Lip balm was a pitfall we missed when going gluten-free, until my partner ran out of what he had been using and suddenly felt a little better (being scientists, of course, we re-introduced a few times at intervals to make sure it was the culprit). We spent endless time searching for something that was reasonably priced and didn’t try to slip through the gluten-free net by using wheat germ oil. While I have been assured by businesses that processing the wheat germ oil removes the gluten protein, there is debate as to whether it removes enough for those who are gluten sensitive below 20 ppm. Also, those sensitive to wheat itself in addition to the gluten protein can still react badly to wheat germ oil. As a bonus, most companies don’t mention if their vitamin E oil is wheat-derived.
So we finally gave up and made our own.
You can buy your own fillable lip balm tubes online, but I found it cheaper to buy a big pack of cheap lip balm, twist the bottom to get all the balm out of them, and scrub them out with hot water, dishsoap, and cotton swabs. When they were clean, I turned the base until the inner screw was back down to the bottom so that it could push out the new balm. In retrospect, the amount saved may not have been worth the time and effort it took.
For the balm, I use 1/2 beeswax and 1/2 virgin coconut oil. The former is available in craft shops or at farmers’ markets where beekeepers attend. The latter is in the specialty oils section of many grocery stores (Spectrum brand) as well as health food shops.
About half a cup of the mix lasts us six months or more, so keep in mind how much you need. It keeps for years, so you can always make a jar of it to keep around for quick re-fills. Just heat it up (1 minute in the microwave) whenever you need to pour new tubes.
Heat the two ingredients together in a double boiler or in the microwave at 30-second bursts, stirring between. Add flavoring, if desired (you can use tiny amounts of baking extracts or candy flavoring). Mix well until all combined and melted. Drop a few drops onto a cool surface and test the consistency. If it is too soft, add more beeswax. If too hard, add oil. When it is good, use a funnel to fill the lip balm tubes. Each tube takes very little fill; around a teaspoon. Pour very slowly and expect some overflow the first few times.
Make a disposable funnel out of aluminum foil wrapped around a pencil, if you want to simplify cleanup! Use masking or freezer tape so that it won’t be affected by the heat.
When the tubes are full, leave them out to cool for a few hours or overnight, then cap. Store in a dry, cool place. Keep the used tubes for washing and re-filling.
If you add more coconut oil than beeswax to make it a thick cream consistency, this simple mix makes a fabulous leather conditioner and protector for oil-tan boots, leather jackets, and horse tack.
If you want to make a conditioning lip stain, I have heard that plain, dry kool-aid is very effective! Add a pinch at a time to the melted mix and test on a paper towel until it gets to the right color. A little goes a long ways.