Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DIY Lip Balm and Candles Make the Perfect Christmas Gifts!

Living ain't easy. I'm sure you all knew that, though. With the median cost of a home around $600K around here, you'd think you need to be a millionaire to live comfortably. Well, that may be half true. But it's possible (I think?). As the cost of living rises (though salaries, not so much), we have to make changes in our lifestyles that allow us to save some moolah.

Over the past few years I've downsized my Christmas list to include just family. A couple of years ago I spent a total of $5 on Christmas gifts. I printed a "Then...and Now" photo of my brother and I from 25 years ago alongside our current selves. I put it in a small frame from Walmart and voila! My parents thought that was the coolest present ever. This year I stalked the interwebz for DIY Christmas presents that even someone as maladroit as me can pull off.

I stumbled upon the Everything Etsy website and instantly fell in love with it. If you're not familiar with Etsy, it's like Amazon but with mostly homemade goodies. Lots of indie brands. I like to think of it as an online craft fair. Kim Layton started EverythingEtsy for those who want the latest in Etsy news and finds. She also has the best tutorials ever. What I like most about the tutorials is that they're written instructions, not video. I'm one of those who like to check and recheck every single step and it's a pain to keep rewinding and waiting for the video to buffer. She lays everything out step-by-step complete with photos and links to the exact materials she used. I knew I wanted to make something from here for the holidays, I just had to figure out what.

Eventually I found two DIY projects that looked so easy even a Sheri could do it. And so I present to you the presents everyone on my Christmas list are getting from me this year:
You can click on the above pictures for the official instructions and links for where to purchase, but I'll go through a basic rundown of the lip balm and candle processes here (with a few tweaks I made to better suit my preferences):

(adapted from Kim Layton of
Beeswax Pellets - 2 Tbsp
Pure Shea Butter - 2 Tbsp
Sweet Almond Oil - 4 Tbsp
Glass measuring cup
Essential Oil (your preferred scent) - 10-12 drops (Note: Number of drops may vary. I used the exact same oil linked to the official instructions but I ended up using about 30 drops to suit my preference)
0.5-ounce Lip Balm Tins - These are hard to find. You might want to opt for lip balm tubes. You can find those everywhere on Amazon.
Lipstick Shavings (optional) - if you prefer to color your balm (the natural color will be yellow)


  • Microwave the beeswax, shea butter, and almond oil in a glass measuring cup or bowl on HIGH at 30-second increments. I ended up microwaving for a total of about 2 minutes for a full recipe. (FYI the photos are from a half-size recipe I did the second time around)

  • Depending on the essential oil scent you're using, you might want to add some lipstick shavings for color. Kim warns to use more than you think you'd need for a desired color, so I'd use a cheap lipstick for this. I added orange essential oil to this batch so I bought a tube of cheap coral lipstick and ended up using an entire tube per full recipe to make sure I'd get some good pigment.

This half recipe has half a tube of lipstick in it
  • When everything is completely melted, start slowly pouring the balm into the tins (or lip balm tubes if you have them). Be sure to work quickly because the balm starts hardening pretty quickly. Also be careful not to splash balm up the sides of the tins or overflow them. Here they are immediately after pouring. A half recipe gave me 6 half-ounce tins, so I'd expect a full recipe to make 10-12 tins. If you're using lip balm tubes, I believe they usually hold about a quarter-ounce of balm or less so plan accordingly.

After about 30 minutes the balm was solidified and the color had lightened up a bit. I left them alone for a few hours before covering to make sure the balm was completely cooled.
Although you may not be able to smell the essential oils as much as you'd hope (the shea butter kind of overpowers everything), you can definitely taste it - well, the lemon one, anyway...I haven't used the orange balm yet. AND IT WORKS! This thing is better than some commercially available lip balms. When I was making the lemon balm I accidentally spilled a bit and then tried some as I cleaned it up and oh my! It's awesomely moisturizing!!

(adapted from Kim Layton of
Natural soy wax
Glass measuring cup
Small mason jars - I used an 8-oz jar the first time around and a 4-oz jar the second time
Essential oil - I ended up using fragrance oils. They're not natural, but they're cheaper and easier to find in stores
Natural candle wicks
Hole punch

Again I made two recipes - the first one was a 6oz unscented candle and the second was a 2oz apple-berry scented one. 
  • Fill your glass measuring cup with soy wax. I found that I needed to use 2 ounces more than the finished product. For example, use 8oz soy wax for a 6oz candle, or 4oz soy wax for a 2oz candle. Microwave the wax on high at 30 second increments. The 6oz candle took a total of about 2 1/2 minutes. When it's completely melted the wax will be transparent with a yellow tint.
  • If you want to make a scented candle now is when you'd add the essential oil. As I mentioned above, I ended up using fragrance oils because I could find them at Walmart for cheap. Walmart had a huge variety of warming oils for $2/ounce (they're intended for those fragrance warmers but it worked okay for the candle too). Just be aware that some oils are better at dissolving in soy wax than others. I found that 1/2-ounce of fragrance oil per ~8oz candle is effective at imparting a bit of scent.
  • Once you've added the oil slooowly pour the hot wax into the mason jars. Make sure you don't move the jars (not even a little bit) once the wax is inside because the wax WILL go up the sides and dry instantly, leaving a slosh mark. Punch a hole in a piece of tape and slip it over the candle wick. Insert the wick into the center of the wax and keep it in place by securing the tape to the rim of the jar. Be sure not to move the wick around too much either because this will also cause the wax to go up the sides of the jar.
6-oz unscented candle immediately after inserting wick 
2-oz candle with fragrance oil immediately after inserting wick
This is what the candles looked like after about an hour. The wax had solidified for the most part and was now opaque. The wick in the smaller candle managed to move even after I secured it with tape :(

Cut the wick to about a quarter inch above the wax and voila! Homemade soy candle!
These candles weren't as heavily scented as the kind you find in the stores but it burns great. I've been burning both of these and haven't run into a single problem. The scent throw is pretty minimal, though. I could smell the apple-berry scented one from about 8 feet away (but to the candle's defense my nose was also plugged up from allergies). Of course, you'd get better results if you use fragrance oils especially made for soy candles. CandleScience has a huge variety of oils with great reviews in soy candles, but it's $30 to ship $10 worth of oils to my corner of the world, so yeeeeah I think I'll pass. (But pssst...CandleScience also has a few fragrance oils on Amazon.) If their shipping isn't too bad to where you are, you can also pick up some candle dyes to color your candles.

I'm really enjoying these little creations; they make me feel so crafty! I can't wait to use other fragrance oils and see what else I can come up with. I already have my eye on the bath bombs and lavender sachets for next year. Go take a look the EverythingEtsy site and see what else tickles your fancy, I'm absolutely sure you'll find something that catches your eye!

Note: These DIY projects were adapted from I do not claim credit for either of these recipes.


  1. Excellent work!!! You are a professional!! Im going to make candles, too. Candles and soap. You could totally do soap, too! Now I'm all excited. And the adding lipstick thing sounds awesome, I'm totally going to do that if I make lip balm.

    1. Thanks! Faaar from pro status, though. You should see my sorry-looking labels! I don't have glossy adhesive labels so I covered some paper with packing tape, cut out shapes and stuck it on with double stick tape! :-I I want to do soap too! But it looks so labor intensive. ....?

  2. It's such great ideas!! I wanted to make candles last year but I totally forgot :O maybe this year I'll remember, really want to make some beeswax & soy candles. I love the candle in the puffy big jar you made! looks so cute!
    I'll use your blogpost to make them then, forgot how to ;)

    1. Thank you!! I just made another candle last night using a strawberry shortcake scented fragrance oil made especially for soy wax. OHMYGOSH it smells soooo good! I think I found a new hobby :) I'd love to see photos of your finished product too!

  3. Your balms and candles came out very well! I like DIYing gifts but hot wax + chronically shaky hands worries me. I know I would love receiving one of these, so hopefully your family will love them! :)

    1. Thank you! So far I've been lucky and haven't spilled the wax on me, but I did make a few hot (wax) messes. But I went overboard on candle supplies and I'm not so sure this is still saving me money...