Wednesday, August 31, 2016

8/31/16- Lip Balm

I was at a pool party this weekend, and a fellow engineer was excited to talk STEM activities with me.  Every February, our engineering org goes to the AZ Science Center and performs a STEM experiment/activity with the kids and adults in honor of Engineers Week.  My fellow engineer was talking about ideas for a new activity, mostly centered around rockets (because rockets are cool).

But that made me realize it's time to post another STEM activity here on my blog.  School has started again, so what better time to get your STEM on than with the start of a new school year?  Below is how to make your own lip balm.

You may ask, what's lip balm got to do with science, but the answer is straightforward: make up companies hire scientists, engineers, and doctors. STEM professionals are needed for creating the make up formulas, adding/manufacturing the chemicals (or natural elements) in the make up, and testing the products.

Just look at the ingredients of any make up product, and you'll see compounds, minerals, and chemicals, the basis of chemistry right there on the label. Read on to learn more and to have fun creating your own lip balm!

Title: Make Your Own Lip Balm in 5 Steps
Author: Suzie Olsen at

Materials Needed:
  • Pot
  • Pyrex measuring cup
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Whisk
  • Water (for pot)
  • Chapstick/ Lip Balm Containers (To-Go Condiment Containers work too)
  • Pot holder/hot pad
  • 3 tsp of Bees Wax
  • 4 tsp of Cocoa Butter                                     
  • 5 tsp of Sweet Almond Oil
  • 2 tsp  Shea Butter
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Optional natural fragrance oil and food coloring
1.  Use a stove and the pot to boil some water.  As a safety precaution, check with your parents or guardians first before using the stove top to boil the water.

2. Add the Bees Wax, Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, and Sweet Almond Oil in Pyrex cup. Put the Pyrex cup into the boiling water; this technique is called a “double broiler.”

3. Mix the ingredients in the Pyrex cup with a whisk until completely melted.  When completely melted, add the honey.

4. Use the pot holder and take the Pyrex cup out of the pot. Pour the melted ingredients, which will be a liquid, into lip balm containers.

5. Wait fifteen minutes for lip balm to harden and cool.

Optional experiment: 
Add natural fragrance oil of your liking between steps 4 and 5 to flavor the lip balm.  Extracts used for baking, like vanilla and peppermint, can be used to flavor the lip balm as well. To color the lip balm, add a few drops of food coloring; gel food coloring will have a stronger color, while liquid food coloring will be more pastel.  Play mix and match with flavors and colors.

Fun facts relating to lip balm:
Chemical engineers can become cosmetic chemists using the knowledge of chemistry and the methods of engineering to extract, create and design new compounds and make-up. Engineers are problem solvers and can be given the task to find better anti-wrinkle cream or a more glossy lip balm.

Women in Ancient Egypt used crushed insects and toxic seaweed paste to redden their lips, whilst the Mesopotamians used the dust of semi-precious jewels and fish scales to add color and luster.1

The primary ingredients found in lipstick are wax, oil, alcohol, and pigment. The wax used usually involves some combination of three types—beeswax [just like we used], candelilla wax, or the more expensive camauba. Wax enables the mixture to be formed into the easily recognized shape of the cosmetic.2

Some lipsticks also intentionally contain skin irritants such as capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the heat in chili peppers, to cause temporary swelling of the lips and give a ‘lip-plumping’ effect. 1

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