Compare Beeswax to Emulsifying Wax

Beeswax is secreted by bees to construct the walls of the honeycomb.

Photo: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Adopting a chemist's mentality helps you make knowledgeable decisions about beauty products. With the media hyping the potential dangers found in cosmetics, deciphering the ingredients list in your favorite potions is as important as ever. Many cosmetics, lotions and creams contain either beeswax or emulsifying wax. Traditional brands favor the later for it's ability to create a soft and creamy emulsion. Yet, beeswax, nature's alternative, is chemical free and contains properties that benefit your skin. If it's all Greek to you, take time to educate yourself on the differences to obtain valuable ammunition for your skin.

Natural vs. Manmade

A transparent liquid secreted by the honeybee, beeswax forms the outer walls of the honeycomb. In contrast, emulsifying wax, a blend of cetearyl alcohol, polysorbate 60, PEG-150 stearate and steareth-20, is chemically manufactured. Sounds contrived? Well, it is. Created as the cosmetic industry's answer to a synthetic emulsifier, emulsifying wax is rarely an overlooked ingredient. This chemical cocktail enhances the consistency of your cream, but contains skin irritants and trace amounts of carcinogens, according to Stephanie Greenwood, a chemist and owner of Bumble & Bee Organic. The safer alternative, hands down, is beeswax. Wouldn't you rather slather yourself with one of nature's wonders?


Beeswax has the same sweet, smoky odor of the hive. This smell radiates from irresistible beeswax body products. When used in baby skin care formulas, the smell of beeswax contributes to the uncontrollable "snuggle factor." Emulsifying wax, in comparison, reeks of alcohol. This unnatural smell is much less appealing than the cuddly aroma of skin bathed in a mixture from the earth. Keep this in mind when selecting an aura-enhancing lotion.

Skin Benefits

According to Sharon Kinnier of Botanical Skin Works, beeswax contains "emollient, soothing and softening properties and helps the skin retain moisture." She goes on to claim that the contained vitamin A and antibacterial characteristics remain active even after technological processing. One of emulsifying wax's main ingredients, propylene glycol, acts as a carrying agent for a cream's active ingredients, allowing it to penetrate deeper into the skin. However, this synthetic compound is also a solvent, contributing to skin irritation if used in high concentration.

Temperature Tolerances

Yes, beeswax freezes and melts with temperature fluctuations, but the melting assists its availability for use in natural products. As with many man-made products, emulsifying wax is formulated to tolerate temperature variances. This wax retains its consistency when exposed to extreme heat and hardens only slightly in the cold. For this reason, emulsifying wax remains a stronghold ingredient in traditional beauty products. But, what's worth more? The chemically-contrived consistency of your skin care agent or your health. After all, worker bees cultivate products fit for a queen.

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