Snow flakes, skin flakes

Baby, it may be cold outside, but at least we’re cozy inside. Not roasting chestnuts by the fireplace, but with our indoor centralized heating system. Who needs romanticism when we need warmth?

Exposure to those blasts of dry heated air all winter long turn our puckers into scaly, flaky, totally unkissable chapped lips, putting out any passionate flame altogether. When loving caresses turn into accidental exfoliators, your dry skin needs a moisturizer (make it a massage!).

Petroleum puckers

Us carpoolers, cyclists, and mass transit riders criticize dependency on fossil fuels. What about us chapstick addicts? A bit hypocritical to preach against pouring gasoline into personal vehicles, then go smear petrolatum (Vaseline) all over my lips.

Besides petroleum-based products and cancer-causing parabens, many lip balm manufacturers add extra, unnecessary ingredients to turn us into addicts or cater to our vanity.

Menthol, camphor, phenol, and alcohol create a tingly cooling sensation that tricks us into thinking that the chapstick is effective. Once it wears off, we reapply. What’s really happening is that those products have a drying effect and make us need to apply more often than needed. If the purpose of chapstick is to seal in moisture, what’s the point if it dries us out?

Artificial colors, flavors, and aromas are chemical cocktails applied right where you ingest food. Your lips are naturally light pink and flesh-tasting. Why do they have to scream fuchsia, sparkle like a disco ball, and taste like mint chocolate chip cookies? You’ll just wind up licking your lips out of temptation, drying them out further and creating a nasty cycle of addiction that corporations love.

Easy solution (no mess)

1.) Look for lip balms that contain only the essential:

Ingredient Purpose Options
Oil To moisturize and be easy to apply Cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil
Wax To stiffen and stay in solid state Beeswax, soy wax, candelilla wax, carnauba wax

Essential oils, vitamin E, honey, aloe vera, and sunscreen are all extra goodies.

Check out the handy shopping guide at EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

2.) Drink more water to stay hydrated from within.
3.) Put on another sweater and insulate your living quarters so that you can turn down the thermostat.

DIY lip balm and body lotion (might get messy)

It’s actually as simple as slowly melting equal parts wax and oil in a double boiler, pouring into containers, then letting it set. You choose what extra ingredients you add, so you know exactly what is going on (and into–we end up inadvertently eating most of our lip balm) your body.

If you’re all about handcrafting, or you simply live where some ingredients are unavailable, you can make at least the oil base yourself.

Where I live the supermarkets stock a scant supply of coconut milk and water at expensive prices because they’re all imported from Thailand. The coconut oil rage in the U.S. has not yet arrived. Yet I live in a coconut-producing country, go figure. So here’s how I learned to make my own coconut oil.

I’m in Love with the Coco(nut)

My husband and I met and married in Colombia’s coconut-growing region. Imagine your typical tropical vacation postcard: turquoise waters, golden sands, and of course, coconut palm trees. Sounds like someplace you’d like to be right about now, huh?

Coconut is a key ingredient in coastal cuisine. A bed of coconut rice is topped with fried fish and fried plantains, followed by coconut macaroons for dessert. Lip-licking delicious, but all that oil and sugar leaves little hope for maintaining your bikini body. Better to put the butter on the surface of our skin as an emollient.

Here’s how native coastal cooks taught us to make coconut rice.

How to Make Coconut Milk
1.) Crack open a mature, brown coconut. First slowly heat the coconut over a flame, singeing all the hairs off, and then drop it onto the floor.
2.) Scrape out all the white flesh.
3.) Puree the meat in a blender or food processor with some water.
4.) Squeeze the milk out using a cheesecloth or other filter.

At this point all of the milk is dumped into a pot and boiled to make coconut rice.

My mind was blown when I discovered that all I had to do was NOT MAKE RICE and voilà, I’d create the unobtainable coconut oil.

How to Make Coconut Oil
1.) Pour your coconut milk into a jar.
2.) Wait a full day for the oil to separate from the cream. It’s the easiest step of all, but don’t let your impatience disturb the settling process. Or try sticking the jar for a bit in the snow bank, nature’s fridge, to speed up this step.
3.) Scoop out the curd of coconut solids.
4.) Rub the remaining oil directly onto your dry lips or skin. Ahh, relief.

Coconut oil is already semi-solid at room temperature and can be smoothly applied onto lips or hands without being that runny (unlike canola oil). If you want to carry a tube in your pocket, it would be best to mix up your own body moisturizer with wax.

How to Use the Coconut Cream
Don’t just toss out that layer of cream. It adds yummy coconut flavor to all kinds of dishes.

  • Stir into creamy soups or curries.
  • Add lemon drops to make sour cream.
  • Whip it up with sugar into homemade whipping cream to frost cakes.

You can bet your sweetie will be licking that frosting right off your…fingers.

Enjoy and happy Valentine’s Day!



Carrie is an environmental educator, anthropologist, and translator. She took her passions for ecological, health, and women’s rights advocacy from the offices of Washington, D.C. to the streets of South America. Now in Colombia, she is slowly opening women’s eyes to the wonders of “la copita de luna” (Moon Cup) and Keepers.

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