels, and it really gives a wonderful rich gel backbone to this lip balm. Some added stearic acid adds some creamy occlusiveness that is a huge part of what makes this lip balm great. Do not swap or substitute either ingredient.
The rose part comes from the inclusion of some soft, fragrant rose wax. Despite having “wax” in the name, rose wax feels more like mango butter on the skin—it really doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of thickening. If you’re looking for an alternative, check the big list of suggested substitutions below the recipe.
The bulk of the balm is sweet almond oil, though you could easily use a different light to mid weight liquid oil in its place. Some vitamin E helps delay the onset of rancidity, and a wee touch of lemon essential oil brings a citrussy note. Lemon essential oil is not photosensitizing below 2%, so at 0.25% we are well within the safe range. You could also use litsea cubeba in its place.
For colour I’ve added some liquid carmine dye; it’s carmine that has been pre-distributed in castor oil, making it super easy to incorporate in your projects as you don’t have to worry about colour blooms or spend a lot of time blending in small particles of pigments (check the substitutions list if you only have the powdered stuff). You could use a red lake dye for a similarly true pink-red tint if you’re carmine-shy, or a bid of red iron oxide if you don’t mind the loss of the true red hue. I made two versions; a 1% carmine and a 5% carmine. It’s pretty easy to tell which is which in the photos! The video also has a shot of me swatching each so you can see the colour payoff for the different concentrations. I’ve provided guidelines on making both versions below. For a third tinting alternative you could use a pinkish mica—you won’t get a strong tint on the skin, but you will get some shimmer!
Since this is a lip thing we’ll be making just 20g (~1/3oz). 20g is still a lot of lip product (it’s equivalent to just over four tubes of lip balm) so I’d really encourage you not to scale up the recipe until you’re sure you love it. Since it’s such a small batch is also comes together pretty quickly—melting happens quickly, and it cools down in just four minutes. Once it’s cool you’ve got a bit of stirring to do, and then all that’s left is transferring it to your tubes with a syringe. Voila—Lemon Rose Lip Balm!
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Lemon Rose Lip Balm
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 1cm/0.3″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.
Once melted, stir the mixture occasionally as it cools; I left it for two minutes, stirred, left it for another two minutes, and stirred again and that was it for cooling and thickening!
Add the cool down ingredients, and stir to combine. I find a flexible silicone spatula to be fantastic for this job!
At this point you’re ready to transfer the mixture to your containers; I recommend a syringe to transfer it into some squeezy lip gloss tubes (USA / Canada). Check out the video to see this in action! Due to the consistency of this product I don’t recommend a hard screw-up lip balm tube or a wand lip gloss tube. A pot would be ok, but certainly not ideal, especially if you decide to make the 5% carmine version as you’ll end up with a pink finger.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this lip balm is 100% oil based, 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 recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe 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 recipe will make 20g.
- Do not substitute out the cera bellina or stearic acid
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like safflower oil, grapeseed, or sunflower seed for the sweet almond oil
- If you don’t have rose wax, use 69.24% sweet almond oil and 0.01% rose absolute instead
- If you want to make a less pigmented version, use 68.25% sweet almond oil and 1% liquid carmine dye instead
- If you don’t have the liquid carmine dye, try using 70% the amount of powdered carmine and 30% castor oil in its place, taking care to blend thoroughly