Vegan Beeswax Alternatives: The Best and the Worst

by Dajana Ivkovic November 16, 2022

Vegan Beeswax Alternatives: The Best and the Worst

Since the moment the human race started paying attention to the looks of their skin and how to keep it fresh and glowing, honey has held an honorable place among skincare products.

Cleopatra, Hippocrates, Nefertiti, and Queen Anne were only some of the historical figures known to be huge honey fans. Our skincare routine has come a long way since then, but honey and beeswax are still largely present in the cosmetics and skincare industry.


There may be no dispute about honey and beeswax being beneficial ingredients for skin, but they’re not so great for a vegan lifestyle. Waxes are often used in cosmetic formulas (for lip balms, solid lotion bars, ointments, and others), so as a vegan, or if you prefer plant based products, you’ll need a suitable alternative.

The great news is that there are many great beeswax substitutes that you can look for in vegan skincare products or cosmetics!

Here you’ll find the list of the best vegan alternatives and I’ll also reveal the dark side of one of the popular vegan waxes which was a huge surprise to me when I first found out about it.

Is Beeswax Vegan?


Beeswax is a natural wax that bees use to create storage for their food and larvae. To extract that precious wax that the cosmetic industry loves so much, beekeepers remove the honeycomb (together with the honey it contains) which deprives the bees of their storage space and food.

This process is seen as exploitative and bees’ health can be affected by this intrusive procedure, so beeswax is not considered vegan-friendly. If you want to keep your shopping vegan, products with beeswax are a no-go.

What’s Up With Vegan Wax?

The cosmetics industry uses wax for its thickening, protective, and moisturizing qualities. Vegan-friendly cosmetic companies were bound to find an alternative that would substitute beeswax in cosmetic formulas— and they did.

These alternatives are derived from plants, so they have no negative impact on wildlife. We can group vegan wax alternatives into the following categories:


Natural Waxes

They are separated from fruits, peels, leaves, and other plant oils. They are purified and deodorized to preserve the beneficial plant ingredients we can use in skin care.



Pseudo-Waxes

As you can guess, these are not real waxes, but blends of oils and hydrogenated oils. They are hardened so they can serve the purpose of wax. What falls into this category are hydrogenated oils, floral waxes (waste extracts from the extraction process for floral absolutes), and essentially solidified oil.


Pseudo-waxes are vegan, but it’s better to navigate toward natural waxes since pseudo-waxes tend to be overpriced. The high cost isn’t justifiable, since they’re not real waxes and the ingredients are mostly not worth that money.

How to Decipher Which Wax Is Used in Cosmetics?

If you want to use strictly vegan products, declaration needs to become your most reliable friend. Before you put that lip balm in your cart, check the declaration and the list of ingredients to make sure that the product really is vegan-friendly.

Cosmetic packaging usually uses INCI names for labeling ingredients. Never heard of it? No worries, the explanation follows.

INCI or International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient refers to internationally recognized systematic names of ingredients used in cosmetics to identify which raw material is used in the product. So, if you can’t understand which wax is used in a product, that means that you need to decipher the INCI language.

We’ll include the INCI name for each wax vegan alternative, so you know which ones you should keep an eye on. You can also use this handy INCI decoder. Just type in the name of the product or ingredient and you’ll get a full rundown.

The Best Vegan Alternatives for Beeswax

Mindful consumers who don’t want to settle for less than cruelty-free and fair-trade ingredients can turn to these plant-based alternatives. These substitutes have the same benefits but they also fit the sustainability criteria.

Without further ado, I present to you the most effective vegan beeswax alternatives that won’t disappoint.


Candelilla Wax

INCI: Euphorbia Cerifera Wax
Img src: FumeiPharm



The ‘wax slipper plant’ gives us this wonderful ingredient. Since the first product ever made from the wax of this plant was a candle, people also refer to it as the candelilla shrub or “little candle.”

Natively born and raised in Mexico, this plant had to protect itself from harsh weather conditions in the desert so it coats its leaves and stems with a thick layer of wax—and that’s how we get the candelilla wax. It has a deep yellow color and a decent scent, but there are also lighter variations thanks to bleaching.

To separate the natural wax for processing, you need to boil the plant. The wax is mostly used for creating hardness and adding gloss in products such as lipsticks, lotions, hair wax, and lip balms (we use it in our lip balms as well). Since the texture of the candelilla wax is the most similar to beeswax, it is the most popular choice for a vegan alternative.

   


Berry Wax

INCI: Rhus Verniciflua Peel Cera
Img Src: Naturally Balmy


Berry wax comes from berries found on the Lacquer tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum) and is sometimes called Japanese wax because of the plant’s origin. It has a soft, light color.

This wax is softer and has a low melting point, so it’s the perfect choice for mascara, lipstick, and lip balm as it gives them that nice gliding feel. However, its texture and softness don’t make it the best choice for solid products like deodorant sticks.

   


Myrica Fruit Wax

INCI: Myrica Cerifera Fruit Wax
Img Src: Tidewater Trees


We can thank the Myrica berry bush or Morella Cerifera (native to Latin America) and its berry’s fruit peel for this light-colored, pleasant-smelling vegan wax. These tiny berries have a powdery wax coating that is extracted by boiling and separating.

Myrica wax does an excellent job of providing texture and body which is why it is a popular choice for vegan hair styling products.

   


Rice Bran Wax

INCI: Oryza Sativa Bran Cera
Img Src: Mille Vertus


Rice is the primary crop and a food source for more than
half the world's population. It has many uses and applications and one of them includes cosmetics.

While processing a rice grain, the cracked rice, rice husk, and rice bran are removed—and we use the latter for creating a pale yellow vegan wax.

Rice bran wax helps with retaining moisture and promoting microcirculation by leaving a protective layer on the skin. It’s often used in body butter, lotion bars, creams, ointments, mascaras, and lipstick.

   


Sunflower Wax

INCI: Helianthus Annuus Seed Cera
Img Src: 1875


We all know that pretty yellow flower and its tasty seeds that give us both oil and something to snack on. What’s less familiar is that we can get vegan sunflower wax by dewaxing sunflower oil.

Sunflower wax has a non-sticky skin feel and is relatively colorless and odorless, so it’s a great substitute for beeswax. You can find it in foundation, mascara, balms, body butter, and hair care products.

   

Beeswax Alternative You Should Avoid

Be prepared for a shocking exposé. One of the beeswax alternatives that have been raved about and persistently suggested as a great vegan substitute carries a lot of ethical concerns we simply can’t overlook.

So, which beeswax alternative is the odd one out? ♪(suspenseful music plays in the back)♪

The answer is (dramatic pause), Carnauba wax.

Img Src: Wikipedia

If you’ve done some independent research on the topic of beeswax substitutes, you must have come across carnauba wax as a suitable choice. However, there is a dark side to using this extract.  

It seems that there are both health hazards and ecological concerns regarding its harvesting.

According to research, carnauba wax is commonly used in certain cosmetics such as mascara. However, when this wax comes into contact with the eyes, it can cause clogged oil glands which can lead to irritation and dry eye disease. There have also been reports of allergic reactions to carnauba wax when used in lip balms.

To explain the environmental issues, we need to learn about the source of this wax. Carnauba wax comes from the Copernica Prunifera or simply put, a palm tree. The palms grow in the northeastern states of Brazil, and to protect the leaves from dry, hot weather, the palm creates a wax coating over them.

The problem is that workers need to beat the leaves to remove the wax. This stunts the palm’s growth which can ultimately lead to its dying off and this comes with many negative effects on the surrounding ecosystem.

The comforting news is that awareness of the ecological effects of harvesting the wax has led to limiting the leaves removal up to 10-20 leaves per tree.

Final Thoughts

We don’t need to take part in the obstruction of bees’ life and their natural cycle if we only mind our own beeswax and turn to vegan alternatives.

Honey and beeswax may be good for skincare, but they’re our only choice.

With so many vegan alternatives available to us, you can find a decent substitute that will carry all the same benefits.



Dajana Ivkovic
Dajana Ivkovic

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