Beeswax has been used for countless years for a wide assortment of commercial, cosmetic, and medicinal benefits. Many ancient cultures used beeswax for dry skin. Produced only by worker honey bees, it is no wonder beeswax is often considered a high-quality ingredient for many different products on the market.
Originally, beeswax was the only form of wax that was used commercially in candles. In fact, ‘wax’ itself derives from the Old English word ‘weax,’ which exclusively referred to the European honeybee (Tulloch 47). Despite its popularity among many skincare enthusiasts, it’s still one of the lesser known ingredients for much of the population. Many people often ask, “Is beeswax good for your skin?” There isn’t a definite answer that works for everyone, but beeswax has proven beneficial for many people. Depending on your skin type, beeswax products may well be worth adding to your skincare routine. In this article, we’ll go over exactly how and why beeswax is good for your skin.
A Brief History of Beeswax
The use of beeswax has been documented in many ancient cultures. For example, the Egyptians used beeswax for pharaoh mummification as well as to preserve paintings. Similarly, ancient Persians and Romans used the wax for embalming and death masks, respectively. Even the Greek classic of Icarus involved the use of beeswax to make the feathered wings which melted upon the heat of the sun. Later on, beeswax became popular in Christianity when the Roman Catholic Church decreed the use of natural beeswax for church candles (Bogdanov 1-2).
Historical medical uses of beeswax have also been documented throughout the ages. One of China’s famous books of medicine from the 1st through the 2nd BC indicates that beeswax was a top ingredient in the field of medicine for treatment of blood and energy imbalances: “[beeswax] is praised for its beneficial influence on blood and energy systems and the overall balance of the body. The author attributes beauty enhancement and anti-aging properties to beeswax. Combined with other ingredients it is applied to the skin for treating wounds and as a health food for dieting” (Bogdanov 2).
Beeswax wasn’t only used as a cosmetic and medicinal aid, however. It was also used as one of the first versions of plastic. Around the world, artifacts have been found which use beeswax as a sealant. Everyone from Vikings to aboriginal Australians used beeswax to fortify wood, cloth, thread, and weapons. Part of its versatility comes from the fact that it is a renewable resource. Not only to honeybees make it in excess, but once used it can be melted and reused.
What is Beeswax?
As previously mentioned, beeswax is a byproduct of worker honey bees. According to the Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research & Extension Consortium, these bees have unique glands which help them create and mold cells into pure beeswax combs. The wax is initially white, but frequent bee activity within the busy hive, as well as the pollen they carry to and fro, darkens the beeswax (Beeswax 1).
The beekeepers can then either melt the beeswax and honey to extract it from the hive, or they can use a mechanical extractor to extract the honey while leaving the wax comb intact (Ediriweera and Premarathna 180). By the time a beekeeper removes the beeswax and melts it, the wax appears bright yellow.
Beeswax’s Commercial Properties
In the modern world, beeswax is used similarly to how it was used thousands of years ago. Because beeswax is so versatile, there are endless ways in which one can make use of it. A few common commercial products that have historically implemented beeswax as key ingredients are candles and art supplies. Candle beeswax products are valuable today because, unlike cheaper wax candles, beeswax candles have a high melting point and do not warp from higher temperatures (Bogdanov 6). In the art world, beeswax could also be used as a glossy varnish and polish.
Is Beeswax Good for Your Skin?
Because beeswax is made by honey bees, it can cost up to three times more than vegetable waxes (Tulloch 47). It is, however, well worth its price, especially for the beeswax face cream protective benefits it potentially has to offer in comparison to cheaper alternatives.
According to Stefan Bogdanov, “when formulated and used correctly in cosmetic formulations, beeswax will not cause a problem or clog the pores, but brings a host of very positive attributes, such as general healing and softening, as an antiseptic, and an emollient to cosmetic products” (Bogdanov 10). Beeswax for skin may be a superior way of hydrating the skin without clogging it, and it is easily removable, potentially keeping one’s skin free of thick, oily residue.
But why exactly is beeswax so good at hydrating your skin? It comes down to the chemistry. Beeswax is made from long chains of esters and fatty acids. These are chemical compounds which attract water. However, the texture of beeswax allows it to create a barrier over your skin as well, which prevents moisture from evaporating. With many lotions, creating a layer like this would be a recipe for clogged pores and breakouts. But beeswax, on the other hand, is easy to absorb so it doesn’t cause these issues.
Unfortunately, beeswax is not as popular as an ingredient in cosmetics due to a beeswax scarcity that took place during World War II. Companies found cheaper ways to make cosmetic products and continue to use those cheaper ingredients today as opposed to high-quality ingredients that work better. MAAREC states that “lanolin (from wool) and paraffin were developed for cosmetics and because they are cheaper today, beeswax has been replaced in many commercial cosmetic preparations.
“Neither are as stable or beneficial for the skin” (Beeswax 3). Therefore, a product with beeswax for skin in its ingredients may be better than that of cheaper products that lack beeswax and contain the potentially less-effective lanolin or paraffin.
Who Should Avoid Using Beeswax on Their Skin?
For many people, beeswax makes a great addition to their skincare routine. However, there are a few reasons why certain people may want to stay clear of it:
If you have any allergies, it’s always important to read labels carefully. Beeswax obviously comes from bees, and since it is a natural product, there is always a small chance of contamination. Beeswax allergies are uncommon, but they can occur. Technically speaking, the allergy isn’t actually a reaction to the beeswax, but to a contaminant called propolis (Nyman, et. al, 110-111). Propolis is a sticky, glue-like substance that bees may bring into the hive from things like tree sap.
While rare, some people do experience a contact allergy reaction to beeswax products that are contaminated with propolis. If you develop a rash, itchiness, or eczema-like symptoms after using beeswax products, stop using them right away and consider seeing a doctor or dermatologist for a patch test.
Oily Skin Types
As a general rule, beeswax is pretty good at moisturizing without clogging your pores. However, if you have very oily skin, proceed with caution. Because beeswax is an oil/wax-based product, it is more likely to cause a breakout if it’s added to oily skin. However, even if you do have oily skin, beeswax can still be useful when it’s used sparingly. It can be used to gently soothe acne, and if it’s used after a cleanser, it can still be used as an effective moisturizer. All skin is different, so listen to what yours is telling you when you start using a new product.
Possible Ways to Use Beeswax for Skin
Beeswax is a popular ingredient in many skincare products. As we’ve gone over above, it has several properties that make it useful for keeping up a healthy skincare routine. Here, we’ll go over a few specific ailments that beeswax is good for. If you’re having any of these issues, it may be helpful to look for products that have beeswax close to the top of their ingredients list.
Using Beeswax to Potentially Heal Skin
Cracked, dry skin, especially in the winter, is a problem many people face. There are a variety of cremes, gels, and lotions on the market that are designed to help with this, and one of the most common ingredients in them is beeswax. Other common ingredients are lanolin and paraffin, which while they are cheaper to manufacture, do not have the same level of benefits to chapped skin and lips.
Using beeswax on cracked skin is also generally safer than using a lotion with lots of ingredients. Many lotions are for topical use only, so if you have any cracks in your dry skin, they won’t be suitable. Beeswax, on the other hand, has mild antiseptic properties (Ghanem, 38). It’s gentle enough to sooth cracked and chapped skin while creating a protectant barrier over small open wounds.
Using Beeswax as a Moisturizer
Even if you don’t have cracked skin, beeswax can be an effective moisturizer. There are many beeswax body and hand cremes that you could buy, but it is relatively easy to make one’s own soothing beeswax moisturizing creme. All you need is beeswax and an oil of your choice, such as coconut or olive oil. Add 5 parts of the beeswax to 3 parts of your selected oil and gently heat in a jar of simmering water so that they blend together evenly. You may use this beeswax for skin, make a beeswax cream that may be effective on hands, or a beeswax body cream that may noticeably repair dry skin.
Using Beeswax for Skincare
There’s no denying that skincare is one of the biggest parts of the beauty industry. However, sometimes keeping it simple is best. Especially for dry to normal skin types, beeswax is a great moisturizer. It can also be used to calm down acne and breakouts. Using it on popped zits can accelerate the healing time. If you’re working with more oil in your skin, try using only a small amount, and only after you’ve used a cleanser. Beeswax-based lip products are also hugely popular.
In cold weather, using a beeswax chap stick is a good way to protect against chapping. Using one under something like a matte lipstick is also an easy way to keep your lips vibrant without getting dried out.
Antibacterial Properties of Beeswax
Recent studies into the antibacterial properties of beeswax have shown promising results (Ghanem, 38-43). Most of the studies available do not focus on the inhibiting actions of beeswax alone. Instead, they show that beeswax works in tandem with other ingredients. As of now, it’s still unclear whether the beeswax is actually acting as a disinfecting agent or if it is enhancing the antibacterial activity of other ingredients. Regardless, no one is saying that you should use beeswax instead of antibiotics. However, it may be a good way to prevent infection on small cuts or wounds like paper cuts and popped zits.
How to Make Your Own Beeswax Products
It’s surprisingly easy to make your own beeswax products with things like coconut oil, vitamin E oil, shea butter, and of course, beeswax. We went over a few basic recipes earlier, but let’s go into a bit more detail.
Hand creams are meant to make your hands feel soft and moisturized. This recipe calls for essential oils too, for a great smelling mix. Simply heat one cup of sweet almond oil, ½ teaspoon of vitamin E oil, two ounces of beeswax, ½ cup of coconut oil, and 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil in a double boiler. Once the wax has melted, stir the mixture to combine, and pour it into a jar for storage, (Griffiths, 1).
Lip balm is surprisingly easy to make. This recipe simply calls for equal parts coconut oil, beeswax, and shea butter. Put all the ingredients in a microwave safe container and microwave until melted. Go in 30-second intervals, stirring between them. Alternatively, you can use a double boiler to melt the ingredients like in the hand cream recipe. Once melted, feel free to add essential oils to get whatever scent you want. The finished lip balm can be poured into a jar or chap stick tube for storage, (Coleman and Barnes, 1).
These lotion bars are an easy way to keep skin soft and supple all year round. Take 2.5 ounces of beeswax, 3.5 ounces of olive oil, and 3.5 ounces of shea butter with 3 mL of fragrance oil. Melt the beeswax and olive oil in the microwave using 30-second intervals, and then stir in the shea butter. Finish off with your fragrance oil. Pour the lotion into a silicone mold (or a lined muffin tin) and allow them to harden.
Finding A High-Quality Product
If you don’t have the time to make your own, or if you prefer a product that has more high-quality moisturizing ingredients, then there are plenty of products on the market that have beeswax as a main ingredient. The internet is a great resource to find products that work for people with the same skin type as you. To potentially use beeswax for wrinkles, in particular, organic beeswax for skin is your go-to choice and is best found in stores that sell high-end beeswax skin cream for possibly helping with dry, sensitive skin.
Many great beeswax products can be found locally, and it’s a great way to support a small business in your area. Beekeepers often make beeswax products to sell alongside their honey. Farmer’s markets are one of the hotspots for local honey and beeswax, so keep an eye out if you’re looking to shop local.
There are also fancy beeswax hand cremes that have essential oils and vitamin E added to them that will add a wonderful botanical smell. Not only to they smell fantastic, but the vitamin E is another great moisturizer for drying skin. A personal favorite of mine is the Natural Body Cream with Beeswax from Champion Supplies. It’s an amazing all-purpose moisturizer with a lightweight feel. The many ways in which beeswax may be used are endless, and your body just might thank you with glowing, vibrant skin, no matter what options you choose!