S.W. Basics Cocoa Lip Balm – Vegan

sw basics

S.W. Basics is a line that originated out of Brooklyn, created by Adina Grigore, a self described “jill of all trades” in the wellness industry. The line is known for their simple formulas that often times use just 1-5 ingredients. This is because the products were originally created by Adina for her own sensitive skin.

S.W. Basics is essentially what I consider to be a hip Brooklyn take on DIY natural beauty using simple ingredients and a funky brand message. The price range is generally affordable so they’re a great introduction for those looking for clean products without giving their wallets a work out.

A quick note: although skin sensitivity is different from person to person, it is true that products with less ingredients are considered safer for sensitive skin because there are less potential ingredients to trigger the sensitivities. However, this does not mean all products that use few ingredients are right for you, for instance if you happen to be sensitive to Jojoba Oil, then a 1-3 ingredient product that uses Jojoba Oil will likely not work well with your skin so the takeaway dear readers: be aware of your personal sensitivities and check the ingredients list (however long or short) for known sensitivities before purchasing.

The other note is that because these products only use 1-5 ingredients, the concentration of each ingredient is likely to be pretty high. For me, this meant caution in purchasing certain products such as their toner which is comprised of Apple Cider Vinegar, Witch Hazel, and Essential Oils since Apple Cider Vigegar/Witch Hazel should usually be diluted before being used otherwise it is just too much for every day use. [Edit: As many of you have pointed out, SW Basics Toner is indeed diluted with water as the main ingredient – my mistake as I could have sworn I read something about how water isn’t used in the line! Thank you all for the correction!]

Thus my first foray into this line came from one of their four lip balms, the S.W. Basics Cocoa Lip Balm. And since I felt particularly green the day I ordered, I opted to go all out and purchase the Vegan variety although I’m not a practicing Vegan. Essentially this just means the beeswax is switched out for Candelilla Wax.

SW Basics

I chose Cocoa because of the four flavors (Cocoa, Peppermint, Cinammon, Citrus), it is the only one without any essential oils (I don’t have anything against essential oils, but I understand they’re used in this for fragrance which I didn’t need in a lip product). This also meant my option was the most minimal with just 3 Ingredients: organic Cocoa Butter, organic Coconut Oil, Canelilla Wax. Now you DIYer’s are probably thinking “just make this yourself!” But two things:

1. Like a LOT of people out there, I’m not really a DIYer. And there is value in something ready made with a cool, well designed label, no?
2. Relax, this stuff is only $4 regular price and even less when you get it on sale (which happens pretty often!)

The Verdict

So after a good 2 months of using this on-and-off, how do I feel? Conflicted.

Here’s why:

When it came to moisturizing and making my lips not look mistreated, this lip balm did the trick. It really did make my lips feel and look better, in fact I had noticed I was able to extend time in between reapplication despite the fact that the texture did not feel heavy – bonus! So performance-wise, I was happy and impressed.

However this product also frustrated me more than any other lip balm I’ve used. Unlike other lip balms (including other natural ones like Burts Bees and Badger Balm), this just LOVED to melt. Do NOT keep it in your pocket or anywhere that comes close to your body because that will start melting this within 5 minutes, especially if you’re walking outside in the summer weather. This is why I had to use the lip balm on and off, because I couldn’t bring this with me when I left the apartment for fear it would just be leak and get messy. So it was relegated to being an “at-home” product, which to me is not ideal when it comes to lip balms.


The other area is application. Besides loving to melt, this lip balms texture is on the rough side (see the above picture) and prone to breaking off. I learned over the course of using this to be especially careful to not press it to my lips as a huge chunk will just break off, leaving me with the messy task of removing and putting the excess back in the tube or just applying on the back of my hands – wasteful and not clean, not to mention my boyfriend would jokingly feign concern that I was suffering from some form of selective motor challenge since it was so difficult for me to apply this!

SW Basics

Overall, I’m happy that I was able to try this line out and I do think they’re onto something with the entire less is more approach. SW Basics isn’t a line that embellishes their promises, instead it’s just an honest message of things that your skin would like. In this case, my lips liked the 3 ingredients, I just had a challenging time with it. The usability and durability issues perhaps highlight a key shortcoming with the mantra of opting for few ingredients as I’m sure in this case incorporating more ingredients to control the texture and such would greatly improve the overall experience. I know if those issues could be addressed while maintaining the actual performance of the lip balm (which leaves nothing to complain about), I would unreservedly recommend this product but as it is the shortcomings in my opinion are too great to overcome as the product currently is for this to be a viable repurchase. With that said, this doesn’t dissuade me from trying their other products, particularly giving their non-vegan version of the lip balm a chance.

So I know S.W. Basics is quite a popular line, do you think there are other products that I’ll love from this line? Have you tried this line? Do you love their less is more mantra? Leave your thoughts in the comments.




  1. Emilia
    July 18, 2014 / 10:13 pm

    I had a similar experience with Stark’s lip balm. I think it is the vegan wax! Love your honesty, keep up the good writing!

    • July 19, 2014 / 1:00 am

      Interesting, maybe it’s a limitation on Candelilla wax then! I think I may have to give beeswax a try as I don’t doubt that S.W.Basics lip balms can be spectacular, perhaps Vegan in this case means a bigger compromise than I imagined.

  2. Trudy
    July 18, 2014 / 10:16 pm

    I love the smell of this balm, very natural. I purchased it last winter so didn’t have the melting problem but I did notice it was more easy to break up if I applied with too much force. Please update if you use the bee version!

    • July 19, 2014 / 1:05 am

      Yes not even any essential oils so it’s pure cocoa butter! I’ll definitely provide updates when I try the non-vegan option!

  3. July 19, 2014 / 5:11 am

    Yes! Me too! This always gets chunky on me! And yet I keep mass purchasing it when they have $1 sales. I’d prefer it not to be chunky, but for its simplicity and effectiveness (after I smooth out/wipe off the chunks), it’s not a total deal breaker. I do like their less is more mantra, but have only tried their lip balms and I’m kind of a sucker for more complicated formulas from other brands (just say broccoli seed oil or blueberries).

    • July 20, 2014 / 1:43 am

      $1 sales? I need to be shopping buddies with you! Agreed, their line is like a purge for skin and for me, I just love formulas that make my eyes roll at the numerous ingredients!

  4. July 19, 2014 / 8:08 am

    Just a note about the toner, it is diluted, the first ingredient is water. I haven’t tried the vegan version, but the beeswax version is melty when it is warm. I only extend it out a little that way it doesn’t cause any problems, I can keep it in my pocket in the winter (it actually makes for nicer application), in the summer it stays in the bag though. Never had problems with bits falling off. I do like the buttery feel of it overall, so the other stuff not a huge drawback personally. I can always switch to hurraw for summer and then go back to s.w. Basics when it is colder xx

    • July 20, 2014 / 1:42 am

      Thanks Tamara, made the updated note regarding toner in the post! Seems like the beeswax version is the better option especially if I’m not married to the entire vegan thing!

  5. July 19, 2014 / 1:07 pm

    I used the non vegan version and didn’t have the melting issue (though it was over winter and spring). I’ve got a vegan one that i haven’t used yet. So far I’ve also used the cream which was great over winter (my skin gets very dry) and very soothing when I went through an allergic to everything phase. I like the range overall though the “made by real people” (as opposed to unicorns?) bit on the label makes me roll my eyes.

    • July 20, 2014 / 1:40 am

      LOL I think it’s part of their Brooklyn humor but I know what you’re talking about! Use the vegan one when the weather gets cooler! So glad you like the cream, it appears to be like a geniusly simple mix, how is the texture?

      • July 20, 2014 / 10:43 am

        It’s more of a balm texture than a cream. I used it for cleansing as well and on lips occasionally.

  6. Aileen
    July 19, 2014 / 1:43 pm

    I LOVE SW Basics!! I use their beeswax lip balm on a regular basis and I like it, but I’ve never tried the vegan version. I use the toner twice per day (water is the first ingredient, so it is diluted to some degree). If I mess up and forget to use the toner, I breakout, so the toner, for me, is a must have product. I use the cleanser when I travel and the cream on my face in the winter (to combat the dry, cold air). I found that the simpler list of ingredients helped reduce breakouts in general for me. DIY is great, but I don’t have the time or motivation to make these, and the ratios would take time to figure out. I’m glad you’re trying the line!!

    • July 20, 2014 / 1:39 am

      Do you find the beeswax version is more sturdy and less prone to breakage/melting? Noted about the toner and made the update. ACV is really good at purifying skin but I just think everything in that together is a bit much and their sampler was great. My skin did okay on it, but it wasn’t like the best thing ever I think I still need fancier products for that.

  7. July 19, 2014 / 6:23 pm

    I have their tin box with 4 of them. I love love them. Yes, they do melt. But i have them around at home and at work. Dont carry them in my bag. Reasons why i love them: 1. Very effective. 2. Very few ingredients. 3. The casing in which they come in is very decomposable. I usually carry a Sugar Lip balm with tint when i am outside.

    • July 20, 2014 / 1:37 am

      Thank you for sharing Archana! The tin box looks so fun to collect. I like to minimize things like lip balm so I usually just use one until it is done and then go to another, which I couldn’t do for this. If you have a lip balm for every scenario then sure, this definitely works as an “in-doors” lip balm, I just don’t think lip balms should be restrictive of those things.

      • July 20, 2014 / 1:54 am

        Guilty as charged, I own ten lipbalms in all ! Waay too many ! Not every scenario though, one for handbag and one for lab(research scientist). Rest just sit and wait their turn like good kids.

  8. November 9, 2014 / 8:41 pm

    I tried one product in this line, a peppermint body oil, and it was such a disappointment. It was thick and heavy and didn’t smell good at all! There customer service was also very frustrating. I think that the products are very overpriced for being simple and non-elegant DIY.

    • November 9, 2014 / 10:21 pm

      Thank you for sharing! Can you tell me more about the customer service? I always got such great friendly vibes from Adina and team although not through first hand experience. So many green beauty companies trade on this image of being your best friend that I always want to hear if that is not actually the case.

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