Lip plumper was always that product that I wanted to like more than I actually did. In high school, I dreamed of a magical product that would transform my thin lips into Scarlett Johansson’s, and I began to scour stores in search of that panacea. I started with drugstores, where most formulas were just ineffective. Sure, they would tingle a little, but the results were minimal. On top of that, they usually felt thick and sticky, and as someone who doesn’t really like the feeling of normal lip gloss on her lips I just couldn’t take it.
Dissatisfied, the search for lip plumper drove me to my very first trip to Sephora, where I was convinced I would find the product of my dreams. While the products were certainly more effective than the drugstore ones I’d tried, they still left this sticky, gross residue. For the amount I’d be spending on them--which, as a frugal teen, seemed like a fortune--they weren’t cutting it.
What was an enterprising girl to do? Make her own, obviously!
The basic theory behind most lip plumpers of the immediate-results variety is that irritating your lips makes them fuller. Inflaming your lips plumps them, but it can also be painful and aggravating, so those lip irritants get mixed with soothing, moisturizing ingredients.
The overwhelming majority of the lip plumpers I tried had some kind of cinnamon scent, and reading the ingredients of products, I realized they contained cinnamon. (This may seem like an obvious deduction, but this was the first thing I really DIYed, and 10 years ago, the wealth of resources and ideas for DIYing we have today were less accessible.)
So, cinnamon it was, then. The first thing I tried making was a simple lip scrub of brown sugar and olive oil, and adding generous amounts of ground cinnamon. It absolutely made a difference, plumping my lips and also stinging them like crazy; but the results faded after less than an hour, and it wasn’t practical as a product that could be reapplied throughout the day.
I turned my efforts to making a combination product. I’ve always had very dry lips and a near addiction to lip balm, and my lips transformed once I switched from purchasing lip balm to just using pure shea butter. It was absurdly cheap, considering how much ChapStick I went through, and vastly superior in result. It was a no brainer, then, that I’d use shea butter as my base, and I picked up a cheap vial of cinnamon oil at Whole Foods.
I mixed it up in my kitchen, put some on my lips, and waited. Instantly, my lips burned, stung and puffed up. This was working! But my thrill turned to alarm as I realized how irritating it was. I washed it off immediately and still had red, inflamed, painful lips.
Clearly, it worked. I’d just way overshot in proportion my first time out.
After a few days, when my lips were back to normal, I mixed again, this time adding just a drop of cinnamon oil to a small container of shea butter. I put it on and... nothing. But I added a drop at a time, carefully mixing and trying a little, until I had a ratio that worked for me.
Today, I make this anew whenever I run out, and I always have a jar on hand. It seems boring, but it’s one of the beauty things I DIY that I’m genuinely the happiest about whenever I use it.
Here’s how to make it...
Gather your ingredients! You’ll need shea butter and cinnamon oil, a way to mix them, and a container to hold the mixed product in. I pick up these little ½ oz jars at the Container Store and I keep both plain shea butter and lip plumper in them.
Scoop out a little shea butter from the main jar, put it in your mixing vessel--I just used a Ziploc bag and a toothpick, here--and stir it up. That’s it!
Now, in terms of proportion, I cannot overstate how irritating cinnamon oil can be. First of all, before you put anything on your lips, dab some on a spot like the inside of your arm and see how it feels. Start with just the barest drop of cinnamon oil mixed in with your base, and if it isn’t irritating the skin on your arm, give it a shot on your lips. The odds are, you will have lowballed the amount of oil you need. That’s good! It way beats the alternative, and you can add another small drop of oil.
For reference, I use 4 drops of oil per ½ oz. jar. This is perfect for me, but this really depends on your lip sensitivity. I make these for friends, and I’ve put everything from just one drop in to something like 10 for my friend with unusually hardy lips. Start with one drop, and work your way up. It’ll also vary based on the strength of the cinnamon oil you use. When you’re happy with it, stick it in a container and impress all your friends.
I did my absolute best to make the same expressions, in the same spot, from the same angle.
Obviously, nothing is going to transform the actual size of my lips, but this plumps up what I have about as well as I could ask for, and it makes a difference for me in the way I see my face.
Personally, I DIY not just out of concerns with the ingredients, but because of efficacy and cost. The monetary savings here are dramatic, but even better is how much this just works. It plumps my lips without inflaming them unduly, and doesn’t feel sticky or goopy at all. It’s as easy as lip balm to reapply and leaves no residue. It also slightly changes the color of my lips in a way that I like.
All things considered, I’m incredibly happy I started doing this! It’s cheap, easy, and helps me feel more confident, and really, I couldn’t ask for anything else in a homemade beauty product.