We all know the drill. Your lips are chapped and you can't find your lip balm tube so you grab a new one while you're at the grocery store. Then you receive one in your Christmas stocking. Then your favorite lip balm brand comes out with a new scent and it's a little too intriguing to pass up. And before you know it you have 12 unfinished lip balm tubes floating around, although 11 are nowhere to be found and probably made their way to the trash when you weren't looking. BUT you're now avoiding creating trash whenever possible so you've resolved to use your lip balm tubes until they are completely empty and then recycle them.
But wait. Even if plastic lip balm tubes are placed in the recycle bin, they are one of those small items (like straws) that are likely to slip through the cracks. And even if they do make it all the way to the recycling process, they are made of plastic, so they can only be recycled a few times at most before they become trash. See our Packaging Hierarchy for more about recyclable plastic.
This is one of the trickiest types of packaging to dispose of responsibly. But luckily it's also one of the easiest to avoid altogether! DIY lip balm is easy to make, inexpensive, and the ingredients are similar to those used in other DIY salves and balms -- you can call it an "all-purpose balm" and use it many ways: dry hands, cuticles, heels, nose, you name it.
Without further ado, here's a simple and fail-safe recipe that will yield about 1 ounce of lip balm.
1 Tbsp lightly packed shredded beeswax or beeswax pastilles
1/2 Tbsp shea butter
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 drops vitamin E oil
**Optional - 10 drops peppermint or other essential oil that's safe for topical application
- Heat beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil in a double boiler (or a mason jar in boiling water) until melted.
- Add vitamin E oil (and essential oil if applicable).
- Pour into a container and let cool.
What do I use for a container?
Reusing empty lip balm containers is a great place to start! And if you don't need to transport your lip balm (e.g., it lives in the medicine cabinet or on the bathroom counter), you could even use a bottle cap. Or invest in a nice new container like this one that you can refill and reuse for many years to come.
But beeswax isn't vegan.
If you're looking for a vegan alternative to beeswax, candelilla wax is a popular swap. Candelilla wax comes from a shrub that grows in northern Mexico and southern U.S. Note that candelilla wax has a higher melting temperature and would make for a much harder product. If you're using it in this recipe, we'd recommend cutting the portion in half.
If you're not sure how you feel about using beeswax, here are some things to ponder. Many people object to using beeswax because bees are often treated very poorly in large bee farms. You may be able to avert this issue by being aware of where your beeswax comes from -- your farmers market or health food store might carry a supply from a local or small farm. And if you find it, stock up. Beeswax has an unlimited shelf life! Beeswax offers a lot of benefits in skincare products: it's effective at retaining moisture while not clogging pores and has antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
If you still have a collection of plastic lip balm tubes and want to ensure that they get recycled, here are two mail-in recycling services worth looking into:
- Burt's Bees accepts empty Burt's Bees packaging. Just collect 3 or more empties and print out a shipping label on the website.
- TerraCycle has a free recycling program for personal care products, however, you may have to wait out many months on a waiting list before you are eligible to begin shipping your empties.
Have you tried making your own lip balm? Or have you discovered any great brands making plastic-free lip balm? Tell us about it! Reach out to us on Instagram or comment below. And sign up for our mailing list before you go!