3 ingredient zero waste lip balm recipe

Here’s a three ingredient formula for a versatile zero waste lip balm that I use on my lips, cuticles, and as the base for my DIY zero waste deodorant. 


3 ingredients, no packaging

This basic balm recipe uses only three ingredients, all of which can be found unpackaged here in Sydney:

  • cacao butter
  • coconut oil
  • beeswax

It’s inspired by a lip balm I had long ago from Lush (Honey Trap, I think) that was great for cuticles and lips alike. I began making my own once I found out how simple this kind of thing is, and when The Soap Dispensary opened and started offering refills of these ingredients in only the amounts I needed. My recipe is a bit simpler than Lush’s, but works just as well.

zero waste lip balm ingredients

Melt and pour method for making the balm 

Melt all three ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio in a mason jar set into simmering water. Stir to combine, then pour into silicone moulds or small reused lip balm tins. The mixture will harden as it cools to room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, put the moulds in the fridge.

You can usually find silicone ice cube trays at the op shop – that’s where I got these heart shaped moulds.

Variations on the lip balm recipe

For meltier bars, reduce the relative amount of beeswax. For harder bars (or in summer) increase the beeswax. You can also mix and match oils, butters and waxes if you don’t have cacao or coconut or beeswax – the trick is to start with the roughly 1:1:1 mixture of oil, butter and wax, and then adapt to your climate and preference. The more liquid your ingredients are, the softer the balm will be. I use this combo of cacao, coconut and beeswax because I can find it all packaging free, and cacao butter smells like chocolate!

Uses for the everything balm

I usually make a couple at a time since extras are great as gifts, or stored for later in an upcycled candle jar. The little bars can be remelted and mixed to make DIY paste deodorant.

Safety razor pros and cons, a year on

When I first made the switch to a safety razor, I was nervous! I didn’t know anyone who shaved with one, and information I found online was confusing and made it all sound so scary. Here’s a quick update on how it’s going, over a year later. My original review is here


Pros of shaving with a safety razor: 

  • Takes no more time to shave than with a disposable razor.
  • Not sure why this is the case, but I am finally able to shave my knees properly. Sensitive areas other than knees are easy to shave without irritation too.
  • I use a regular soap and water, nothing special. The trick is to turn the water off when lathering up.
  • I find I go through blades slowly, which means it’s not costing me much. I broke down the costs in my first post about the safety razor if you’re interested.
  • Spent blades are useful to have around the house – I use the one old blade to remove labels from jars.
  • Looks sort of majestic, no?

safety razor

Cons of shaving with a safety razor: 

  • They aren’t allowed in airline carry on with the blade inside. Depending on your job/lifestyle, you might want to hold on to your last disposable as a travel backup, or just be prepared to check a bag. I can’t say this has really impacted me, but my friends who basically live on airplanes should consider this.
  • Depending on the blade brand, they might come in a little plastic container. Compared to the packaging you’d get when you buy a pack of disposable heads, it’s still less. If really bothers you, chose the blades that come in a cardboard box – Personna and Astra were in cardboard, and I think I like Personna best anyway.
  • The closeness of the shave might depend on the blade brand. I’ve been working through a sampler pack with five different brands to see which blade suits me best. The idea is to start with the beginner blades (they protrude the least from assembly) and work up to the most advanced. I haven’t gotten far, but even so, I prefer the brand I’m using now, a ‘middle’ sharpness. I remember thinking in the beginning that the shave could have been a little closer, and now I find the effect extremely smooth. This is sort of a con that became neutral.

safety razor blades

The verdict

I’m still quite happy with my safety razor. I’ll admit I was hesitant to invest, but now that I’ve used the safety razor for over a year, it’s just normal, and I don’t see any reason I won’t have it for the rest of my life, which could be three times as long as I’ve even been shaving up ’til now. Other zero waste hair removal options are sugaring or just going father in between shaves at minimum.

If you have any questions or want to share your own experience, feel free to ask in the comments below.

A non-greasy Zero Waste deodorant to make at home

I’m not sure why my DIY deodorant actually works, but it seems to and it’s easy to make. But you might not even need it. Confused? Ummm…yeah.


There are good reasons to consider giving up conventional deodorant to start making your own, including avoiding fragrance or triclosan, reducing plastic packaging waste, and saving some money.

A brief history of deodorant

Women were the first to be body shamed into buying it in the early 1900s. Adverts of the time told women that they needed to get that pesky underarm odour under control if they hoped to snag a mate. Nevermind that it clearly hadn’t stopped humans from mating in all the human history that came before it… Women were at first outraged, then bought in big and a need was born. The same story as many personal care products! At the time, male body odour was considered completely fine, masculine even. That only changed decades later when producers hawkishly realized they were missing out on 50% of the market.

Fear of body odour is at its root, fear of rejection, and probably why many people can be hesitant to try out anything that doesn’t explicitly promise “24 hour odour protection!” or similar.

I’d tell you to go without, except that I don’t, and besides, many of us work indoors – our sensibilities might not be attuned to the smells of the pre-Victorian era. And since deodorant shames each gender in mostly equal amounts these days, let’s just look at an alternative to the conventional drug store variety, just because we can.

My tried and tested formula

Anecdotally, my homemade formula works for me, but I couldn’t help but wonder why. The internet is abound with terrible advice provided by people who have good intentions, but a poor grasp of what constitutes legitimate scientific literature. It muddies the waters to call a homemade deodorant ‘chemical free’. Chemicals are neither good nor bad by definition. It’s much more accurate to say we want to avoid chemicals proven to harm biological systems, like triclosan. Not every commercially sold deodorant contains triclosan and I’ve not seen any science that supports that widely repeated claim (from somewhere) aluminum causes breast cancer.

So why do I bother making deodorant myself? I find deconstructing ingredients and making stuff at home fun and empowering. I find unsubstantiated claims that may distract people from actual risk factors disempowering. I also like spending less on things that are super easy to make.

Anyway, having relied on my homemade deodorant for a number of years now, in climates from temperate to sometimes torturously hot, I am pleased to tell you I haven’t lost any friends. The formula is a distillation of anything and everything I’ve found on the internet over the years, combined with what I’ve picked up from workshops. And then I tried to make it as simple as possible, because I am a very big fan of that sort of thing.

In any case, it’s probably helpful to start, as I did, by getting a better grasp of the anatomy of the armpit and why it’s prone to odour in the first place.

Some interesting armpit tidbits

  • Armpits are about a pH of 4 – 6 (acidic), with women having a slightly lower pH than men, on average.
  • Sweat is one way our bodies control temperature, but not all sweat is the same – our bodies have two types of sweat glads: eccrine and apocrine. The former produces a salty solution that actually inhibits bacterial growth, the latter a more protein rich sweat, which bacteria like to feast on. Hairy body parts have more of the glands that produce protein rich sweat.
  • Smell is the result of bacteria breaking down the proteins in apocrine sweat.
  • Some people don’t produce body odour. And if you have dry earwax, you may be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t need any form of deodorant. Yup, this was determined by a study done by the NHS.
  • Salts inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Our skin is probably bacterially unbalanced, much like modern day intestines. We are probably over-washing and getting rid of good bacteria. One day we might spray on bacteria instead of deodorant to keep smell at bay. But not today.

Next I looked into the most common ingredients found in commercially available so called natural deodorants.

Common natural deodorant ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll find in popular, raved-about natural paste style deodorant. By law, ingredients must descend in order of concentration, which makes it simple enough to reverse engineer a recipe. They usually include the following:

  • Baking soda / bi carb is the star ingredient in most paste recipes. Baking soda is the same thing as bi carb, a type of salt. You could apply it solo, directly to your underarms. The reason many don’t is because that would be hard to apply and perhaps a bit abrasive, as well as on the high pH side at 8.5.
  • Arrowroot is moisture absorbing and has a neutral pH. I also suspect this creates a smoother consistency thanks to its thickening action. It acts a lot like cornstarch, but most cornstarch is from monocrops, and it’s also much higher pH than arrowroot, and could be irritating.
  • Clays are moisture absorbing. They can be neutral to high pH. Kaolin has a lower pH, bentonite has a very high pH.
  • Diotomaceaous earth is also alkaline, and sometimes used in place of bi carb or clay. It’s made of tiny little fossils. Actually this ingredient isn’t all that common.
  • Shea butter or cocoa butter are both moisturizing, and help form the balm base.
  • Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and helps form the balm base.
  • Beeswax hardens the mixture, which is useful for warm climates.
  • Essential oils like tea tree have antibacterial properties, and also add a bit of scent. If you’re preggers, sensitive, or a child, don’t use essential oils, and never use pure essential oils undiluted on your skin.

The best I can figure, bi-carb based deodorants work by raising the pH of the area to inhibit bacteria. The other ingredients make the paste nice to apply and also dilute the bi carb, which should theoretically bring down the pH of the formula. Why is this important? Products with a high pH can cause irritation to the skin. If you get skin irritation, you might want to reduce the bi carb or high pH ingredients in the formula. Some of the other ingredients are antibacterial.

The DIY deodorant formula I use.

Every time I make my deodorant, I make it a bit differently because I have slightly different ingredients on hand. It always turns out fine and usable because it’s a robust recipe. It’s not like soap making, which is a technical process where precision measurement of oils and lye can the difference between success and failure. DIY deodorant is melt and pour. With our basic balms and deodorant pastes, adding too much of one thing is easily corrected by adding a bit more of another.

zero waste deodorant

 

Ingredients:

  • 1TBSP cocoa butter
  • 1TBSP coconut oil
  • 1TBSP beeswax
  • 1TBSP bi carb
  • 1TBSP kaolin clay
  • 1TBSP arrowroot powder
  •  5-10 drops skin safe essential oil, like tea tree or lavender

This method uses one equal part of each ingredient (excluding essential oil), and a 50:50 overall ratio of dry ingredients to balm. Meaning, if you need to swap out the kaolin clay for 1.5 TBSP each bi carb and arrowroot. The more bi carb, the stronger the deodorant’s effectiveness, but also the potential for skin irritation.  Or you could swap the fancier 1:1:1 balm recipe for 3 parts coconut oil. Easy, right?

Step 1: Make the basic balm recipe

Start with a basic balm recipe using a 1:1:1 ratio of butter/oil/wax (this can be used on lips or cuticles or as a massage bar too). If it’s winter, decrease the beeswax by half, as I did, or altogether.

zero waste deodorant

Put the balm ingredients in a heat proof container like a mason jar and into a hot water bath until melted, then stir to mix.

Step 2: Add the dry ingredients

Combine your dry ingredients in a separate vessel. It’s a good idea to sift the bi carb or just break up any chunks. Mix this into the softened or melted basic balm mix. After it cools a little, mix in a few drops of essential oil. The mixture will firm up over the next hour or two and have a paste consistency.

zero waste deodorant

Step 3: Store and use your deodorant

I keep my deodorant in a small glass jar that formerly housed a candle. Any jar would do as long as you can reach in with your fingers, because you will need to apply the deodorant with your fingers. And why not – if you’re a lady, you should be checking your armpit regularly for lumps.

zero waste deodorant

Give it a minute to sink in before putting on clothing. If you’re getting grease stains, you could be using too much, or you may need to add more of the dry ingredients to dry out the formula for your climate and season. I use about half a pea size for each underarm. A small pea. One batch should last a few months. It’s probably worth noting that before I cracked this recipe, I used a simpler coconut oil and bi carb formula that left me feeling greasy. I much prefer what I use now, and find it worth the additional steps since I only make two batches a year. It’s also worth noting that I don’t tend to wear clingy white clothing these days. but I used to and I’d get staining from conventional deodorants anyway.

A note on Zero Waste ingredient sourcing

I used to be able to get all of the ingredients packaging free from The Soap Dispensary. Now that I live in Sydney, I can get some but not all of the ingredients packaging free. Bi carb, arrowroot powder, coconut oil and cocoa butter can be found at many of the bulk food stores I frequent. Beeswax isn’t hard to find in blocks at the farmers market or through a crop swap group. For anything I can’t easily source packaging free, my approach is to buy in larger amounts to share with friends.

Thoughts on my new safety razor

safety razor

Waste-free shaving is possible with a safety razor

When my last two disposable cartridge heads bit the dust I took a leap and invested in a safety razor. I’d put off the decision for some time and stretched those last cartridges over nearly two years while I deliberated.

Safety razors looked awfully…sharp. I certainly didn’t want to invest in something I’d end up hating or that didn’t work, or worse, cut my legs to shreds. Reviews around the web seemed uniformly positive, but still I waffled.

In the end, with no other appealing hair removal Plan B, I finally went ahead and bought one. I went with the Merkur Solingen Long Handle Classic Double Edge Razor (23C). I chose the long handled version, which isn’t exactly that long.

safety razor dissassembled

It wasn’t completely waste-free purchase, as I ordered online and received a cardboard box with tape and the usual shipping paraphernalia (including a very small amount of soft plastic that came with a blade sampler pack). I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the use of water soluble packing peanuts, which can be composted. Single use is never going to be perfect, but I thought it better at least, and I recycled the small amount of soft plastic through Redcycle.

The nuts and bolts of the safety razor

The razor cost $55 (that’s AUD, and things in Australia are often dearer than in North America), but the blades themselves are cheap – roughly a buck apiece. Compare that to disposable cartridges that run $3 – $6 each! This means I’ll break even after somewhere between 10 – 20 blade refills.

The thing itself is beautiful to look at. Gleaming, retro and modern all at once, with an air of permanence. The razor comes apart into 3 pieces, minus the blade. You would only disassemble to change a blade or perhaps clean the razor.
Safety_gif

How well does the safety razor work?

The razor works fabulously. I get a close shave with no irritation. I shave exactly the same way as I used to and it takes no more time overall. Bam.

So let’s talk details…

Shaving cream

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have particularly sensitive skin or coarse hair, but I’ve never been a careful shaver and I don’t follow all the rules. One of those implied rules is to use shaving cream. I replaced this chemical-laden and generally over-packaged drugstore purchase long ago in favour of unpackaged bar soap.

The very few Youtube videos I found about safety razors that were geared towards women’s shaving recommended methods borrowed from the men’s department i.e. a boar brush, a special shave soap and dish, lots of frothing, and a method of short strokes, light pressure, and meticulous care.

I gambled that I could continue to use my lathering soap instead of cream with my new and possibly murderous tool, and feel vindicated to be able to say yes, it works completely fine.

The blade and you

The blade is not nearly as exposed as I expected. I had trouble taking a closeup shot of the blade, but it sits between the rounded top piece and the pronged bottom piece of the razor handle.

When you shave, you drag the blade at an angle (30 degrees or so), and what you’ll feel is the top and bottom piece against your skin. The correct angle allows the blade to make contact. Angle the handle too far one way or another and the blade won’t actually touch. Very safe and simple to figure out. You’d have to press pretty hard to have a problem.

Disposing of spent razor blades

The razor blades are made of steel, which is a recyclable material. However, most recycling facilities don’t deal well with tiny pieces of material. And I state the obvious when I say that no one, at the recycling facility or elsewhere, wants a run in with loose razor blades.

To make my shaves waste-free, I’ll save my blades in a blade bank. These are small containers with a one way slot. You can buy them, or make them yourself. When full, recycle the whole thing.

For my DIY method, I will try using a steel food can.  I don’t eat much tinned food, and yes I know all about the BPA lining, but I still do eat some, and one tin is all I’ll need to safely store quite a few razor blades.

To make your blade bank, carefully slice a slit into the top with a knife you don’t love too much, or a multi-tool, puncture a small hole on the other side to relieve the pressure, and drain the liquid from the can (use the liquid). Sounds easy, right? I’ll let you know how that goes, ha!

Sidebar: this is also a good trick for recycling bitty bits like steel caps from beer bottles and the like, except instead of making a slit, you could open the can the normal way, fill, then crimp when full. Sort like with like, metal-wise. If you’re not sure if you’re dealing with steel or aluminum, use a magnet: a magnet will stick to steel, not aluminum.

A few more ways to reduce the impact of your shave: 

  • Turn off the tap when lathering up and shaving.
  • If you use a disposable head, try keeping it for longer than the ‘recommended’ number of uses.
  • You could try stropping to hone the blade so it lasts longer. I really can’t say I notice a difference.

Yes, I can safely recommend this razor.

Let this be a record that I tried, I liked, and I do recommend the safety razor. I’ve invested in something I hope to have forever and also looks pretty schmick. There’s been no difference in the time I spent shaving, and I expect a cost saving over the long run on new blades.