The complex composition of beeswax and its unique chemistry allow for the preparation of many derivatives, usually via esterification of the free fatty acids with suitable alcohols. Derivatives increase the functionality and application range of beeswax.
For example, our Peg-8 Beeswax and Cera Bellina both have a higher polarity than beeswax, making them compatible with a wider range of cosmetic ingredients, including sunscreens, or even water. Other examples of beeswax functionalization are our Behenyl Beeswax – where the removal of free fatty acids minimizes unwanted side reactions like in situ soap and salt formation – and our Enhans SB-63 – where the addition of new functional groups imparts new properties to the wax, like increased slip or higher pigment deposition.
Beeswax is unique from a marketing perspective as well. It offers countless benefits, such as skin protection, natural origin, anti-microbial properties, and UV absorption.
Beeswax is globally approved, biodegradable, non- toxic14, non-irritant, and non-comedogenic15. It can be certified natural and/or organic by NPA, COSMOS, USDA, Ecocert and other certifying bodies. It is offered in different grades, such as NF (USP), and can be purchased with different certifications allowing for attractive packaging callouts, including “organic”, “kosher”, “halal”, “non-GMO”, “sustainable”, “ethically sourced”, “made in the USA”, and many more.
Honey bees are fascinating social insects. Success of the colony depends on following a firm hierarchy, proper division of labor, and the ability to change behavior based on a series of chemical and tactile interactions.16 Working as a team, Apis mellifera bees produce beeswax and honey, but also pollinate our crops. In the United States more than one-third of all crop production – ranging from nuts to berries to flowering vegetables – requires insect pollination.17 Consumers unknowingly rely on commercial beekeepers to provide pollination
services to farms, and beekeepers, in a reciprocal partnership, provide optimum conditions for bees to thrive.
Ironically, consumers swayed by the increasingly visible animal rights and vegan movements, as well as the shortcomings in animal welfare laws in the United States18,19 are also putting beekeeping and beeswax harvesting under scrutiny. The facts are as follows: bees are not used as cosmetic raw materials, they are not exterminated for their beeswax, and they are not used as substrates for cosmetic testing.
Koster Keunen’s position on beeswax is that it is a “cruelty-free” product. Worldwide, bees are not harmed in the farming process, in fact bees must be kept in optimal conditions in order to thrive and be productive. It is not in beekeepers’ best interest to harm their bees, as bee product trade and pollination are part of their livelihood. In developing areas of the world, entire villages depend on the income from honey and beeswax trade.
Another area of controversy is the beeswax sourcing and its impact on communities. The beeswax that Koster Keunen purchases is sourced from all around the world, with an increased focus on specific locations in an effort to improve living standards. Our responsible sourcing promotes pure beeswax, economic development, and beekeeper safety. We work directly with beekeepers and their families, and our beeswax purchases provide a tangible impact on local communities
(Koster, J., personal communication, December 2017).
Because beeswax is an animal by-product, it cannot obtain the currently popular certification of “vegan”, nor can a cosmetic product that contains it. At Koster Keunen, we understand the market and offer a wide array of alternatives to this popular wax for our customers who need multiple options.
There are many synthetic replacements; blends of commercially available waxes engineered to closely match the properties of this natural wax. As added benefits, this alternative wax are cost effective and carry the vague INCI nomenclature of Synthetic Beeswax. In formulas with small percentages of beeswax they can be a “drop-in”, but formulas with high amounts may require some rework.
We encourage formulators and product developers with natural and vegan needs to reach out to us. Finding a one-to-one natural replacement for beeswax can be difficult due to the uniqueness of this wax’s chemistry and the high dependency on the end product application. Koster Keunen has the technology to assist in the process. For example, in mascaras, Rice Bran Wax can work well as an alternate, while for candles, we might recommend Soy Wax. For lipsticks where brittle formulas are problematic or for low viscosity gels with a tendency to crystallize, a plasticizer such as Kester Wax K-60P can be blended with another natural wax in order to mimic the performance of this wax.
Beeswax is a well-established, indispensable raw material in the cosmetic industry. At Koster Keunen, our goal is to protect this resource and continue to understand this natural wax, its chemistry and its possibilities. Formulators and cosmetic chemists will find it to be an effective thickener, film former, plasticizer and even emulsifier. Marketers can tell compelling stories; every stage of this wax’s journey is exciting, and it all begins with a young honey bee emerging from her hexagon.