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A New Era of Lip Care: Choosing the Right Formulation


by Mark Patterson

There is an on-going need to protect and moisturize lips, and the ingredients used to accomplish this have changed dramatically over the years. It’s thought that the first lip balms may have been made out of earwax. Earwax provided a protective layer on the lips’ surface and sealed in moisture—though the taste was generally disliked. Luckily, lip care and moisturization have come a long way.

The Basics of Capping the Chap

Dry air, cold temperatures, sun and wind all contribute to dry skin by pulling away moisture. Lips are particularly vulnerable because the skin there is thin and lips are usually the first area to show signs of dryness. The lips do not produce sebum, which is naturally excreted from the skin’s sebatious glands, to keep the body properly moisturized. This is why lip balms are formulated with occlusive materials such as waxes and oils that create an air- and water-tight seal to prevent moisture loss.

The types of wax that work best for lip balms are fairly limited. Most lip balm companies use petroleum jelly, called petrolatum, beeswax, candalilla wax, carnauba wax or some combination of these options.  Beeswax is one of the best waxes because it is naturally derived, smooth and creates a thin protective layer on the lips that serves to seal in moisture and protect lips from the effects of dry weather. Additional oils and butters are then added to lip balms for their healing, medicating or soothing properties. The possibilities are endless when developing a lip balm, and as more oils are becoming available on the market more innovative combinations are surfacing on marketplace shelves, including organic waxes, moisturizing butters and fragrant oils.

Ingredient Tips for Lips

Today’s consumers have access to thousands of lip-care products from shimmering tints, balms designed for the outdoor enthusiasts and luxurious lip conditioners with rare and exotic pampering oils. A simple trip to Whole Foods Market will likely uncover more than 50 different lip-care options. So understanding consumers and their needs is a good starting point when considering which lip care to provide. How will the lip balm be used? Is it intended to moisturize, prevent effects of aging or provide sun protection? Take a look at unique customer considerations—does it need to be vegan or paraben-free? And finally, consider scent. Is the scent appealing consumer and will they want to apply it to their lips? Here are some popular ingredients on the market today— some new, some standbys—and how they may fit consumers’ needs.

Cocoa butter. A top-notch moisturizer. Cocoa butter is a fatty substance derived from cocoa beans. It is solid at room temperature and melts at body temperature, which allows it to be absorbed into the skin as it’s applied. Cocoa butter is often associated with treating and preventing stretch marks, it is an excellent moisturizer and a desired component in lip care for dry lips. It not only softens the skin but can help create a layer similar to waxes, which helps seal in moisture to prevent further dryness. Eco Lips® ONE WORLD™ line of lip balms is an example of how to use cocoa butter. Fair-Trade cocoa butter blended with argan oil in its Renew balm reduces free radicals, moisturizes, and rejuvenates dry or aging lips.

Coconut oil.  A nutrient-rich carrier oil. Coconut oil is another popular ingredient added to lip balm formulations for its anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Another plus is coconut oil is a proven moisturizer that is in plentiful supply compared to many other exotic oils. Coconut oil is best used in its unrefined state because it contains a high level of nutrients.

Tamuna oil. A natural healer. Tamanu oil is derived from the nut of the tamanu tree, an evergreen hardwood found in the Pacific Islands, East Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. Tamanu oil has special healing properties and has been studied for years. Tamanu oil is used to aid in regeneration of skin tissue; it has been effectively used to reduce scar tissue; and it can restore dry, damaged skin. Tamanu oil has not yet been tapped by the mainstream body care market. It’s an up-and-coming oil that has a powerful effect on damaged and cracked lips, and is a great stand-out candidate for a lip balm ingredient.

Argan oil. An anti-aging elixir. Argan oil, found in the nut of the argan tree, is rare but is rapidly growing in popularity. The argan tree has been around for more than 1.6 million years and once thrived throughout Africa. Now it’s endangered but is harvested sustainably in Morocco; and, in fact, harvesting argan oil is a source of income for native Moroccan women. Argan oil is used in anti-aging products because it contains antioxidants that attack free radicals. Free radicals attack and break down the molecules in skin, which results in the loss of elasticity and is often cited as the cause of wrinkles.

Baobab oil. A fast absorbing lip rescuer. Baobab oil is another up-and-coming oil to watch for. It comes from the seeds of the baobab tree native to Eastern and Southern Africa. Baobab, also known as the tree of life, has a lifespan that is thought to last as long as 6,000 years. Its oil is quickly absorbed and improves skin elasticity and has been used effectively to treat eczema. Baobab oil is high in omega-3,-6 and -9 fatty acids and can have a soothing effect on the lips and hasten healing time.

Mark Patterson is the CEO of Eco Lips, a natural lip care brand and contract manufacturer, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Eco Lips now offsets 100 percent of its energy use with renewable resources. Patterson recently continued his mission to raise community awareness about environmental impact with a snowboard descent of a nearby landfill. He was joined in his adventure by several city officials and a television camera crew.


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