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Even if you haven’t heard of the ingredient ceresin before, there’s a good chance you’ve used it. Ceresin is an emulsifier used like a wax to help certain products, such as pomades and balms, to bind and maintain their consistencies. It can be a suitable substitute for paraffin and beeswax, as it helps stabilize skincare products. Ceresin also helps make products less brittle by adding strength and stability to stick cosmetics, such as lipstick. As a thickening agent, it works to keep the liquid and oil parts of an emulsion from separating.
“A mineral wax from coal or shale, or synthesized from petroleum, ceresin can be used as a replacement for beeswax and paraffin and performs similarly to both by stabilizing a product’s consistency,” says board-certified cosmetic dermatologic surgeon Howard Sobel, MD. “Usually found in lip care (balms and lip masks), ceresin is also used in thicker, reparative skin creams and medical ointments. It is also used in color cosmetics and haircare.”
In other words, ceresin is a lot more common than you think, since it’s in everything from lipsticks to eyeliner, lip gloss, mascara, and skincare. “As it is in many personal care products, it is highly likely you have used it previously,” says board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans, MD, MPH. Ahead, Evans and Sobel break down everything there is to know about ceresin, from its benefits to the best products that include the ingredient.
Meet the Expert
- Howard Sobel, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, the clinical attending cosmetic dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, and the director of Sobel Skin.
- Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist and the medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology.
Type of ingredient: Texture enhancer
Main benefits: A naturally occurring mineral wax, it's primarily used as a thickening agent in cosmetics.
Who should use it: It's a common binding ingredient and safe to use for most, as it's unlikely to irritate skin or cause breakouts. Stop use if you do experience irritation or itchiness, as you may be allergic.
How often to use it: Ceresin is safe for daily use.
Works well with: Primarily a thickening ingredient, ceresin works well as part of formulas that need help with binding and consistency. It's helpful in emulsions within a range of makeup and skincare products.
Don't use with: Ceresin isn’t a particularly reactive ingredient, so it works well with most routines. However, if you experience irritation or it seems to change your other products' effectiveness, you may want to stop use or change how you use it.
What Is Ceresin?
Ceresin is a white or yellow wax derived from ozocerite, a naturally occurring fossil wax found near soft shale, Evans explains. She notes that it’s valued for its stability and high melting point and is often a substitute for beeswax.
“Ceresin is a derivative of clay and is used as a thickening agent and emulsifier in skincare products,” Sobel says. “It is used as hardening wax for stick formulated cosmetics. It is common in skincare and color cosmetics. Because of its waxy texture, ceresin is mainly used to help a formula achieve a certain consistency. Thanks to its waxy constitution, it can be used as barrier protection in skincare, creating an occlusive film to keep ingredients in the skin and lock out harmful pollutants.”
Benefits of Ceresin for Skin
“It is used to improve products, as it is viscosity-controlling and emulsion-stabilizing,” Evans says of one of ceresin's main benefits. “Its main purpose is as a thickening agent that keeps the oil and liquid parts of an emulsion from separating. As a wax, it helps harden lipid (oil)-based solutions like pomades or balms.”
Ceresin works well with oil-based creams, haircare, or balms and allows oil and liquid ingredients to emulsify without separation. “Ceresin wax is compatible with a wide variety of solvents, oils, fats, resins, petrolatum, and other waxes,” Sobel says.
Have thirsty skin? You might want to look for products that contain ceresin. “It’s best for non-sensitive, thicker, drier skin that can be rough and scaly,” Sobel says. “It will help condition the skin and speed up the healing time of dry, cracked skin. It works by protecting the skin barrier and sealing in water and other reparative ingredients. It should only be avoided in sensitive skin types that develop a reaction.”
Side Effects of Ceresin
Ceresin isn’t an ingredient that will keep you up at night wondering what it might trigger in your skin. “It has low irritancy and low comedogenicity, meaning it won’t cause acne,” Evans says. However, Sobel cautions that some skin types can experience an allergic reaction to ceresin. “It can be used daily unless irritation or itchiness is experienced,” he says.
How to Use It
“This is not an ingredient that you would use alone,” Dr. Sobel says. “Products containing ceresin should be used last to seal in the other products—like serums and boosters—applied beforehand.”
The Best Products with Ceresin
One of Sobel’s picks for its impressive relief for dry skin, this rich cream will soothe even the thirstiest complexions. Safe for sensitive skin, it’s free of fragrance, dyes, and parabens, making it a great pick for daily use.
Evans says this clean beauty favorite is great for using all over the face to add a pop of color to eyes, lips, and cheeks. The balm gives off a gorgeous glow and makes monochromatic makeup foolproof.
Another favorite of Sobel’s, this ointment is so soothing that cracked skin doesn't stand a chance. It creates a protective barrier to optimize healing and moisture. Slather it on wherever dry skin needs some TLC, including hands, feet, lips, elbows, and even minor wounds.
For a pencil that stays put, you’ll want this Lorac eyeliner, which comes in a range of shades, in your arsenal. Designed to last, the waterproof pencil is packed with pigment and won’t budge, yet it goes on super smooth.
Sobel selected this three-in-one cleanser for its ability to remove makeup, cleanse, and hydrate in a single step. Even better, no water is necessary: It liquifies as soon as it hits your skin, so you can towel it off.