Friday, January 15, 2016

How to NOT make your own lip balm

Just because I no longer work in the cosmetics industry doesn't mean I don't get aggravated by misinformation about cosmetic products. Lately, my Pinterest has been blowing up with DIY lip balm recipes like this one or this list or the "all-natural" types like this one. I am an expert in lip balms. Literally. I've made thousands.

A small sample of my work

I'm not saying it's not possible to make your own lip balm at home. It's actually one of the safer DIY cosmetic projects you can take on because it's anhydrous (no water) and as such, does not require a preservative. You do; however, need to be aware of a few things before you start making your own lip balms.
  • It is not safe to put eyeshadow in to a lip balm
The pigments used in eyeshadow may be safe to use on your lips but they also may not. Pigments used in food and cosmetic applications are tightly regulated by the FDA. The Colorant Additive Inventory is a detailed list containing not only the colorants that are allowed to be used in cosmetics but WHICH TYPE of cosmetics products they are allowed to be used in. If a pigment is listed for use in "Externally applied cosmetics" it can be safely used in the eye area but it cannot be used on the lips. While your lips are an external body part, you lick your lips and will ingest whatever you put on them. Some common pigments that are used in eyeshadows that cannot be used on lips are Ferric Ferrocyanide (blue/ purple), Chromium Hydroxide and Chromium Oxide (green) and Ultramarines (blue/ purple). You may be thinking "I've seen green lip balms so this can't be true" but green lip balms are not made with green pigments. They are generally made by combining Yellow 5 and Blue 1 (or another combination of lip safe pigments). For this reason I would never recommend tinting your homemade lip balm with eyeshadow. Even if you are using a relatively innocuous shade of pink, you can't be sure what pigments the manufacturer used. It's just not a good idea. Use a product designed for the lips, like a leftover bit of lipstick if you want a tint.
  • Coconut Oil is not a good balm base
Coconut oil is all the rage right now. It's not a good base for a lip balm. It melts at 76F. If you put this in your pocket, it will melt and make a greasy, oily mess. Leave it in your car on even a spring day and you'll come back to a puddle of oil. It's possible to use coconut oil as a component of a balm, but you need to add a much higher melting point wax to it to firm it up like beeswax or paraffin.

  • Petroleum Jelly isn't a great base either
Petroleum Jelly or Vaseline isn't really a good base for a lip balm either. It's soft and goopy but it doesn't have much staying power on the lips and feels really greasy. It has a tendency to bleed from your lips as it melts. Similar to coconut oil, it has a low melt point (99F) and will turn in to a liquid if you leave it in a warm place. Again, it can be a component, but it shouldn't be the whole formula!

  • Don't put citrus oils in lip balms
I've mentioned this in the past but it bears repeating. Citrus oils are phototoxic when they come in contact with sunlight. They cause cell death. You don't want that. Don't use citrus oils or juices (not anhydrous anyway) in lip balms.

If you really want to make good DIY lip balms, check out this post from Point of Interest. She's a great home crafter of all types of cosmetic and skin care products who does things safely. It's more than just throwing together Crisco, Vaseline and eyeshadow- it's chemistry- and you need to do it correctly!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Learning: What's Important

This year Makayla started first grade. We made the decision to continue her Montessori education for several reasons. First, she loved her school, her teachers and her friends and they loved her and cared about her as well. Second, she was doing GREAT academically. Third, it seemed to us that she was in a delicate place where she could easily move to the "school is boring, school is drudgery, I hate school" camp and we really wanted her to gain a real love for LEARNING. We wanted to keep her in a happy cocoon of learning with individual attention as long as we are financially able to do so. Finally, we compared the public school curriculum for our city to the curriculum that she would have at her Montessori school and there was just no comparison. Most of the things that were expected for her to learn by the end of first grade she was already proficient in at the end of Kindergarten. I attended a Montessori school through Kindergarten. My older brother attended through the second grade but since I was just a kid then, I didn't really have any idea of what a Montessori Elementary program was like.

For the most part, Montessori Elementary is a continuation of the Montessori Pre-primary program. They don't have desks, they use specifically designed, self correcting materials called "works", and they have the freedom to design their own lesson plans. At Makayla's school, they start and finish every day with journaling to help them develop grammar, writing, spelling and paragraph construction skills. They have lessons from their teacher on every subject from science to math to a weekly cooking lesson. They have silent reading time after lunch every day and every day that's not frigid, they go outside and play in the outdoor classroom.

As a Montessori parent none of this came as a surprise to me. These are all normal parts of a Montessori classroom. What DID surprise me was that they do not receive grades. At all. At first, I thought to myself "How will we know if she's doing well? How will we know if she's on track?" We decided to trust her teacher and tried to not think about it. At the end of the first month we got a report of sorts that gave us a brief description of the things that she had been working on, the things that she had done well with and the things that she needed to work on. This included actual classroom work as well as behavioral and social issues. I thought it was really nice and it helped me to understand what some things were that we could focus on at home to help her in school. Sometime around October I realized that grades didn't matter at all! When we read together at night it was obvious how much better she was reading. When I looked at her writing I could see how much smaller and neater her penmanship had become and how much better her spelling had gotten. Her math skills were improving every week. Just being around her it was OBVIOUS how much she was learning. I realized that I didn't need a report card with a bunch of grades on it to compare with other kids, my child was learning and LOVING to learn! I came to realize that my desire to know "how she was doing" through a rigid grading system was more about ME than it was about HER. If I step back and look at her, I know she's learning.

That's what's really important.