Most of the vegan lip balms I’ve tried share the characteristic of being quite glassy and thin—they lack that rich creaminess of beeswax lip balms. With a beeswax lip balm you can really schmear it on and it’ll stay there and lock in moisture for ages (especially this recipe). Vegan lip balms made with candelilla and carnauba wax are pretty much the opposite of that, though; they tend to “slick” on quite thinly, leaving a thin, glassy coating. Now, this isn’t a straight-up bad thing (it can be great in the summer!), but in the midst of a dry winter I find glassy vegan balms are pretty much useless. That’s the problem I wanted to tackle with this Vanilla Spice Vegan Lip Balm recipe.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
When I did my stearic acid experiments and started playing with this lovely hand butter, I couldn’t get over the wonderful creamy feel of stearic acid. It’s got a big of drag to it (meaning it helps with adhesion and longevity of a product on the skin), but not enough to be sticky, which beeswax can definitely be. Basically, the more I worked with it, the more I thought stearic acid could be an excellent solution to too-thin vegan lip balms.
I played with a couple different variations of this recipe to find the right level of creaminess—something comparable to my Naked Lip Balm—and I’m super excited to share the results of those experiments with you today! Before anyone asks; yes, it MUST be stearic acid. There are no substitutions. Even cocoa butter, which is pretty high in stearic acid, is only about 35% stearic acid, so in order to get the same amount of stearic acid as called for in the recipe you’d have to use an additional 24g of cocoa butter to get the required amount of stearic acid, but that would come along with 15.6g of other non-stearic-acid-things, and in a 50g recipe, adding another 24g of anything is obviously going to throw everything else way out of whack. While this swap can work sometimes, when we need as much stearic acid as we need here, and we’re counting on it being in its pure form—use it in its pure form 🙂
Other than the stearic acid incorporation, the rest of the recipe is pretty familiar lip balm territory. There’s less wax than usual to make room for the hardening power of the stearic acid, and some fragrant cocoa butter and coconut oil really compliment the vanilla spice scent blend. I chose candelilla wax instead of carnauba as I tried a batch with carnauba and it felt a bit dusty on the lips, while candelilla was smooth.
You’ll notice the scent blend is pretty conservative, and I definitely did that on purpose. I tried a punchier blend in early experiments and they were hella itchy on the lips—not good! So, please, pretty please, do not increase the amounts of the “hot” oils (the cinnamon and clove), and if you have sensitive skin, drop ’em all together and just use the benzoin.
I’ve included a touch of mica for a bit of vanilla-esque warmth. I used a lovely bronze from TKB Trading (they have so many to choose from 😍), but any colour that makes you think of warm, vanilla-y goodness is a great choice. Make sure it’s lip safe, though (some aren’t), and if you want this lip balm to stay vegan check the colour blend to see if it includes carmine. You can also eliminate the mica, use more, or use less—it’s up to you! If you want to use more I recommend incorporating it with the cool down ingredients and swatching as you add more so you can stop when you’re happy.
The final vanilla spice vegan lip balm is the creamiest vegan lip balm I’ve ever made, and I really like it. It smells great, works a treat, and is a brilliant addition to our vanilla spice holiday line up. Enjoy!
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
Vanilla Spice Vegan Lip Balm
8.5g | 0.3oz stearic acid
12.5g | 0.44oz virgin coconut oil
7.5g | 0.26oz cocoa butter (USA / Canada)
15g | 0.53oz rice bran oil
6g | 0.21oz candelilla wax
0.22g | 1/16 tsp bronze mica (I use these tiny measuring spoons for tiny measurements like this)
2020 update: Given the irritation potential for cinnamon essential oil, I now recommend dropping it from this formulation. The one drop/0.05g called for in this formulation works out to roughly 0.1%, which is higher than the 0.07% maximum usage rate. The clove essential oil is within the allowable usage range, but if you have sensitive skin I would drop it as well. Replace removed essential oils with more rice bran oil.
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 stearic acid, coconut oil, cocoa butter, rice bran oil, candelilla wax, and mica into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. 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 dish towel. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.
Add the vitamin E and essential oils, and stir to incorporate.
Pour the lip balm into tubes or tins (this recipe will fill ten or eleven standard lip balm tubes), and leave it to solidify (20–30 minutes) before capping. Make sure you wipe down the tubes or tins with some paper towel before applying any labels (I love these labels) so they stick—if there’s any oil on your tubes they’ll peel right off. Enjoy your Vanilla Spice Vegan Lip Balm!
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.
Substitutions & Notes
- If you need whole number measurements, simply double the recipe!
- You MUST use stearic acid; there is no substitution or alternative!
- You can use deodorized versions of the cocoa butter and coconut oil if you prefer
- You can use babassu oil instead of coconut oil
- You can use a different mid-weight liquid oil instead of the rice bran oil
- I don’t recommend using carnauba wax instead of candelilla wax (see the pre-amble)
- Make sure the mica you’re using is lip safe
- The mica is optional; you can also use less or more