Herbal Apothecary: Costa Rican Sun Balm

It’s hard to believe that our trip to Costa Rica was almost two years ago, and even harder to believe that it took me this long to finally make the lip balm I was planning with the ingredients I bought at the cacao plantation we visited

Though, to be fair, I only just ran out of the lip balm I made over three years ago. Truly, a little goes a long way.

Anyway, today I finally gathered my Costa Rican ingredients: achiote and cocoa butter:  


This cocoa butter was made by hand by our tour guide Priscilla, so it's unrefined. It still smells good and chocolatey, and the color is tan rather than white:


Since cocoa butter is solid at room temperature, I dropped the whole container into some boiling water to melt it:


While that was melting, I gathered the rest of my ingredients: beeswax and coconut oil. The proportions here are 1 part beeswax, 2 parts coconut oil, and 2 parts cocoa butter:


It all gets melted together and stirred over very low heat. 

Then, I opened up the achiote (annatto in English): 


As you can see, this is a hand-made paste rather than a dried powder as you might find it in a spice rack. Achiote paste was used to soothe sunburns (Tiegan can attest to its effectiveness) and skin ailments, and it was also used as a body paint by the Bribrí. It’s also a nice, red-orange color.  


I started with just a tiny bit, since I wasn’t sure how deep the color would be when mixed in the oil:


It took a while to mix, and there were still some bits that never really incorporated into the oil, but I pressed on:


It’s easiest to use an eye dropper from the drugstore to fill the little tubes (though I still managed to drip a bunch on the counter). 

I also experimented by periodically adding more achiote paste to adjust the color. Now I have a range of shades to choose from:


The very darkest shades smell a little like chili powder — annatto is often what makes that red. The lip balm doesn’t really taste like anything, though, so it’s okay.

This lip balm adds a tiny bit of color to your lips, but not much. Still, it’s a good idea to stay in the lines when you swipe it on so you don’t end up with an orange line around the edge of your mouth. 

This is probably about a decade’s worth of lip balm, so I hope everyone in the family enjoys the color!

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