Dry lips are a drag. Not only do they make kissing less fun and lipstick harder to apply, they're worrisome and painful. Picking or biting dry spots is a bad plan — you'll end up pulling off healthy skin — but a nice, gentle scrub can exfoliate, plump, and get your lips into kissing shape.
Photos by Claire Lower.
I used to pay around $13 a pop for a little pot of scrubby goodness, but then I wised up and was like, "Oh. This is just oil, sugar and flavouring. I have all those things in my kitchen." You probably have those things in your kitchen too (unless your kitchen is very different from most kitchens).
Is that coffee you see? (Yes.)
The cool thing about making these scrubs yourself is the customisation factor. Though there are only three or four components — oil, sugar, some sort of sticky sweetener to help hold it all together, and whatever flavourings you desire — each one of those components can be tweaked to create a scrub that can get some love from you. I honestly think making these would make an excellent bridal or baby shower activity, because everyone loves a bespoke party favour. (Oh, just FYI: Don't use a scrub if you have open cuts or other wounds on your lips. It will hurt and may lead to some sort of infection, and I don't want that for you, friend.)
If you want to make a super simple scrub, all you have to do is combine:
- 3 teaspoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
That will work just fine, but it's a little basic. By rifling through your pantry, fridge and bar cart, you can make a scrub to rival those you'd find at Lush. To see how various sugars, fats and flavourings performed, I made four different scrubs and rubbed them on lips. These were the results:
Raid Your Bar Cart
Cocktail bitters can be used to flavour more than cocktails and, when combined with a small amount of your favourite liqueur, you can create a fun little tipple for your lipples. If you are a reader of 3-Ingredient Happy Hour, you know that I have a bit of a "thing" for the Italian aperitif known as "Campari". In fact, the cocktail on which this scrub is based is my favourite porch-sipper, or at least it would be if I had a porch.
Since bitters and Campari are liquids, I went with everyone's favourite solid oil (coconut) and eliminated any liquid sweetener. You don't have to use Campari or grapefruit bitters, so feel to swap them out for your favourite liqueurs and flavour of bitters.
To make this cocktail cosmetic, you will need:
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Campari or other liqueur
- A couple of dashes of grapefruit (or other flavour) bitters
Mix it all up in a small bowl and transfer to a small container with a lid. To use, just rub it around on your lips for about 10 seconds (or maybe a little longer if your lips are really dry), then wipe it off with a damp cloth. Put on some lip balm to moisturise, and marvel at how plump and smooth your lips look.
Perk Up Your Pout
Used coffee grounds are good for your garden, but I don't have a garden, so I'm always looking for ways to use the spent bean bits. This scrub uses coffee as an exfoliant (along with a bit of turbinado sugar) and contains just a touch of cinnamon for plumping purposes. (If you are a youth of the '90s you probably remember painful cinnamon serums designed to give you the bee-stung look. This is much gentler than that.) I also used almond oil as the substrate, because almonds and coffee just seemed like a good match, flavour-wise.
To make this latte-like lip treatment, you will need:
- 3 teaspoons turbinado sugar
- 1 teaspoon coffee grounds
- 1/2 teaspoon almond oil
- 1/2 teaspoon agave
- A pinch of cinnamon
Mix it all up and apply as described as above.
It should be noted that turbinado sugar is a bit coarser than the white stuff, and is therefore slightly more aggressive, exfoliation-wise. I found it to be very effective and not too harsh but, if you have extra sensitive lip skin, feel free to swap it out for a sugar with a smaller grain, keeping in mind you may have to adjust some ratios.
Mix Up a Sweet Treat
Let's be real: If you rub something on and around your mouth, a portion of it is going to end up in your mouth, so we might as well make these scrubs as delicious as possible. If you aren't a huge fan of the chocolate and mint pairing, you can always omit the peppermint extract, or swap it out for another extract like vanilla, almond or orange.
To make this exfoliating dessert, you will need:
- 3 teaspoons white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 drops peppermint extract (or other extract of your choice)
Mix it all up and apply as described above. Try not to eat the whole batch.
Fat is fat, and I happen to have a lot of duck fat in my fridge. (You won't believe what happens next.) I combined the fowl grease with a bit of brown sugar, some tomato salt (my new favourite salt), and a bit of honey for a scrub that's basically a spice rub for your lips. (I mean, your lips are meat.)
To make this mouth marinade, you will need:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons duck fat
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon tomato salt
- 1/4 teaspoon honey
Give it all a good stir and apply as described above. If you are at all like me, you will be slightly embarrassed by how much you enjoy this savoury beauty treatment. Just own it.
The above recipes should work pretty well as general templates, but if you really want to go off script, there are just a few rules to keep in mind:
- If you use a liquid oil, you're going to need more sugar and less liquid sweetener (such as honey or agave).
- If you want a gentler scrub, use a sugar with a smaller grain.
- Use edible, tasty ingredients, because you will end up eating some of your scrub.
- Keep your scrubs in the fridge to extend their life up to two weeks.
- Limit exfoliation to once, maybe twice a week at the absolute most. Chapped lips are no fun, but raw lips are even less fun.
Once you mastered the way to the DIY lip scrub, you're on your way to having smooth, supple lips at pretty much no additional cost. You'll still have to go to Lush for bath bombs, though. Making your own bath bombs is just not worth it.