How Lipstick Works

DIY Lipstick

If learning about some of the ingredients that might be in your lipstick bothers you, there are a few solutions. Many companies make lipstick with organic, natural or vegan ingredients, although the often at a higher cost -- and the lack of color selection might leave you wanting. Another solution is to make your own lipstick.

The ingredients you choose really depend on your needs. If you want a vegan lipstick, beeswax and lanolin (which comes from the glands of sheep) are out, but there's always soy wax, olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter and mango butter. Producing deep colors can be a real challenge, but it's not impossible. You can even add mica flakes for shimmer. Here are a few simple recipes -- there are many others available online, and even kits that include waxes, butters, oils and colorings.


Beetroot Lipstick 1 tablespoon beetroot powder 1 tablespoon vegetable glycerin (regular glycerin may be animal-derived) 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil or olive oil Put the vegetable glycerin and beetroot powder in a saucer and stir the mixture until it's smooth. Add the vitamin E oil and apply. [source: Guardian News and Media]

According to Jessica Pallingston, making your own lip gloss is pretty simple. Here's an easy recipe adapted from her book on lipstick:

Very Berry Lip Gloss One cup of berries (cranberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry) Aloe vera gel or petroleum oil, to be measured by liquid dropper One teaspoon at a time, smash berries into a paste. (For berries with seeds, you'll want to put the paste through cheesecloth or a sieve.) With the dropper, add gel or oil until you have the right consistency. If you add too much gel or oil, just drop in some more berry paste. [source: Pallingston]

Looking for more than a gloss? Pallingston also provides a simple-to-follow recipe for a neutral lipstick:

Basic Neutral Lipstick 1/4 cup grated beeswax (you could try soy wax for a vegan substitute) 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening 1 tablespoon almond oil 3 tablespoons cocoa butter Mix all of your ingredients together in an ovenproof container and then heat the mixture on high in the microwave for one to two minutes. It should be completely melted. Pour the liquid into a pan or box (about 5-by-3 inches) that you've lined with foil and greased. When the mixture has cooled, you can cut it into sticks and put those in lipstick tubes (which you can buy from cosmetics suppliers). [source: Pallingston]

To apply lipstick, just twist up the tube, press it to your lips and move it around to cover them, right? It can actually be a bit more complicated than that. Next, we'll check out lipstick application.