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Yes, it’s true. Women in Victorian America really did make their own homemade tinted lip balm. Even though makeup was usually frowned upon in Victorian society, enough women must have considered tinted lip balms to be acceptable for recipes for them to have been included in Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular lady’s magazine of the 19th century.
19 century lip balm recipes are usually very simple with about four or five ingredients at most unlike many modern lip balms with ingredient lists so long that they need teeny, tiny print to fit them all on the label.
Old-fashioned lip balm recipes also use natural ingredients. You won’t find any rancid vegetable oils or parables or artificial fragrances like you usually do in most brands of lip balm today. And it’s really easy and quick to make your own. It only took me about ten minutes from start to finish to make my lip balm!
Victorian Tinted Lip Balm Recipe
The recipe I used was from the March 1857 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book:
“An efficacious salve for chapped lips may be made by simmering together an ounce of oil of sweet almonds and a drachm of mutton suet. A little bruised alkanet-root simmered with them will give the salve a red tinge; and, if you wish it to have a fragrant scent, use oil of jasmine, or oil of any other flower, instead of oil of sweet almonds.” (pg. 271)
Ingredients and Supplies:
- 2 Tbs sweet almond oil
- 3/4 tsp beef tallow
- 3/4 – 1 tsp grated beeswax
- 1/2 tsp beetroot powder (or alkanet powder – see note below for possible safety concerns with alkanet root)
- 1 disposable tea filter
- 12-15 drops peppermint essential oil (optional)
- Empty tin or tube for storing lip balm
Update 1/03/20: I decided to update this post to include beetroot powder as the main dye in this recipe and alkanet root as the optional dye. Even though alkanet root was the dye used in the original historic recipe, I’ve read about some possible safety concerns with the cumulative internal use of alkanet root because alkaloids in the root could potentially be carcinogenic over time. I have seen other lip balm recipes that use alkanet root powder, and I’ve also seen mentions of one of its uses being a dye for lip balms and cosmetics even though it’s not recommended for internal use, so the use of alkanet in a lip balm may be considered differently than the use for internal preparations.
The amount of alkanet root that would be ingested from having it on your lips as a balm would also certainly be less than if you were to drink it as a tea or use it in other food preparations, but it is possible to ingest small amounts since you would be applying it to your lips. The question of whether or not the amount ingested from a lip balm application would be enough to cause any problems is unsure. So since there could be possible safety concerns with cumulative use, I wanted to substitute beetroot powder as the recommended dye for anyone who is at all concerned about the safety of alkanet root or for those who have any health conditions or who might be pregnant or nursing. The Mountain Rose Herbs website gives precautions about using alkanet root on broken skin or when nursing.
Notes and Substitutions:
* I substituted beef tallow for the mutton suet because I don’t have a source of mutton at the moment. If you don’t have mutton or beef tallow, then you could try substituting coconut oil instead or adding a bit more beeswax (I’d say probably about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp extra beeswax. Any more than that and it might end up being too solid.)
* If you decide to use a tube for storing your lip balm rather than a tin, you might need to increase the amount of beeswax a bit to make sure that the balm is solid enough to be able to twist up in the tube.
* I decided to add a few drops of peppermint oil because I love the scent of it. If you don’t like peppermint, though, you could either just omit the scent or try using another essential oil. And just like with real food and other natural ingredients, quality counts when it comes to essential oils too. You can find the essential oils that I use and recommend here.
* The tint is completely optional too. I like having a subtle tint in my lip balm, but if you prefer a plain balm with no color, you can just omit the coloring. If you decide to make a tinted version, though, you’ll want to be a bit careful when working with the dyes, so it’s probably best not to wear white shirts or use white kitchen towels, just in case.
- Combine almond oil, tallow, and beeswax in a small saucepan and heat on medium-low until beeswax and tallow have melted into the almond oil. (If you are using a block of solid beeswax rather than beeswax pellets, grate the beeswax first before measuring it.)
- Place the beetroot or alkanet root powder into the disposable tea filter and add to the oil blend in your saucepan. Let the color infuse into the oils for a minute or two or until it reaches the color you like. The longer you leave the beetroot or alkanet root in the oils, the darker the color will be. (Don’t be worried, though, if the color looks really dark at first! It won’t look that dark when you put it on. When the balm firms up, the color gets a bit lighter, and it looks even lighter when you put it on, so you actually want to make it a bit darker than you would want the end color to look when it’s on your lips.)
- Remove the tea bag with the beetroot or alkanet root and add in your essential oil of choice. Stir to make sure that the essential oil is incorporated into the mixture.
- Pour your balm into your tin or tube, cover, and wait for it to harden.
- Enjoy your homemade, natural lip balm!
Storing Your Lip Balm
It’s best to store this balm in a cool, dry place. If you accidentally leave it in the car on hot summer day, it could turn into a melty mess.
To extend the shelf life of your lip balm, make sure to use clean hands when applying it (if you decide to store it in a tin) and keep it away from humid places like bathrooms. Since there are no preservatives in this natural lip balm like there are in most store-bought lip balms, it’s also a good idea to pay attention to the way that it looks and smells to make sure the odor and appearance haven’t changed. (This goes for all homemade natural products, but especially for lip balm since you’re putting it on your mouth!)
Other Homemade Lip Balm Recipes to Try:
Homemade Lip Balm by Life From the Ground Up
Make Homemade Lip Balm by Unaccomplished Lady
Burts Bees Lip Balm Recipe (Copy Cat) by Happy Money Saver
DIY All Natural Lip Gloss by The Healthy Honeys
This post is linked to: Sunday School at Butter Believer, Natural Living Monday at Natural Living Mamma, Clever Chicks Blog Hop at The Chicken Chick, Family Table Tuesday at The Polivka Family, Party Wave Wednesday at Holistic Squid, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Natural Living Link-Up at Jill’s Home Remedies, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.
Tuesday 19th of October 2021
Have you tried making this with beetroot powder? I heard it doesn't impart colour the way alkanet root does when infused in oil.
Wednesday 20th of October 2021
I haven't tried it yet. I've only tried it with the alkanet root, but I felt like I should suggest beetroot as an alternative since there are some potential concerns with the alkanet root. I've seen other similar recipes online that use beetroot powder, though, so it may work for lighter shades but maybe it wouldn't work as well if you are looking for a deeper shade of pink or red.
Friday 3rd of January 2020
This is just lovely! I was hoping to make my friends a lip balm for galentines day this year. I am hoping to be able to use other scents, does it matter? essential oils or just fragrant oils? Thank you so much
Friday 3rd of January 2020
Yes, any scents would be fine to use, so you use any scent you like. I would probably recommend essential oils as a first choice because I believe that fragrant oils are usually synthetic rather than natural. But if you wanted to use a fragrant oil I would definitely check first to make sure it was one that was ok to use topically (and not one that was meant just for adding fragrance to the air.)
I also wanted to let you know that I've updated the post to list beetroot as the first choice for dye for the lip balm because I read about some possible safety concerns with using alkanet root powder. I've read that alkaloid in the root can potentially be carginogenic over time when used internally. So the question is whether or not the amount used in a lip balm that you might ingest small amounts of would be enough to cause any problems since it's not the same as drinking it as a tea or eating it in foods. I've seen several other mentions of it being used in lip balms, but just to be on the safe side, or if any of your friends are pregnant or nursing, then beetroot powder might be the better choice. (And while I was updating I also listed coconut oil as a possible substitute for tallow in case it's easier to find.)
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