If you make organic cosmetic formulations, you can sometimes use waxes in your products. However, if you want to avoid beeswax, you can look into vegan waxes. In this blog post, we will introduce 6 vegan waxes and see how they compare.
Beeswax has been used in salves and potions for thousands of years. There is even a cosmetic myth about its use for natural emulsification, but as we saw in one of our recent blog posts,Beeswax is not an emulsifier..Beeswax gives a beautiful color to the product and, although it does not always feel pleasant on the skin, it can be used to create light and silky cosmetic formulations.
But with the growing demand for vegan cosmetics, many formulators are trading beeswax for potential vegan alternatives. In this blog post, we will introduce some of these alternatives.
Let's start with a little chemistry...
What are real waxes?
Natural waxes belong to the largest group of lipids. They are a mixture of hydrocarbons and fatty acid esters (an ester of a fatty alcohol and a fatty acid). These vegan waxes are derived from the leaves, bark, and fruits of various plants or are separated from vegetable oils by dewaxing. This process involves physical separation and no chemical reaction is involved.
After separation, vegan waxes are usually cleaned, deodorized (still a physical process with no chemical reactions involved), and sometimes bleached (this could be a chemical reaction). Waxes generally come in a variety of grades based on color, melting point range, and physical form. They are also often available in different purities for different uses, such as industrial, food, cosmetic or pharmaceutical applications.
Since these ingredients are sourced or extracted from a plant or vegetable oil, they are true waxes. The INCI designation (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) leaves no doubt about it.ceraocerais part of the INCI name; examples includewax Oryza sativamiFarelo wax from Oryza sativa, these are the INCI names for rice bran wax.
In this blog post, we introduce these real waxes. But first it is important to understand what real wax is not.
Many vendors sell certain ingredients as true vegan waxes, but they are actually pseudo waxes. A well-known example is flower waxes. These flower waxes are possibly the most confusing ingredients because the INCI name includes wax. Some examples are:
- Cananga odorata wax flower (ylang-ylang flower wax)
- Wax flower Jasminum grandiflorum (Jasminblütenwachs)
- Lavandula angustifolia flower wax (lavender flower wax)
- Damascus rose flower wax (Rosenblütenwachs)
- Acacia Flower Wax (MimosaFlower Wax)
As a formulator, you will probably get very excited when you hear these ingredient names. The concept of formulating with jasmine flower wax will be extremely attractive to many organic cosmetic formulators. But these ingredients are not true waxes. In fact, we call them pseudoceras.
These pseudo waxes are usually very dark in color and extremely expensive. These are actually the by-products and waste from making flower absolutes. After all the good stuff is extracted, the rest is extracted once more with alcohol (and probably other solvents) and then water. The remaining product is sold as flower wax.
Pseudoceras: hydrogenated oils
Hydrogenated oils are also sometimes sold as vegetable and vegan waxes. However, these ingredients are not waxes. You can also see that they don't use the words "cera" o "cera' in his name INCI.
- INCI Hemp Wax: Hydrogenated Hemp Seed Oil
- Soy wax (or soy wax) INCI: hydrogenated soy oil
- Castor Wax INCI: Hydrogenated Castor Oil
- INCI Olive Wax: Hydrogenated Olive Oil
- INCI rapeseed wax: hydrogenated rapeseed oil
- Avocados INCI: Hydriertes Avocadoöl
- INCI vegetable wax: Hydrogenated vegetable oil
Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction that takes place in the presence of a catalyst and reduces the double bonds of carbon to single bonds in vegetable oils. The goal is to increase the melting point of the oil (to solidify the liquid oil) and increase its shelf life. The oils are generally refined, which means their unsaponifiables (good thing about their oils!) are removed before they are hydrogenated.
Pseudoceras: Mixtures of oils and hydrogenated oils
It can get even more complicated when certain suppliers sell blends of some vegetable oils with hydrogenated vegetable oil (fats) as vegetable or vegan waxes.
- Hanfwachs (INCI: cannabis sativa oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil)
- Mandelwachs (INCI: Prunus amygdalus dulcis oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil)
One of your suppliers may even be selling a product under the trade name rice bran wax (this wax actually exists), but if you look closely at the INCI designation, it's actually a blend of shortening and bran oil. of rice. For this reason, we always emphasize that you check the full INCI designation of the product to avoid confusion and disappointment.
There is nothing wrong with using any of these pseudo-waxes in your products. However, you should be aware that you are paying a much higher price than it is worth and that these ingredients are not true waxes (esters of fatty alcohols). These are hydrogenated vegetable oils that are being sold as valuable vegan waxes, and it's not always clear which vegetable oils were used in the process.
You can use any of these pseudowaxes in your products, but you should always try to get the full INCI name of the ingredient from your supplier so you know exactly what you're working with.
Introducing Vegan Waxes
Now that you know which ingredients are not real waxes, let's talk about real vegetable waxes for vegan cosmetics.
The most important properties of any wax are its melting point, acid value, and saponification value. Sometimes (very rarely) a wax iodine value is also mentioned. Color varies from source to source and method of extraction and purification. Let us now guide you through 6 vegan waxes that you can use in organic cosmetics:
Do nothingIt is extracted from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree known asCopernicia cerifera(wax manufacturing). The wax is a kind of exudate from the leaves to prevent the leaves from drying out. It is available from a very dark deep yellow to light beige and is available as flakes, granules or powder. It is a hard wax with a high melting point.
- INCI name: Copernicia cerifera wax
- Melting point: 80-86oC
- Verseifungszahl: 78-95 mg KOH/g
- Acidity number: 2-15 mg KOH/g
Carnauba wax adds hardness to cosmetic formulations and reduces viscosity. It is used in mascara as a volume enhancer. Carnauba wax provides hold to styling products. In water-in-oil emulsions, it serves as a stabilizer and viscosity modifier.
The hydrocarbon content of carnauba is quite low (compare its saponification value and acid value with candelilla wax) and its main components are fatty acid esters.
chandeliers-clocksIt is probably the most commonly used wax when formulators are looking for a substitute for beeswax. It is obtained from the leaves of the Mexican bushEuphorbia antisyphilitica. The unrefined wax has a deep yellow color and a very subtle aroma. It is also available in bleached variants with a lighter color.
- INCI name: Euphorbia ceriferacera
- Melting point: 68-73oC
- Verseifungszahl: 43-65 mg KOH/gr
- Acidity number: 12-22 mg KOH/gr
Candelilla wax has a high oil-holding capacity and is less sticky than beeswax. It is used to adjust the viscosity of water-in-oil emulsions. Provides shine and hardness to cosmetic products such as hair wax and lipsticks. Candelilla contains up to 45% hydrocarbons and only about 20-30% fatty acid esters.
berry waxit is a soft wax with a light color. It is obtained from the berries ofRhus verniciflua. The tree is called a lacquer tree or lacquer tree because the exudate from the trunk is used in the manufacture of Japanese lacquer.
- INCI name: Rhus Paintflua Peel Wax
- Melting point: 48-54oC
- Verseifungszahl: 180-220 mg KOH/gr
- Acidity number: 5-30 mg KOH/gr
Berry wax is rich in esters and consists mainly of esters of palmitic acid, stearic acid and a unique C21 fatty acid: heneicosylic acid. It is not suitable for stick formulations (as a stand-alone wax) due to its softness and low melting point. Its main uses are in the manufacture of bars or stabilization of emulsions and in balms.
myrica fruit wax
myrica fruit waxIt is obtained from bay berries. It has a light color and a pleasant smell.
- INCI name: Myrica cerifera fruit wax
- Melting point: 45-55oC
- Verseifungszahl: 210-240 mg KOH/gr
- Acidity value: 5-25 mg KOH/gr
Myrica fruit wax gives balms, butters and styling products a very pleasant touch on the skin. It does not provide much hardness and mainly provides texture and body (without greasiness) and emulsion stabilization to cosmetic products. As it has a low melting point, it solidifies very slowly, resulting in a very pleasant and smooth texture for products made with Myrica wax. It is capable of making lip balms in a tube, or even some stick products like face balms, but it is not strong enough to use as a stand-alone wax for lipsticks.
rice bran waxIt is obtained by dewaxing native rice bran oil. It is a pale yellow hard wax available in pellets, granules, and powder. It has a pleasant and non-sticky touch on the skin in emulsions, balms and butters. One of its specific uses is in lipsticks to inhibit syneresis.
- INCI name: Oryza sativa cera
- Melting point: 79-85oC
- Verseifungszahl: 65-95 mg KOH/gr
- Acid number: <15 mg KOH/gr
sunflower waxIt is obtained by dewaxing sunflower oil. It is pale yellow in color and available in the form of beads, chunks or granules.
- INCI name: Helianthus annuus seed wax
- Melting point: 74-80oC
- Verseifungszahl: 75-95 mg KOH/gr
- Acidity number: 2-8 mg KOH/gr
Sunflower wax has a high oil retention capacity and does not leave a sticky feeling on the skin. Illuminates formulations and stabilizes water and oil emulsions. This wax contains approximately 30% hydrocarbons and 70% fatty acid esters. Behenyl acetate, lignoceryl acetate, and methyl lignocerate are the principal wax esters.
The 6 vegan waxes at a glance
In this table we summarize the main characteristics of each wax so that you can compare and contrast them. Don't be afraid to try new vegan waxes – one of the most fun parts of being an organic cosmetics formulator is testing new ingredients in your craft lab!
|common names||INCI designation||melting range|
|chandeliers-clocks||Euphorbia cerifera cera||68-73||43-65||12-22|
|Do nothing||Copernicia cerifera-Wachs||80-86||78-95||2-15|
|rice bran wax||Oryza sativa Ceria||79-85||65-95||2-15|
|myrica fruit wax||Fruit clocks myrica cerifera||45-55||210-240||5-25|
|sunflower wax||Wax from the seed of Helianthus annuus||74-80||75-95||2-8|
How to formulate with vegan waxes
There are a number of features to consider when choosing the right vegan waxes for your recipe.
First, you need to consider the hardness of the wax. The higher the melting point of a wax, the harder the final product will be. When making a stick formulation, you need a wax with a high melting point. When preparing formulations for a tropical climate, you need a wax with a higher melting point. On the other hand, if you are making a smooth hand and body balm, you will need a wax with a low melting point. All waxes have their pros and cons. The choice depends on your product concept and can vary from product to product and application to application.
When substituting one wax for another, the most important factor to consider is the difference in melting points. For example, beeswax has a melting point of 61-65oC. Obviously, if you replace the beeswax with a wax with a melting range of 80-85oC, you need lower wax concentrations. On the other hand, if you are replacing the beeswax with a lower melting point wax, you will need higher concentrations of that substitute wax.
The balance between hardness (melting point), spreadability, and skin feel must be fine-tuned through trial and error and based on the climate in which the product will be marketed, packaging, and product concept.
Bonus: Soothing Foot Balm with Pink Earth
It is a rich foot balm with a very silky and non-greasy texture. Allantoin is an anti-inflammatory and moisturizing ingredient that, when combined with rose earth, pampers even the toughest and worst calluses.
|Myrica Fruit Wax (Organic)||10,0%|
|Cupuaçu butter (handmade)||10,0%|
|Shea butter (organic)||30,0%|
|Bio-Perilla seed oil||20,9%|
|Organic Black Cumin Oil||15,0%|
|Lavender Extract in Organic Baobab Oil||5,0%|
|Organic Jojoba Oil Enriched with Roses||5,0%|
|Rosemary CO2 Extract||0,1%|
|Lavender Essential Oil (Organic)||0,5%|
1. Heat phase A in a water bath @ 55-60oC
2. When Phase A is completely melted, remove it from the bath and add Phase B ingredients. Stir the mixture while it cools. It can be chilled in an ice bath while stirring, or place the beaker in the refrigerator and stir every 10 minutes. Stirring during the cooling process prevents the dreaded graininess that is a challenge when making balms and butters (especially when using shea butter).
3. When the mixture reaches a trace (you can put a remaining trace into the cooling balm with your spatula), add the Phase C ingredients and mix well to disperse the powder.
4. Continue cooling and stirring until the balm reaches a thick band (almost semi-solid). Now start beating the mixture with a suitable electric mixer. It may be necessary to place the mug in the refrigerator for a short period of time between serving sessions. Balm color becomes softer and smoother as it blends.
5. When it reaches the desired consistency, pour the balm into suitable containers and place it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
We hope we have inspired you to try many new vegan waxes. If you want to learn how to formulate vegan cosmetics, we teach you a whole module on formulating vegan cosmetics in ourAdvanced Diploma in Organic Cosmetic Sciences.
What vegan wax would you like to try in your formulations? Leave us a comment below and tell us!
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Dr. Elham Eghbali was a cosmetic chemist at Formula Botany between 2014 and 2018. She has over 20 years of experience in the industry and lives in Bavaria, Germany. For more information on the Formula Botany team,Visit our staff page.