STEM Activity: DIY Natural Lip Balm using Essential Oils
Most of the STEM activities I’ve written about have been in the area of engineering, but our latest STEM activity involved science. About 4 years ago, I started trying to cook healthier meals for my family. After starting down that path, I also started investigating natural alternatives to non food items that my family were using as well. For example, most of the time when I clean our bathrooms, I just use water, dawn, and vinegar (and a magic eraser) instead of harsh chemicals. I also sometimes use tea-tree oil while cleaning the bathrooms.
A few years ago, I made some natural lotion bars, and while I had been using a few essential oils, recently, I attended a class taught by a friend about how to use more essential oils. With a renewed desire to start making more natural products for my family, I thought for our next STEM activity it’d be cool to let the kids help me to make our own lip balms.
It’s amazing that we put all kinds of products on our skin, and we don’t know half the ingredients in the products we are using. I hope to inspire you to stop being so busy, and to stop and to realize what you are exposing you and your family to. My goal is not to scare you, but to make you more self-aware.
When I told the kids we were going to be making our own lip balms, Annaliese was particularly excited. I still had a package of beeswax that I had never opened back from when I had made some natural lotion bars some years earlier. From browsing around on Pinterest, I discovered I could use either cocoa butter or shea butter in my lip balms, and I already had some Coconut oil at home. I decided to buy lavender and peppermint essential oils as well. After watching a youtube video, I decided that I would use 1 part oil, 1 part butter, and 1 part beeswax. One youtuber used 1 tablespoon of each ingredient to make a single lip balm, so I decided we’d use 5 tablespoons each of the beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil since I planned for us to make 5 lip balms (one for everyone in the family). I took this time to discuss the fractional part the mixture was of each ingredient.
So first the kids and I started grating the beeswax. A lesson I learned is that next time, we’ll want to buy beeswax pellets as it was quite difficult to grate 5 tablespoons of beeswax. Annaliese, Andre`, and I took turns and grated the beeswax. The kids worked hard to grate the bar we had. Since I was using a 1/2 tablespoon to measure, I asked Annaliese to figure out how many of the 1/2 tablespoons I would need in order to have the 5 tablespoons we needed. To the grated beeswax, we added our shea butter and coconut oil.
It is recommended that you use a double boiler to melt the mixture. We added the ingredients to a mug. Then I took a small pot and put some water in the pot. Then I placed the mug with our ingredients inside the pot. This was our make shift double boiler. Of course, it took the beeswax the longest to melt. Andre` commented about how the mug looked like it was sweating. When your kids make observations such as this, it is a good opportunity to teach him about other related concepts, in this case condensation.
After all of the mixture had melted, I took it off of the heat and let it cool for a little while. I had decided we’d make peppermint-lavender flavored lip balms. So I let Annaliese and Andre` each add 15 drops of each oil. Our mixture ended up having a few more than 30 drops of the essential oil though because Abigail also wanted to add some drops of an oil.
After letting our mixture cool some more, I poured the mixture into a measuring cup and into the lip balm holders. You can easily purchase empty lip balm holders. I purchased mine from a local natural store for about 89 cents each, but I’m pretty sure they can be purchased cheaper than that online.
It turns out, for the size lip balm holders we had, we did not need 3 tablespoons of the mixture (1 tablespoon each of the oil, butter, and beeswax). I still had the mold I used a few years earlier to make the lotion bars, so we poured the rest of the mixture into the mold and into a tin lip balm container. So we ended up with lip balms and lotion bars. Though I really like the texture of the lotion bars, if you want harder lotion bars, you’ll have to add more beeswax than we used. I also think I want our lip balms to be firmer next time, which will require more beeswax.
Afterwards, Andre` decided he would put stickers on his lip balm, and Annaliese decided to as well after seeing his. I definitely think we will be making more natural products. It will be fun to let the kids experiment with how they want to flavor their own lip balms and lotion bars in the future. We can also play with using different types of oils and butters. An activity such as this is a great way to let your kids be little scientists while experimenting with making their own natural products.
It turns out that these lip balms turned quite gritty. So we’ll have to keep playing with the recipe.
Do you have a favorite DIY natural lip balm or lotion bar recipe? Please share any amazing recipes you have. If you’d like to see more STEM activities related to essential oils and other natural ingredients let me know as well. 🙂
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