Saturday, December 14, 2013

What do you want to know? Does beeswax offer any benefits to our skin?

In the What do you want to know? post, Jodi asks: Would a lotion bar with harder butters or stearic acid work as well as lotion bars with beeswax? Is my skin getting extra benefits from the beeswax?

So what's the deal with beeswax? It's composed of esters - 70%, with myricyl palmitate being the main one - and 30% free wax acids and hydrocarbons. It has a high melting point at 62˚C to 64˚C, and it's recommended we don't heat it over 85˚C as it can discolour. It has an HLB of 9, and it is oil soluble, and slightly soluble in heated alcohol.

Beeswax is a great emollient and thickener that can form a film or create a barrier on your skin. A study showed it was as effective as Vaseline. It's used as a binder in mascara and lipsticks.

Beeswax can be used as an emulsifier when combined with borax for water-in-oil lotions. How does it do that? It turns the fatty acids in the beeswax - the main one being cerotic acid - into a soap. The problem with this kind of emulsion is that it can have quite a high pH because you're using an alkaline thing to make the emulsifier. (Borax breaks down into sodium hydroxide and boric acid when added to the water, which is an acid-base reaction, and this mixture is called a buffer, which will keep the pH more stable.)

Beeswax is not an emulsifier on its own. It can allow for some water to be incorporated into an anhydrous or non-water containing product thanks to the hydroxy groups in the wax, but it is not an emulsifier. Any emulsifying you get in a lotion with only beeswax as your alleged emulsifier is thanks to the heat and mixing you apply to the product.

To answer the question of whether your skin is benefitting from beeswax, I'd say, yes, it does. Beeswax provides an effective barrier to the outside world to keep the good things in and the bad things out. And it is an emollient, so it is moisturizing your skin while it's on there.

I definitely recommend using beeswax - or another wax, like candellia or carnauba - as the base of a lotion bar because these ingredients are plasticizers, or ingredients that increase the plasticity of the product. The bar will be stiff but still yielding when we apply it on our skin. Other things that might stiffen our lotion bar, like butters or fatty alcohols and acids, won't be as yielding.

But if you want to use less, consider using more butters, like mango or cocoa butter. (Don't go with shea as it's just too soft.) Or consider using thickeners, like cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol, or stearic acid. I'd go with one of the fatty alcohols as they will be more glidy than stearic acid.

So the short answers are...
1. Beeswax behaves as an emollient and barrier ingredient on our skin.
2. A lotion bar really does need some wax in it as a stiffener and plasticizer.
3. You can stiffen lotion bars with something like butters, fatty alcohols, or fatty acids.


Diva Soap said...

I often see beeswax listed among the ingredients for facial care. I'm very suspicious about its role in facial cream, what do you think?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Maja! As I mention in the post, to answer the question of whether your skin is benefitting from beeswax, I'd say, yes, it does. Beeswax provides an effective barrier to the outside world to keep the good things in and the bad things out. And it is an emollient, so it is moisturizing your skin while it's on there.

Just my thoughts...

Robin Dearden said...

I use beeswax in my facial creams and receive a lot of good frrdback.

Wendy said...

Hey Susan,

Im all over your blog... lol.... anywho, I made formulated a pomade that it pretty good. Its made with butter and oils, and a blend of botanic and herbs... what i wanted to know is can i add a certain percentage of beeswax or cera bellina? I have this idea that if i add one or both mixed that it could make my pomade more efficient when it comes to stability... i dont want the pomade hard but i want it to be that grease feel, i guess... i hope i am making sense to you.. I also feel it will stand a better chance in warm weather with beeswax in it... what do you think? please let me know and thanks


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Wendy! I'm afraid that I can't help much without knowing your exact recipe. What is the reason for adding the beeswax? It'll add viscosity and stiffness to the product. It will increase the melting point. It will not reduce the greasiness. Any product you make without water and only oils will be greasy. There's no getting around that.

A Fajardo said...

Hi Susan, I made a lotion bar with beeswax adding really good oils/butters for an aging skin. I wonder if it's ok to use on the face. Is beeswax comedogenic?

A Fajardo said...

Sorry, I also forgot to ask if beeswax can be substituted for cetyl alcohol (or ewax?) for my lotion bar which calls for 28% beeswax and still be stiff/hard?

Daniela Craciun said...

Hi Susan,
I made cream using just beeswax aș emulsifier (without borax) and the cream was stable for a very long time. I used oil and water at 50/ 50 and wax in proportion of 12,5% ouț of the oil quantity. I needed to use a stick-blender but it worked.
This kind of cream is very good for face night treatment but, when I used this type of cream on my hands and feet the skin became dry.
Can you explain me why is this happening?
Thank you!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi A! Sorry I missed your comments. As everyone's skin is different, it's hard to say how people will react. I know I can't handle it on my face, but I have sensitive skin that breaks out with everything! How annoying! I don't know if you can make that substitution without knowing your recipe. What I will say is no, you probably can't make a straight substitution without problems because the beeswax brings a hard plasticity to it, while cetyl alcohol will just be hard. Give it a try and let us know how it turns out!

Hi Daniela. I'm afraid that without the complete recipe, I'm unable to offer any answers. It could be a lot of things. It could be that the lotion you made wasn't moisturizing enough. Or it wasn't hydrating enough if you didn't use any humectants. It could be that you made a water in oil lotion and found it was great for your skin, but not for the different kinds of skin you have on your hands or feet. There are so many possibilities, it's hard to offer suggestions. What I can say is that this is why one lotion doesn't fit all. We have different needs for different parts of our bodies, and something light enough to work with our face is probably not hearty enough to moisturize other body parts. That's why I say make small batches and keep very good notes, so you can make changes ot the next batch. What I will say is that I suggest using an all-in-one emulsifier at the proper percentages and use a great broad spectrum preservative!

QueenBee said...

Hi Susan

Thank you so much for this blog, it has been invaluable!

This is just a heads up to anyone with sensitive or sensitised skin, especially on their face.

I have been making soaps/lip balms and creams using beeswax from our own bees as well as honey and wanted to try using propolis soon.

Lately I have been using lips balms to sooth my sore lips. I ran out of my most recent batch and started using an earlier one with colour and flavour in. I reacted over the course of a few days and stopped using it thinking it was the additives. (Although I don’t sell my products, I do adhere strictly to limits allowed for any additives.) I eventually went to the doctor as it wasn't healing and was given Fucidin H for 'an infection' even though I told him I thought it an allergic reaction, but hey- he was the doctor.
I reacted very badly to the cream and now my face looks and feels worse.
I went back and was given anti histamines and hydrocortisone. The only thing I could use to help the soreness was virgin coconut oil which did soothe it and my skin drinks it up.

Over the next few days things calmed down- still very red, not so inflamed but still itchy, dry and flaky. I then found some balm I had made with no additives, just sweet almond oil; with aloe, mango and macadamia nut butters- I am not allergic to nuts!

The rash returned ARRGGHH!

Having done some research I discovered this- I am probably sensitive to propolis in beeswax-
Here is a very good explanation
I will have to stop using my own product although will still make it for family and friends as so many of them love it. I must admit to being devastated as I love the stuff. I may have to try the commercial highly filtered beeswax, but may try other waxes- although it does rather miss the objective- using our own ingredients. (I have also grown dried and soaked calendulars in sweet almond oil and that is fabulous in creams and balms.)
Apparently only 4-6% (in the US) of the population have this sensitivity so please don’t be put off beeswax is amazing stuff! I just thought I’d pass this on, I hope someone may find it helpful.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thanks for sharing, Cathy. I think this is a great reminder that natural doesn't equal non-allergenic. There are allergens lurking in everything we use, and we have to keep great notes so we know what might affect us in the future!

Deb said...

Hi Susan; Love your blog and you are my first 'go to' after I decide I want to formulate with a product. I am experimenting with borax/beeswax as an emulsifier in my lotion/cream. I read your blog and checked to make sure that my beeswax is at least 25% of my oils. It is. I heated my oil, d/w, brax, beeswax together and use my stick blender to whip and it looks nice, feels nice. This is my second experiment with quantities. First time I had more water and when I added the citric acid to reduce the ph(from around 8-9) I got separation and lost the nice cream look of my mix and it appeared my curdled. I pressed the water out of the first batch and got a nice creamy and very good barrier cream that made the running tap water bead off my hands but the weight of the remaining glob left indicated that I lost almost all my water. Now I am on the second batch and I don't want to get the separation. What can I use for a pH adjuster that won't cause separation. OR DID i misinterpret what happened based on too much water. I hope I wrote enough info for you to help. Thanks Debbie

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Deb. Thank you for your kind words! I'm glad you like the blog.

First, to use beeswax and borax, your oil phase must be over 50% of the lotion, meaning you're making a water-in-oil product. If you aren't following that rule, you aren't able to make this emulsify.

Secondly, the 25% rule is ONLY applicable to Polawax. Every emulsifier has a different rule, so it doesn't apply to this one. (But I'm so happy to see you're all ready to use Polawax or e-wax when you need it!)

Also, you don't want to be reducing pH or playing with citric acid unless you have a good pH meter. Those strips are useless and give you really general readings that aren't accurate enough for our needs. What makes your pH so high? How much borax are you using?

My thought about the separation is this - beeswax isn't an emulsifier. It can be an emulsifier when you use it in the right proportions in a water in oil lotion. You aren't getting any emulsification in this recipe, so that's what you're seeing there. If you want to use this emulsifier combination, you have to re-create your recipe as a water in oil recipe that is in the right proportions. I'm afraid I'm not that blog for that, and I really don't have a suggestion.

Hope your next batches turn out! Lotions are so awesome!

Deb said...

thanks Susan: I will have some more questions I hope you can help me with after a month or so of working with this beast some more. ttyl

Deb said...

Hi Susan: While I do use e wax and other emulsifiers in other recipes, in this recipe I have only used beeswax, borax, water, olive oil. To test the pH I did use pH paper but I stirred the finished product into distilled water and then tested that. I was told that is the proper way to test the pH of something. Since I posed my question to you yesterday, I re-tested the pH using this method and got a pH of 7ish-8ish. I read too, that using borax and beeswax results in a saponification process and I attributed that process to the slightly higher pH that I got. So, that is why I decided to use citric acid to lower the pH and since then tried lactic acid 88% as well. For instance; when I used 5 gtts of lactic acid in 15 mls of my test emulsion i saw no change in the lotion but when I added 7 gtts to an equal amount of the same test-emulsion, it resulted in immediate separation. My test: oils 22 gm , beeswax 7 gm & borax .99 gm and water 50 mls. According to what you have written, I shouldn't expect my emulsion to be stable. I have preserved them and will continue to observe them. I like playing even when it doesn't result in a useable product. Great way to learn. So thanks again Susan.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Deb! I totally love playing with stuff. A young woman from my youth groups and I had great fun in the workshop seeing what would make the pH go up, then down, up then down, and I think we made acetone from it! pH and lotions are a tricky topic because it's hard to say how much something will go down and up the pH scale, which depends completely on the ingredients. Something that worked last month suddently doesn't now! What the heck? But then i learn!

Have fun with the lotion! I'd love to hear more about it as you experiment further!

Hetty Roze said...

Hi Susan!

I came across this blog post while doing research on my sugar scrubs with beeswax and it looks like you may be the one who knows how to help me out. I would be grateful if you could spare some time to help me out with some of my questions.

Lately I've been making some sugar scrubs for sale to friends and family. They love it (or at least, that's what they say to me), but it seems my ingredients aren't mixing properly. The ingredients are sugar, coconut oil, glycerin and beeswax (and a few more things depending on the type, such as essential oils and lavender buds, etc.). I added beeswax and glycerin to increase the shelf life of the scrubs, but the wax doesn't seem to be mixing well. Is the mixing process wrong (I melt all the liquids together in a double-boiler and add the dry ingredients once it has cooled down a little bit)? Should I melt the wax by itself and then add the other liquids? I'm looking for a pasty consistency, maybe like tomato paste-ish, but don't want the wax to separate because it looks awful! Would it be a good idea to remove it completely?

Also, is glycerin considered a natural ingredient? With glycerin as one of the main ingredients, would it be correct if I say my scrubs are made from natural ingredients? Or should it be naturally sourced ingredients? And do these 2 items really work to increase the shelf life? If possible I wouldn't want to add anything else to the list of ingredients, but I don't mind removing something if I have to (the labels are all printed out with ingredients, so it would be a bummer if I have to re-print).

Please help! I'm at a loss at trying to make this work. Thanks in advance. And hope you have a good day ahead!

Raissa Bianda said...

Hi Susan! I'm newbie on making homemade product. Recently I made lip balm and cocoa lotion bar, my question is: is it normal if my product smell like beeswax? I think that the beeswax that I purchased has a very strong swee honey smell. And every product that I made smell like sweet honey. Should I use the refined beeswax? Instead of using the unrefined one. Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Hetty! Glycerin is found as the backbone of every fatty acid, so yes, it's very natural. It's found in your body, in your oils, and so on. No, neither beeswax nor glycerin will not extend your shelf life. Anti-oxidants and preservatives will. If you are making a scrub that will be exposed to water, you need a preservative to prevent mold, fungus, yeast, and bacteria. If you're including flowers, you definitely need a good broad spectrum preservative.

As for your product, you're mixing water soluble ingredients like glycerin (and possibly others, but I don't know that as I don't know your recipe) with oil soluble ingredients, so you need an emulsifier. The viscosity and stiffness of the product will depend upon your ingredients, so using coconut oil and beeswax won't lead to a pasty product, they'll lead to a stiff product at room temperature.

You can call anything you want "natural" as there's no definition for it! So call it whatever you wish!

I encourage you to check out the newbie section of the blog as you'll get loads of information there and have your questions answered. I would caution you against selling products unless you've been making them at least a year as you never know what can go wrong, and it would be awful to sell something to someone you care about only to find out the product went moldy or hurt them!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Raissa! Yes, it's normal for a product to smell like the ingredients you use. So it might also smell a bit like the oils or butters you've chosen as well. If you don't like it, use another version or use a fragrance/essential oil to cover it up.