Beeswax: Friend or Foe?

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?


Are there any ingredient (food or cosmetics) you would like to see featured in Friend or Foe?  Leave a comment below or send us an e-mail!

Thank you for reading!

10 thoughts on “Beeswax: Friend or Foe?”

  1. I’ve made some body butter and cream with and without beeswax, I have to say, they are better with a little bit of beeswax in them. Just like you said, it acts as a barrier but also holds the moisturizer in the skin. The cream I made without any works well but it evaporates too fast; by adding a bit of beeswax in it during the making-process, it stops that, so my skin can stay softer longer. 🙂 And I agree, organic or pesticide-free is always the best, for us and the bees.

    1. Great info! Was your cream water based?
      I was surprised to see that some beeswax is bleached, I also wonder how GMOs and pollination may factor into pesticide-free (or even organic) beeswax considering how seeds etc. spread.

      1. My creams were oil-based, and I made one that had some rose water in it too.
        Bees typically forage in a specific radius around their hive, that is why some can be certified organic if that radius is organic fields, and some might be ‘organic’ but can’t have the certification because they could venture in a non-organic field.
        I’m not sure of the GMO impact on the bees but I’m guessing it’s not helping the colony collapse either!
        Have you also heard about how bees are getting sick from EMF (electro-magnetic fields) and wifi? Poor bees! and poor us, because we are also getting sick from these things, but we’re bigger so we react slower and differently.

      2. Uses with oils makes sense!
        Yes GMOs have definitely been one of the frontrunners as the cause of the collapse. I wonder if bees that have pollinated GMO plants bring GMO contaminants back to the hive that would be in the beeswax? Best to just get organic then!
        It also doesn’t surprise me about EMF and wifi–everything has an impact!

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