What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is the building block of the beehive. It is a substance secreted by the worker bee that is approximately 3 or 4 weeks old, from the wax glands under her abdomen. To stimulate the production of beeswax the bees gorge themselves with honey and huddle together often in a ‘string’ cluster to raise the temperature. They may stay in this position for up to 24 hours. The bees consume about 5 kilograms of honey to produce about half a kilogram of wax.
On contact with the air the wax hardens and forms tiny scales. Using her hind legs the bee removes the scales of wax and passes them up to her mandibles or jaws where it is chewed before being placed on the honeycomb.
At the normal hive temperature of 38oC beeswax can support a considerable weight and yet still be moulded by the bee’s jaws. Beeswax melts at 64oC.
Beeswax is most often used for making candles either from plain or coloured sheets of pressed wax, or by melting the wax and pouring it into moulds. It is also used in soap, skin care products, as a coating on sweets and pills, massage balms, as a base in many skin treatment balms, in furniture polish, batik art, on drawer runners to make them slide more smoothly and also on the thread used in quilting and heavy sewing to assist its passing through the materials.
Benefits of beeswax in cosmetics:
Protective: When applied to the skin, beeswax forms a protective barrier that helps protect it from the harsh environment, while also holding in moisture and reducing dryness. This is one of the reasons beeswax is often used in lip balms. Unlike ingredients made from petroleum, however, beeswax doesn’t “suffocate” the skin, and won’t clog pores.
Antibacterial: Like honey, beeswax has antibacterial properties, helping keep skin clean and reducing the risks of contamination in the formula itself. In fact, a 2005 study found that a honey/beeswax mixture inhibited the growth of bacteria and fungus, making it a potential treatment for diaper rash and other bacterial skin conditions. (check out our balm range which is formulated around honey and beeswax!)
Humectant: Some ingredients “attract” water, and beeswax is one of them. When you put it on, you attract water molecules, helping to keep skin hydrated over time.
Vitamin A: A good source of this vitamin, beeswax helps support cell turnover and reconstruction.
Fragrance: There’s no reason to use harsh chemicals to make products smell good. Natural ingredients work so much better! Beeswax has a natural honey fragrance, and is a favorite in soaps and perfumes because of its pleasant, light aroma.
Itching: If you suffer from dry skin itching, dermatitis, eczema, or any type of itching related to a skin condition, beeswax is for you. A study published in 2012 found that those patients who suffered serious burns, and later went through “post-burn itch” when the burns were healing, experienced relief with an herbal oil cream and beeswax combination, so much so that they were able to cut back on their use of medications for the itch. Because beeswax is anti-allergenic, it is also easily tolerated by even those with reactive skin.
CAUTION: When melting beeswax always place the wax in a small saucepan, then place the small saucepan inside a larger pan of water. Never place a pan of wax directly onto the heated element or source of heat! Beeswax does not boil, it just gets hotter and hotter until it ignites. Beeswax, if overheated can be highly inflammable, so caution is important to monitor the temperatures. Do not heat more than 2 or 3 degrees above its melting point.