Zero waste DIY: Lip balm and toothpowder

I don’t wear a ton of makeup, but I do have my favorites … and they’re all packaged. One of the biggest offenders in my life is a plastic tube (or two) of lip balm. I got addicted in high school (Mara, you know what I’m talking about) and have never looked back.

But. Plastic tubes. Zero waste year. Something has to change.

I went online and searched homemade lip balm options, and got quickly discouraged because a lot of them contained ingredients I can’t get in bulk, like cocoa or shea butter, and what’s the point of buying a plastic jug of something to put in my plastic-free lip balm? I finally decided that I was making it too hard. I have coconut oil, I have beeswax, I have essential oil, what could possibly happen?

It turns out compacts don't hold very much, so thank goodness I had a clean repurposed tin available.

It turns out compacts don’t hold very much, so thank goodness I had a clean repurposed tin available.

I mean, besides utter failure?

Exact measurements are boring, so I just started tossing stuff into a small jar in a pan of boiling water: A nice blob of coconut oil, a bit of beeswax, and then what ended up being too much cocoa powder. I mixed that all around with a few drops of peppermint essential oil (I was going for a Girl Scout Thin Mints kind of ordeal) and the let it cool slightly before putting it into my repurposed container of choice — an old compact that used to hold foundation powder.

Because math has never been my strong point, I made way more lip balm then I had anticipated. So I put the rest in another repurposed tin, and whew, it barely fit, but fit it did.

Once it cooled, it sort of looked like fudge. But it’s not that dark when it goes on — it’s just a hint of color. Less is more with cocoa powder, though, that’s the main lesson here.

While I won’t say it ended up an utter failure, it’s not exactly what I was thinking. I like the tint aspect, but I have to reapply it frequently. One unexpected perk: This makes a great blush. And smelling like chocolate isn’t the worst thing in the world.

But I’ll probably keep experimenting.


I finally finished off the homemade toothpaste I made in June, and I can’t say I was so wowed by the whole experience that I felt the need to just jump back on that wagon without looking into other alternatives. Plus I read somewhere that coconut oil needs to be treated like any other oil, in that you can’t just spit it in the sink without major clogs happening somewhere down the line. Gross.

But hey, there are toothpowder recipes galore — and, I mean, if I wanted I could just brush with baking soda, but that seems boring — so I finally settled on this one from Wellness Mama: 4 tablespoons bentonite clay, 3 tablespoons calcium powder, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 tablespoon xylitol powder and essential oil to taste.



The only thing I knew I was missing was the calcium powder, but as we’ve already established, my grocery store has all kinds of weird stuff, so I wasn’t worried. No calcium powder, but the dregs of some calcium citrate were available, so I rolled the dice and bought that, for a grand total of 63 cents for .05 ounces.

I really should pay more attention to details. Not only did I not get enough calcium citrate (I had about 2 tablespoons), but I didn’t have enough bentonite clay in my stash, either (a mere 3 tablespoons). I compensated by adding an extra tablespoon of baking soda.

I whirled all of the ingredients in my food processor — THAT will make xylitol powder! — and put the finished product in a repurposed jar (talk about a dust storm), then mixed in a couple drops of peppermint essential oil. The cinnamon and cloves make it brown, so that’s kind of alarming exciting.

OH CRAP. I just realized a mistake: Because science, you’re not supposed to touch bentonite clay with anything metal. My food processor has a metal blade. So much for maximum effectiveness.

But I actually really like this one, much better than the coconut toothpaste. My mouth feels fresh and clean after brushing. I do have to splash the sink each time — it’s messy — and it works better if your mouth is … what, damp? … before lightly loading up a wet toothbrush. And P.S., rinse your mouth well afterwards or you might end up with cinnamon in your teeth. Don’t ask me how I know.

Disclaimer, I’m an English major, so my grasp of science is fuzzy as hell. I plan to ask my dentist what he thinks about all of this when I see him in September. I also have my annual doctor’s appointment coming up later this month and will ask what she thinks as well. Let’s just get everyone to weigh in, that’s my thought, cover ALL the bases. So while I’m comfortable trying this, I would say that you need to make whatever choice is the most comfortable for you — even if that means packaged toothpaste. (Eric and the girls refuse to try toothpowder. I’m also comfortable with THAT. I mean, especially with the girls; it would be nice to know that it is actually working before setting them up with their own jars … assuming they ever agree.)

Next up: Don’t panic, you guys, but I’m going to be MIA next week. But! You are all my favorites, so I have a little treat planned for our posts on the 15th and 19th. Let’s just say you’ll see a couple of familiar Simple Year faces. 🙂 I’ll be back on the 22nd.