The myth that waxes are comedogenic appears to be connected to most people’s experience with waxes sealing or protecting surfaces from moisture getting in or out. Such oversimplification leads to this common misunderstanding, as it is not necessarily widely known that waxes are a vast and complex family of substances with many types possessing a very low comedogenic rating. Over the decades, cosmetic chemists have shown that waxes are not only among the most highly useful ingredients for cosmetic formulations, many waxes are also among the ingredients least likely to cause acne. In formulation, waxes account for structure, texture, and feel, among other beneficial properties. And as the science shows, many waxes are rated as having low, or no likelihood of clogging pores.

Sensitive Skin and Waxes: Poring over the Science

In addition to being non-comedogenic, many of Koster Keunen waxes carry irritancy ratings that illustrate the virtue of using waxes in formulations, especially for the face. Facial skin, due to its fewer stratum corneum layers on the outermost epidermis, combined with larger follicular pores, can be the most sensitive skin on the body. (Source: Introduction to Cosmetic Formulation and Technology (Baki and Alexander) p. 209). Emollient formulations rely on utilizing ingredients that combine desirable feel, after-feel, and functionality with the potential for leaving sensitive skin comfortable and nourished. Many waxes are known to be non-comedogenic and non-irritant. Looking at three examples, Beeswax, Kester Wax K-60P, and Kester Wax K-24, we have a range of highly complex wax (beeswax), to a less complex wax (K-60P), and a wax with a very simple chemistry (K-24). Yet each of the waxes achieves a surface epithelial irritancy rating of zero, indicating no irritation. Likewise, each of the waxes were rated as likely to cause low to no clogging of pores.

Wax Comedogenic Rating* Irritation Rating Test Method
Beeswax 0-2 0 Standard 1989
Kester Wax K-24 0 0 Follicular Biopsy (3rd party)
Kester Wax K-60P 0.5 0 Follicular Biopsy (3rd party)
Candelilla Wax 1 0 Standard 1989
Carnauba Wax 1 0 Standard 1989
Ceresin Wax 0 0 Standard 1989
Cetyl Esters 1 1 Standard 1989
Kester Wax K-48 0 0 Standard 1989

*A comedogenic rating of 0-1 signifies no increase in keratosis.

Koster Keunen Products Demonstrate Formulation Options

Because Koster Keunen has a long history of formulating with waxes and researching the chemical properties of waxes, we have developed the waxes and wax derivatives that fill a wide variety of niches in the cosmetic market. We also offer substitutes for natural waxes, when those are preferable for reasons of formulation or customer demand. Kester Wax K-24 is an excellent example of a wax that is non-irritant and non-comedogenic, while offering superior flexibility in formulation. In products as diverse as sunscreen, hair, skin and color products, K-24 acts to “de-grease” by imparting a light, dry and powdery feel. We use Kester Wax K-24 in products such as the emollient Soft Lotion Drops, our lightweight and easily absorbable emulsion. Melting at room temperature, it also provides pleasant slip in our Stone Cream transparent skin primer. Greasiness of natural oils is cut, and the resultant texture is light and cool. The age-old idea that waxes are inherently comedogenic is simply inaccurate. Scientific progress has taken our understanding of waxes, and of the cosmetic benefits of waxes, a long way. If you have formulation questions for your own products, please let us know.

About Koster Keunen

Koster Keunen has been working with wax since 1852 and has used our extensive experience and knowledge base to continuously develop new chemistries. Whether you are developing a new product, or need help with a reformulation or replacement, contact us to learn more about how we source, refine or develop waxes so you can create the perfect formula.