5. Ingredient Spotlight - Beeswax

5. Ingredient Spotlight - Beeswax

Welcome to our Ingredient Spotlight Post on Beeswax!

This lipophilic (lipid-, or fat-, loving) substance is such an amazing, versatile raw material. It is the oldest known wax and is one of the oldest skincare ingredients still used today. Not only is beeswax used in skincare, but you can also find it used in a variety of products such as candles, food wraps, furniture polishes, and even pharmaceuticals. Join me as we dive into the history of its use and discover its benefits.



Where Does Beeswax Come From?

The type of beeswax that is used for skincare, is produced by honeybees from the genus Apis. It is the young adult, female worker bees who are responsible for the important task of producing the wax.

Whenever comb building is needed for the colony, the young adults gorge on honey to activate their wax-secreting glands. They continue to consume the large stores of honey and nectar in the hive, as specialized cells synthesize the components of the beeswax. These components are then secreted as wax by 4 pairs of glands on the abdomen. It is estimated that bees must consume 6-8 pounds of honey just to make one pound of beeswax for the hive!

The wax cools down immediately after being secreted and forms tiny wax scales which the worker bees then chew to soften for use in creating the cells of the comb. These cells are used for two important purposes, some hold the eggs/larvae during their development and some store honey.

infographic which shows how honeybees make beeswax


When the beeswax is first secreted, it is white. However, after being walked across by little bee feet covered with pollen, and after being mixed with various substances which naturally occur within the hive, the wax becomes a beautiful golden yellow.




The new, pure white wax mentioned above is vastly different from the white beeswax that can be bought from ingredient suppliers. This type of white beeswax is actually yellow beeswax that has been bleached, either by the sun or with substances, such as hydrogen peroxide, to make it white.

This information is particularly important to consider if you have a preference as to whether the ingredients you use are physically or chemically processed.

For those interested:

  • Reach out to your supplier and ask if they can provide documentation on the processes used to bleach the beeswax.




The Quality of Beeswax

All beeswax removed from the hive is usable, however, the quality of the wax will vary depending on the type of comb it comes from and on how the beekeeper cares for their hives.




Lighter colored wax is the higher quality wax.

The best source for this higher quality wax is the newer, yellow honeycombs. This yellow comb is estimated to be 86-100% wax.

The highest quality wax is the capping wax which has the least contaminants. It is used to cap the cells after they are filled with the honey and its color is only affected by pollen and the honey in the cells. This results in very yellow wax.

Beeswax from the newer combs is the best option for cosmetics.




The darker wax, which ranges in color from brown to black, is the lowest quality wax. With the black being estimated to have only 46% wax.

This darker wax comes from brood rearing combs which hold the eggs and larvae, and from old honeycombs.

This older and darker wax is not wasted though, and is typically filtered and sent off for use in the industrial field.




When beekeepers use chemicals to treat their hives, trace contaminants can be found in the wax. Residual levels of pesticides used to control varroa mites and wax moths have been found present in commercial wax.

IMPORTANT: For use in cosmetics, commercial beeswax is NOT required to be contaminant free. Commercial beeswax is actually allowed to contain minimal amounts of these contaminants.

This is a big part of why it's so important to purchase beeswax directly from the source, or as close to the source as possible. 

When an individual or company purchases their beeswax from the source, they can be confident that the beekeeper's practices are aligned with their values.


So how can you as a formulator and conscious consumer be confident that it has no contaminants?


One option is to only purchase products from companies whose values align with your own. If you value pure ingredients and you are purchasing from a supplier that values pure ingredients too, you can be confident they have done their due diligence in researching and finding the best source for their beeswax.

Another option is to simply ask your supplier if their beeswax is sourced from reputable beekeepers who do not treat their hives with chemicals. A company which values sustainably sourced, high quality ingredients, they will likely be able to confirm the purity of their beeswax.

And for those companies who cannot provide you with an answer to this question, hopefully you will have gotten them to thinking more about where they are sourcing their ingredients, and you have moved on to someone else.




From Ancient Times to Modern Day: Uses and Benefits

Beeswax has a long, rich history of use, with evidence of its use found in archaeological sites dating back to 7000 BCE. From candles for home use and as a glazing agent for food processing to batik art and cosmetics, it’s fascinating to see the many ways humans have been using this amazing raw material throughout the ages.


FUN NOTE: Cosmetics and candles are two of the most common uses that have survived through the ages and, together, are estimated to account for 45-50% of all the purposes beeswax is used for.


infographic depicting beeswax use throughout history



  • 3000 BCE: The Chinese stain their fingernails with gum arabic, gelatin, beeswax, and egg. The colors are used as a representation of social class:
  • The Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 BC, mentions the use of ointments made from beeswax.
  • In 150 BC, the Greek-Roman physician, Galen, created the first cold cream using beeswax.
    • Fun Fact: The first cold cream was not originally created for women; it was created for roman gladiators to help prevent chafing.
  • According to "Shen Nong's Book of Herbs", one of the earliest known and most famous books on medicine in China, beeswax was praised for having beauty-enhancing and anti-aging properties
  • In 992, in “The Sages Prescriptions”, anti-aging prescriptions are mentioned which used beeswax with other bee products.
  • Lipstick was first introduced in France in 1869 as a cosmetic product made from animal fat and beeswax 


Thanks to its many beneficial properties, beeswax is still extremely useful in cosmetics today. It’s used as a thickener and stabilizer in creams, balms, and ointments. And the occlusive properties of this natural wax make it especially useful in cosmetics where it forms a film over the skin, helping to prevent trans epidermal water loss (TEWL). This means that it prevents the water in your skin from evaporating, helping to keep your skin soft and hydrated.

Beeswax is also considered to be non-allergenic (there is only 1 documented case of a reaction to beeswax in the history of its use) and non-comedogenic (does not clog the pores), making it suitable for all skin types.





I apologize for such a long article, but I so appreciate you sticking with me till the end, and I hope you have enjoyed diving deep into this amazing ingredient.

If you have any questions, or if there is a specific ingredient you want to learn more about and see  in an upcoming spotlight article, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!


Racheal D.



PS: I have included a short bonus section on the properties of beeswax below. I hope you'll find this bonus information helpful.




INCI Name: Cera flava (yellow beeswax) or Cera alba (white beeswax)

Color: Yellow or White

Scent: Pleasant, Light Honey Scent, which can vary depending on the types of plants pollinated by the bees

Melting Point: 142-149 F (61-65 C)

Solubility: Oil Soluble (also Soluble in Ethanol)

Recommended Usage Rates:

  • Creams: 8-12%
  • Deodorants: up to 35%
  • Hair Conditioners: 1-3%
  • Candles: up to 100%




Bogdanov, Stefan. “(PDF) Beeswax: Production, Properties, Composition, Control.” ResearchGate, April 2016. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304012435_Beeswax_Production_Properties_Composition_Control.
Bogdanov, Stefan. “(PDF) Beeswax: History, Uses, Trade.” ResearchGate, April 2016. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304012171_Beeswax_History_Uses_Trade.
Koster Keunen. “Learn the Basics about Beeswax from Koster Keunen.” Koster Keunen, May 19, 2021. https://www.kosterkeunen.com/brochures/beeswax-back-to-basics/.
Krell, R. “CHAPTER 4 - WAX.” Essay. In Value-Added Products from Beekeeping. Rome: FAO, 1996.
Filippo Fratini, Giovanni Cilia, Barbara Turchi, Antonio Felicioli, 2016, Beeswax: A minireview of its antimicrobial activity and its application in medicine, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine. Volume 9, Issue 9. 839-843. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1995764516301407
The data base of ethno-medicines in the World (ethmedmmm). Accessed October 31, 2021. https://ethmed.toyama-wakan.net/SearchEn/View/27672.
cosmeticsinfo.org. “A History of Cosmetics from Ancient Times.” Cosmetics Info, October 19, 2021. https://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/get-the-facts/a-history-of-cosmetics-from-ancient-times/
Munawiroh, S.Z.; Nabila, A.N.; Chabib, L. Development of water in olive oil (W/O) Nanoemulsions as lipstick base formulation. Int. J. Pharm. Med. Biol. Sci. 2017, 6, 37–42
Ahnert, Petra. “The History of Beeswax.” Essay. In Beeswax Alchemy: How to Make Your Own Candles, Soap, Balms, Salves, and Home Decor from the Hive. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books, 2015.
“The First Human Uses of Beeswax Have Been Established in Anatolia in 7000 BCE.” American Bee Journal, January 11, 2016. https://americanbeejournal.com/first-human-uses-beeswax-established-anatolia-7000-bce/
Alusi Candles. “An Illuminating Candle History.” Alusi Candles An Illuminating Candle History Comments, December 23, 2015. http://www.alusi.com/an-illuminating-candle-history/.
Rezaei, Karamatollah & Wang, Tong & Johnson, Lawrence. (2002). Combustion characteristics of candles made from hydrogenated soybean oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 79. 803-808. 10.1007/s11746-002-0562-y.
Gaunt, L., Higgins, S. and Hughes, J. (2005), Interaction of air ions and bactericidal vapours to control micro-organisms. Journal of Applied Microbiology, 99: 1324-1329. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2005.02729.x
Back to blog

Leave a comment