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Ingredient: Carnauba Wax

Fast Facts

Type of Ingredient: A thickener, also known as Brazil wax or palm wax.

Main Uses and Benefits: Carnauba wax is often used as a hardening agent, thickener, and emulsifier. When used in cosmetics, it gives the product a smooth application and glossy finish. It also helps keep the product in a pliable yet solid form.

Find It In: Lip balms, eyeliners, and mascaras.

How Often Can You Use It: You can use it every day.

What Is Carnauba Wax?

Carnauba wax is a wax from the leaves of the palm copernicia prunifera, a plant found in northeastern Brazil. It is harvested by pulling the leaves off the tree (recent sustainable practice recommends no more than 10 leaves at a time to keep the tree healthy). It is hypoallergenic, very emollient, and has a high melting point, making it one of the preferred ingredients for thickening eye makeup and skincare products.

Carnauba wax is often used alongside other thickening ingredients, such as cocoa butter or beeswax, to add hardness to the texture of a product. It also creates a protective layer and adds shine and glow to the skin and hair.

“Carnauba wax has very good emulsification properties and excellent oil-binding capacity for ester oils and mineral oils,” explains Simon Badal, head of the pharmaceuticals department at the University of West Indies. “It also raises the melting point of gels, thus making it the preferred additives in lipsticks, lip balms, and mascara. It provides glossy and slippery surfaces.”

Examples of Skin and Hair Care Applications and Their Usage Rates:

  • Balms (15-20%)
  • Creams (5-10%)
  • Conditioners (1-3%)
  • Deodorants (1-15%)
  • Eyeshadows (3-10%)
  • Hair Creams (2-5%)
  • Mascaras (2-25%)
  • Soaps (1-3%)

The Benefits of Carnauba Wax

1. Carnauba wax helps stabilize cosmetic formulas.

The particularly high melting point of carnauba wax makes it excellent for improving the thermo-stability of cosmetic formulas, which maintains their physical or molecular composition when they are subjected to high heat. With a natural hardness, luster, and water-proofing property, carnauba wax is known to be ideal for addition to candles as well as cosmetics, such as lip balms or deodorants.

2. Carnauba wax helps lengthen the staying power of many skin and hair products.

Its emulsifying, thickening, softening, and emollient characteristics make it a common hypoallergenic additive to cosmetics such as face creams, deodorants, multiple categories of makeup, and sun-protectant products. In these products, carnauba wax acts as a natural binding agent that expands their holding power, which increases the length of time that they stay on the skin or hair. This also makes it a popular component in hair products, such as styling waxes, as well as in ointments, which need to remain on the skin for long periods to aid wound healing.

Please do be aware that because of these properties, carnauba wax sits on top of the skin trapping oils and dirt. Make sure to remove carnauba wax with a good cleanser daily.

3. Aside from being hypoallergenic and safe for human consumption, carnauba wax also helps keep lipsticks and lip balms from melting.

The fact that carnauba wax has such a high melting temperature sets it apart from other natural waxes, particularly beeswax. With its hypoallergenic properties, it works as a type of coating for many skincare products and also acts as a binding agent. This prevents products such as creams and balms from melting at room temperature. Additionally, it does all this while also being safe for human consumption.

These same traits also make it quite applicable in the cosmetic industry, particularly, in the production of lipsticks, foundations, deodorants, and various makeup products. We can also find it in mascaras, eyeliners, and eyeshadows. However, there have been records of it causing dry eye syndrome, which causes dry, irritated and itchy eyes.

4. Carnauba wax helps make products waterproof, glossy, and shiny.

Along with the protective qualities, it gives any surface a glossy and shiny finish. It helps protect it from water damage since carnauba wax is not soluble in water. If any comes in contact with the surface, it won’t manage to get through the layer of carnauba wax. This hydrophobic property comes in handy in many cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

5. Carnauba wax helps products achieve a creamy and spreadable consistency.

Carnauba wax blends well with several other waxes from plant, animal, and mineral sources, as well as with different resins, whether they were natural or synthetic. In any of these mixtures, carnauba wax boosts the binding properties of ingredients in emulsions, allowing liquids to bind easily with chemical ingredients, particularly oils. This helps formulate products with lasting creamy consistencies.

When applied to formulations for stick products, such as deodorants, lipsticks, or stick formulas, the combination of carnauba wax with any of these other waxes helps boost the density of the lipids. Which allows the products to retain its solid structures when it glides smoothly across the skin. This easy spreadability is what makes carnauba wax ideal for makeup, as it keeps the elastic form rather than stiff and this gives makeup products easy application as well as adjustability. These properties also make carnauba wax an ideal depilatory agent for temporarily removing unwanted body hair.

Is Carnauba Wax Safe?

Carnauba wax is generally classified as non-toxic or harmful by The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database.

Despite it being considered safe for consumption, carnauba wax is for external use only. It is important to consult a medical practitioner before using this product for therapeutic purposes. Pregnant and nursing women, as well as those with sensitive skin, are especially advised not to use carnauba wax without the medical advice of a physician.

Before using carnauba wax, a skin test is recommended. This can be done by melting 1 tsp of carnauba wax in 1 tsp of preferred carrier oil and applying a dime-size amount of this blend to a small area of skin that is not sensitive. Carnauba Wax must never be used near the inner nose and ears or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin.

Carnauba Wax’s Potential Side Effects

Potential side effects of carnauba wax include dry skin, acne, rashes, inflammation, dermatitis, dizziness, nausea, blurry vision, and dryness, irritation, or burning of the eyes. In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action.