Beeswax has emerged as a relatively abundant ingredient in many personal care products who market themselves as being natural and organic. It is commonly found in lip balms and lotions, and has essentially become the ‘natural’ replacement for petroleum based derivatives, such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly, in these formulations. Though beeswax is all natural, is it a beneficial ingredient for skin and lips, or is it a natural version of a filler?
Beeswax is the wax produced by honey bees from the Apis genus to form the foundation for the honeycomb. It is made up of several different components, but primarily consists of monoesters (carbonyl group connected to and ether linkage), hydrocarbons, diesters, and free fatty alcohols (long chained). The approximate chemical formula of beeswax is C15H31COOC30H61, which means it has a large molecular weight (~676 g/mol). It is generally believed that substances with a molecular weight below 500 grams per mole (g/mol) can easily pass through the skin. Substances with larger molecular weights such as mineral oil are too large to be absorbed by the skin, unless they are chemically altered to make their molecules small enough to be absorbed. Is beeswax beneficial to the skin and lips, other than creating a barrier that keeps moisture in?
A German study conducted in 2003 found that beeswax based barrier creams performed better than petroleum based creams in alleviating moisture loss and irritant contact dermatitis (Frosch et al. 2003). Beeswax itself is not a moisturizer. Beeswax can be in the first 3 to 5 ingredients of a lip balm or moisturizer, but I would hesitate to use a product that contains beeswax as the first ingredient. I have used a lip balm whose first ingredient is beeswax and the performance was okay. It is not a bad product by any means (it is USDA Certified Organic), however, it did not provide long term moisture or softness to my lips (after 1 application for 2-3 hours). Beeswax is far from ‘foe,’ though it is not quite ‘friend’ depending on its purpose in an application (i.e. as a binder versus as a primary component). Perhaps ‘associate‘ is the best designation if it is the first ingredient, and ‘friend‘ if it is a component used to bind the formula together. By and large, it is dependent on what YOU like and what works for YOU.
Do you use any products that contain beeswax? How do they perform for you?
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