In the beauty world, bees are, well, the bees' knees. Honey is a beloved skincare ingredient, as well as propolis and beeswax, and they are all lauded for offering a wide array of varied benefits.
And while you can't make synthetic honey or synthetic propolis, you can manufacture synthetic beeswax. So, does the synthetic stuff have the same benefits as the real deal? Here, board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, founder of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, MD, cosmetic chemist Ginger King, and Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist in Toronto, Ontario, answer that million-dollar question, and share more about what you need to know about synthetic beeswax and whether or not it's worth becoming part of your skincare routine.
Type of ingredient: Occlusive
Main benefits: Helps keep skin moisturized by creating a barrier to minimize the amount of trans-epidermal water loss. It's also largely used for formulation purposes; it lends a creamy texture to beauty products such as lip balms and mascaras, says Yadav.
Who should use it: It's universally beneficial, though it is an especially good option for those in search of vegan beauty products (though keep reading for one caveat on that point).
How often can you use it: Daily
Works well with: Synthetic beeswax works well with all oils and oil-soluble ingredients, explains King. And, "because it’s relatively inert in purified cosmetic-grade forms, it can be combined with lots of different biologically active ingredients, such as vitamin E, to help provide a medium for their activity," adds Yadav.
Don't use with: According to King, it doesn't work well with any water-soluble ingredients, such as herbal or flower extracts, unless an emulsifier is used. (Although this is typically more of a formulation concern; there are no ingredients that are known to interact negatively with synthetic beeswax from a topical use perspective.)
What Is Synthetic Beeswax?
"Synthetic beeswax is a manufactured product that mimics the properties and applications of natural beeswax," explains Rodney. "It's made mainly of fatty acids and alcohols, filtered down to create a wax-like product." Regular beeswax is (obviously) derived straight from beehives where bees live; sourcing this requires disturbing the bees' natural habitat, and, as such, is why natural beeswax isn't considered cruelty-free, says King. It's also not vegan, and an increase in interest in both vegan and cruelty-free products is a main reason all of the experts we spoke with cite as a reason for the increase in popularity of synthetic beeswax. Not to mention that it's also much cheaper than natural beeswax and is much easier to produce on a larger scale, adds Rodney.
Benefits of Synthetic Beeswax for Skin
"The benefits of synthetic beeswax as compared to natural beeswax are similar, though not 100% identical. You can't replicate nature," says King. More specifically, natural beeswax contains more components such as beta-carotene and flavonoids, which have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, adds Yadav. That being said, the other benefits (both from a skincare perspective and formulation standpoint) are the same:
- Helps prevent moisture loss in the skin: The waxy texture of synthetic beeswax allows it to create a protective coating on the surface of the skin, helping to create moisture from escaping. Additionally, it smooths and softens, while also imparting a pretty sheen, notes Rodney.
- Acts as an emollient: Synthetic beeswax is used in countless products to help them solidify and hold their shape, thanks to its high melting point, says Yadav. (It's why it's so often found in various cosmetic sticks.) It also gives these various formulas a creamy texture and helps them glide on or be applied smoothly.
Side Effects of Synthetic Beeswax
"Since there are no actual bee components in this ingredient, there shouldn't be any danger to those who are allergic to pollen, honey, or other bee products," says Rodney. (This can be a concern with natural beeswax.) It's generally fairly well tolerated—given that it's made up of just fatty acids and alcohols—though what is possible is an allergy or irritation to other, accompanying ingredients in a final product formulation. Yadav cites things such as natural essential oils, which are often used to enhance the aromatic properties of products that contain synthetic beeswax, but can increase the potential for allergenicity.
How to Use It
Because it is a fairly inert ingredient, all things considered, there's really nothing special you have to keep in mind here. Synthetic beeswax will be labeled as such on an ingredient label, and, again, it's widely available in a laundry list of different beauty and personal care products. It does bear mentioning, however, that even though synthetic beeswax is most often touted as a vegan alternative, it isn't always entirely vegan. "Synthetic beeswax is made in a variety of different ways. Some forms include lanolin, a waxy substance derived from sheep, which isn't considered vegan. This is something to keep in mind if the vegan criteria is very important to you," points out Yadav. The ingredient label won't list the breakdown of what the synthetic beeswax is made of, so your best bet is to seek out products that are labeled vegan and/or are cruelty-free certified.