Kids' crayons? Yes! Making your own lipstick takes only about 10 minutes, costs next to nothing and allows you to choose from a dizzying (and unconventional) array of colors.
Is it safe? Even though Crayola does not publish a detailed and specific ingredient list, they do formulate their crayons so that toddlers can eat a whole box of the stuff without suffering anything more serious than a stomach ache. Crayons consist mainly of paraffin wax and non-toxic pigments. Wax is a major component in any lipstick or chapstick, and crayons' pre-mixed pigments will give you more choices, at less cost than either food coloring (I've tried that too) or the powders and gels cosmetic suppliers will sell you.
This recipe works surprisingly well. The colors last longer, and stick to your lips better than regular commercial lipstick. No need to worry about evidence left on shirt collars, or on cigarette butts carelessly left in ashtrays... although sometimes, depending on the specific crayon color, the pigments might need a little extra smacking of the lips to disperse evenly.
If you're using a chapstick tube (or a lipstick tube of a similar size) and you're making this as a gift, you can download a pop-up, pop art lip balm holder I designed. The template comes in two versions, one with text and the other with an empty speech bubble in case you want to add your own.
Step 1: Containers and molds
Commercial lipstick is poured into molds to obtain a nice, slanted, rounded shape, but sometimes it comes in containers which look similar to chapstick tubes, with the top cut at an angle. I recycled one of those for the lipstick in the crayon picture, but I also used regular chapstick containers I had left over from making my chocolate chapstick, and tiny little plastic jars. It's a little harder to apply lipstick in a chapstick tube, but tins (or tiny jars) work really well if you have a brush. It's also much easier to pour the hot wax into a tin.
If you really want the real lipstick shape, you can buy molds at various suppliers. Most of these vendors cater to people who are making cosmetics for sale and not for personal use, so they sell trays with fifty or so molds, but Making Cosmetics sells a three stick mold. I decided I could do without the pretty shape, and stick with something easy and cheap. A good source for chapstick and other containers is called Specialty Bottle. They do not sell lipstick molds but they have a nice selection of tins, jars, and bottles, and no minimum quantity. Many other vendors sell similar items, and I'm not endorsing (or affiliated with) anybody.
Step 2: Ingredients and materials
You will need a small, heat resistant container, such as a stainless steel measuring cup. Use the smallest one you have.
The following quantity will fit easily into most lip balm tins, but you will have a little left over if you are using a tube, which usually holds only 0.15oz. For the triple lipstick mold, double the recipe.
I have tested a variety of different ingredients, and although the end product varies in "feel" you have a lot of flexibility in your choices.
Here is the basic recipe:
1/2 crayon of your favorite color (approx 2.4g)
1/2 tsp jojoba oil (approx 2 g)
1 almond-sized chunk of shea butter (approx 2g)
Ingredients you can add to the above:
1 pea-sized dab of lanolin (improves feel and possibly color distribution)
1 pinch gum arabic (improves color distribution and durability of color)
1 drop vitamin E (helps prevent oil from becoming rancid, improves shelf life)
1 pinch zinc oxide (makes color lighter and more opaque, offers protection against UVA and UVB sun rays -- but make sure your wax mixture is well stirred before you pour)
You can replace shea butter with cocoa butter (will make lipstick slightly more firm)
You can replace jojoba oil with castor oil (will make a glossier lipstick)
These are the alternate ingredients I've tried, but there's no reason you can't experiment with any other type of edible oils.
Step 3: Melting and pouring
The safest way to melt this mixture is to put it over a pan of barely simmering water. Although you might be able to melt it in the microwave, wax can combust if it's over-heated, so I prefer heating it slowly over a pan of hot water, while stirring it with a cocktail twizzler, chopstick, or the handle of a small spoon. Just be careful not to spill any water into your wax mixture.
As soon as all the ingredients are melted and well combined, pour them into your containers.
If you are using the slanted lipstick container prop it up in some rice, beans, or popcorn kernels like I did. This will allow it will set at the proper angle.
Wax contracts as it cools, so you will get a dent, or maybe even a small hole in the center of your tube. You can reduce this effect by tapping the container on the counter as it cools, but if you try topping it off with more wax chances are the extra drop you add will come off when you use the stick. I have a theory that plunking the tube in a cup of hot water and letting it cool super slowly would help too: if the sides cool at the same rate as the center, no hole should not form, instead the whole level would go down a bit. Putting it into a warm oven (turned off) might help too. I haven't had a chance to test out this theory yet... I'll keep you posted.
Step 4: Application and uses
As I mentioned in the intro, depending on the color and the exact proportion of ingredients (it's impossible to be 100% precise and accurate when you are making such small quantities) sometimes the pigments don't disperse quite as well as commercial lipstick. If you are applying it with a brush this is not really an issue, because the brush will smooth and even everything out, but if you are using a tube you may need to smack your lips more than usual, or smudge them with your fingertips.
After making my first few colors what should have been obvious from the start finally struck me: this doesn't need to be just lipstick, it can be used as rouge, or face paint! However, I do not recommend using this to paint the area around the eyes. Some pigments are approved for lips and skin but not for the eyes, and since the specific ingredients are not listed on the crayons I would not risk it.
Update: jfarn01 had a great idea which I want to point out here. Crayons can also be used for making colored shoe polish -- it just so happens that I had already posted a recipe for shoe polish here. Just replace the candle in that recipe with 3 crayons of the color of your choice, and you can finally have a polish which matches your shoes.
For up to date news on what I'm cooking up, check out my new blog.