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Lip Balm Science

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Have you ever noticed how many kinds and brands and flavors of lip balm appear in the cosmetics department at your favorite store? Why are there so many variations? Which one do you like most? Why do you like it? What kinds of differences do you notice between types?

It might surprise you to discover that lip balm is something you can make at home. In fact, just like mixing up a batch of cookies, making lip balm follows a basic recipe. And, just as there are many recipes for cookies and many ways to alter the basic "formula" for making cookies, there are many ways you can alter and customize the "formula" (or "recipe") for making your own lip balm.


What's On the Inside

A look at the ingredients list on the side of your favorite tube of lip balm might show a number of ingredients. "What" goes into each formula and "how much" of each ingredient is used changes the consistency, scent, flavor, creaminess, and emollience.

The ingredients list on the lip balm I have in front of me reads this way:

Beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower oil, tocopheryl acetate & tocopherol (vitamin E), lanolin, peppermint oil, comfrey root extract, rosemary extract.

This is a lip balm manufactured by a well-known company that creates "natural" lotions, soaps, and balms, and yet I see in this list the basic ingredients of any lip balm... an oil and a wax.

This company has come up with its own combination of ingredients and made choices about which oil and which wax to use in its custom blend of balm. I like the choices the company has made. You might like something creamier. Or you might prefer something without a mint. Or, you might find that you like lip balms best that use a different wax or a different oil. Each ingredient contributes to the way the balm feels, tastes, spreads, and lasts.


Kitchen Chemistry

Do you know what emulsifiers are? Do you know what an emollient is? Maybe not. But when you mix up your own lip balm, these concepts come into play. Making lip balm can be fun and practical, but it's also chemistry.

In the Potions and Lotions: Lessons in Cosmetic Chemistry Science Buddies science project, you can try a few basic recipes for lip balm and then do some product testing with a group of friends or volunteers to see which ones are most popular. Or you might evaluate which blend lasts longest or spreads most easily.

After you try a few basic recipes, you can experiment with other ingredients, change percentages, or combinations of ingredients, and expand your research to come up with your very own blend of lip balm—your perfect formula.

If your lip balms are a hit, you might also consider making your own lotions or even your own perfumes. These two project ideas can help get you started on a fun science fair project or on your own line of lotions and balms to give away or to sell!


2 Comments

Hi Amy,

Good idea on getting kids to think about how something is made. I think it's great to get their creative minds in gear and to think through a process. More needs to be done but you are doing your part. Thanks again.

this iz 2 kool

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