What is Beeswax?

Beeswax must be one of the most vilified beauty ingredients. At first glance, you may think of it as a heavy, cloying solid wax that would likely clog pores or worse...cause a fit of unsightly zits. Or, does it, really? We asked an expert to weigh in and give us the 411:

The Making
Beeswax, the material used by honeybees in the construction of their combs, is a product of their own bodies. Certain wax glands, possessed only by the worker bees, ooze it out. When the bee secretes the transparent, colorless liquid, it turns into a semi-solid substance on contact with the atmosphere. Despite further a rigorous technological processing, it still remains a biologically active product, retaining anti-bacterial properties and vitamin A (which is necessary for normal skin cell development).

Technical Stuff
It’s classified as a wax and is frequently used as a binder, emulsion stabilizer, miscellaneous skin-conditioning agent, emulsifying surfactant, thickening agent and/or a non-aqueous viscosity-increasing agent (aka humectant). Extraordinarily emollient, safe for soothing and softening, beeswax helps the skin retain moisture. Oilier skins often shy away from products containing beeswax in fear of the comedogenic label it’s been incorrectly given. In actuality, beeswax has an irritation factor of zero because of its inert structure. When formulated and used correctly in cosmetics, beeswax will not cause acne or obstruct the pores, but rather will bring a host of slew of moisturizing attributes, such as healing, antiseptic, emollient and softening to the choice of oil or balm.

Aromatherapist & facialist, Audra James, says:

Beeswax works particularly well in balms, where it is extremely effective on small areas, forming a protective barrier especially on dry skin areas. Although not thought to be comedogenic, I prefer not to use it in the treatment of acne as it can sometimes leave behind a residue, which oily skins may not prefer.

In other words, in your quest for the holy grail superbalm, the choice is yours. The quality & contrast between an oil with beeswax and those without may be a non-issue, but one to be aware of so that you always test out before committing to a product.

Some Alternatives
For environmentally conscious fans, if the thought of using animal by-products goes against your virtues, opt for organic waxes: candelilla, carnauba, or soy. The same multifunctional purpose without breaking your pledge to remain all natural and vegan friendly.

Ancient Remedies
Did you know beeswax was used by the Egyptians in painting and to protect the surface of painting in their tombs? The Greeks used it in making dolls. The Persians embalmed the dead with wax and the Romans used beeswax to model death masks and life-sized figures. And, Hippocrates used it to spot treat minor infections.

Beeswax is nature's temperamental paradox - a flawless ingredient flowing with the best intent, but one so commonly misunderstood.