I know what you’re thinking. Beeswax should be something obvious, right? Well if you aren’t aware yet, beeswax is a complicated subject of discussion for a lot of vegans.
Some believe that beeswax is vegan, and of course, some believe otherwise. The controversy stems not only from the source but also the production process of beeswax.
So if you’re a fan of beeswax, this question will be a buzzkill: is beeswax vegan? The short answer is NO. But how is it not vegan? And what alternatives can we vegans use instead?
Well, that’s what you’ll have to keep reading for.
What Is Beeswax?
Beeswax is popular not only for its many uses but also because of its medical properties. Now, we all know beeswax comes from bees, but what is it exactly? How is it made?
Also known as “the building block of honey”, beeswax is what makes up the walls of a honeycomb. When bees consume honey, their glands convert it into secretions that come out from the pores in their abdomen.
Upon exposure to air, these secretions turn into small flakes of wax. But that’s not where it ends.
Worker bees chew on these wax flakes until it’s pliable enough for molding. When it’s ready, they combine all these soft waxes and shape them into hexagonal cells. These cells are what we know as honeycomb, where bees store their larvae and food.
With beeswax technically being an insect’s secretion, it’s a no-brainer that it is NOT vegan.
What Is Beeswax Used For?
If you’re into cosmetics and skincare, you’ll have an idea somehow how popular beeswax is. Just how versatile is it? Here are the best-known uses of beeswax:
- Protective skin barrier
- Candle wax
- Thickener in cosmetic creams
- Vapor rub
- Wax in food wrap
- Lubricant for old furniture
- Food additive (glazing agent)
- Food coating (cheese, fruits)
- Fabric dye ingredient
- Conditioner and protectant for wood items
- Polishing wax
Is Beeswax Sustainable?
As one of the primary pollinators of plants, bees are crucial to a stable ecosystem. However, with all the environmental issues plaguing the world today, it’s not a secret how the fate of the bees are in danger.
According to Earth.com, more bee species are being placed on the endangered list in the past years. But don’t pass all the blame on climate change. A lot of beekeeping practices also contribute to the extreme decline of bee species.
There are also arguments that a higher honeybee population competes with wild and native bees. Unlike honeybees, wild bees and native bees are more efficient in food plant pollination. This is why an imbalance in the population of bee species is also a threat to the ecosystem.
Although steps are already being taken by several organizations to protect the vulnerable bee species, it’s quite a long shot. We need to do more.
In terms of being sustainable, it depends on the beekeeping and harvesting practices that producers use. Large scale beekeeping is usually not sustainable as they are mostly only after the quantity of production. They’re usually far from being “bee-centric”. That means they don’t really care if their bees die.
That said, not all beeswax sources are sustainable. This will depend on the supplier’s beekeeping practices.
Is Using Beeswax Cruelty-Free?
The question about beeswax being cruelty-free is another hot topic of debate. When we say cruelty-free, we’re not just talking about the absence of animal testing. This also means the avoidance of causing harm to animals, in any way.
There are beekeepers who prioritize the welfare of the bees over obtaining their products for human consumption. This means that although they take the wax and honey from the bees, they make sure there’s always enough left for the bees. Otherwise, they will not be harvesting anything if there’s no excess.
Responsible practices like this not only create sustainable products, it also helps to save the bees. Well, the honeybee species, mostly.
On the other hand, there are also unacceptable methods of beekeeping. Here are some of them:
- Smoking bees to harvest wax and honey.
- Clipping the wings of queen bees so they do not leave the hive.
- Killing and replacing an old queen bee.
- Artificial insemination of queen bees.
- Replacing honey with sugar water or HFCS which leads to malnourishment.
- Providing bees with larger cavities for more honey production.
- Rough handling that tears off the wings and legs of bees.
Can you imagine how stressful these practices are for the bees? This stress contributes to colony collapse disorder, one of the leading causes of the declining bee population.
Just like its case with sustainability, beeswax is only cruelty-free if they are sourced responsibly using bee-centric practices.
1. Is beeswax vegan?
No. Beeswax is the secretion of bees, making it an animal (insect) product, and is therefore not vegan.
2. Is organic beeswax vegan?
No. Regardless of the farming and harvesting methods, beeswax is not vegan. Organic does not equate to being vegan. It only refers to production that does not use chemicals, GMOs, and synthetic additives or enhancers.
3. Is synthetic beeswax vegan?
Not all. Originally, the reason behind the development of synthetic beeswax is to produce a suitable alternative that’s free from animal products. However, there are now synthetic beeswax products that contain lanolin from sheep wool. Others even contain a small amount of real beeswax.
4. Is beeswax edible?
Pure beeswax is edible and generally safe to eat in small amounts. However, consumption in large amounts is not advisable as it can cause intestinal blockage. It can also lead to beeswax poisoning and may carry toxins that cause botulism.
What Are The Vegan Alternatives To Beeswax?
If you’re into natural products, you’ll probably see beeswax in almost every item, especially the ones for skincare. But if you think that might make it hard for you to ditch this controversial insect wax, these vegan alternatives will change your mind!
Did you know the myrtle shrub’s deep purple berries can produce wax through boiling? Although it’s perhaps one of the least known alternatives, its unique aroma makes it ideal for wax candles. It’s also useful for fragrances.
From the berries of varnish or lacquer tree, this soft, luxurious wax can be made for cosmetic use. Its texture makes it ideal for use in eye and lip liners or pencils, lip gloss, and balms.
One of the most popular beeswax alternatives, candelilla is another wax product from a shrub plant. Specifically, it is made from the leaves of the Candelilla leaves and is the most common replacement for beeswax.
This vegetable wax is useful as a thickener, emollient, humectant, stabilizer, and emulsifier. Unlike beeswax, candelilla is odorless, which makes it more versatile. It is also denser, so you will only need it in smaller amounts.
If you’re looking for a beeswax alternative for skincare and cosmetic use, candelilla wax is your best bet. It’s a great skin conditioner and lip balm, plus it’s rich in nutrients, and the skin absorbs it easily.
When it comes to wax polishes (and more!), carnauba wax takes the top spot. This glossy wax comes from the fern-like leaves of a Brazilian palm. It also has many uses in the food industry. Actually, it’s as widely used as beeswax, if not more.
You’ll also see carnauba wax in cosmetics, hair products, dental floss, candies, tablets, candles, papers, plastics, and so much more.
However, because it is a palm product, it’s important to look for sustainable and ethical sources. We all know the problem with the palm industry being behind some of the most massive cases of deforestation. You know what to do.
Floral waxes are usually just waste products from the production of perfumes. This type of wax can be very expensive but don’t really have much use beyond being a fragrance.
Rice bran wax
This non-sticky wax is helpful in stabilizing emulsions. It is made from virgin rice bran oil and is particularly useful in cosmetic products like lipsticks, lip balms, and mascaras. You can also use it to make salves, creams, and lotions.
Similar to carnauba wax, it can also work as a gelling agent, binder, or as a coating for many surfaces.
Just like palm, soy seems to have infinite uses. The application of soy wax is mostly in lip balms and candles. However, with over 90% of soy known to be GMO products, you have to be careful when you choose to buy this alternative.
You probably already know how popular sunflower oil is in skincare. That oil is where the wax comes from. That said, it’s no surprise that sunflower wax is an excellent ingredient in many cosmetic and skincare products.
As it comes from an edible oil, sunflower wax also has applications in the food and pharmaceutical industry.
The development of synthetic beeswax aims to mimic the chemical and physical characteristics of real beeswax. Although this is possible through the combination of non-animal products (esters, alcohols, and fatty acids), sneaky formulations may be non-vegan.
Watch out for synthetic beeswax that contains lanolin and/or actual beeswax. Yes, they do add a bit of beeswax sometimes!
Vegan Beeswax Wraps
As the movement against plastic use continues, the demand for plastic alternatives intensifies. But when it comes to food preparation, that can prove to be challenging. In many cases, paper can’t always replace plastic.
What can we use instead of cling wraps and foils?
Although biodegradable plastic has become a thing, the search for more compostable plastic never really stops. Perhaps that’s why in the past few years, reusable beeswax wraps has become more popular. But of course, the vegan world can never be left behind.
Here are some brands of reusable vegan food wraps you can use instead:
Brand: Wrappa Reusable Food Wraps
Ingredients: Cotton, candelilla wax, non-GMO soy wax, jojoba oil, tree resin
Brand: The Vegan Food Wrap Company
Ingredients: Organic cotton, pine resin, jojoba oil, sunflower wax, rice bran wax, castor oil, sumac wax
Brand: Khala & Co. Vegan Wax Wrap
Ingredients: Organic hemp-cotton, tree resin, soy wax, coconut oil, jojoba oil
Ingredients: Cotton fabric, plant waxes, plant oils, tree resin
Ingredients: Soy wax, cotton, coconut oil, pine resin
Brand: Natural Wraps
Ingredients: Rice bran wax, pine resin, cotton, coconut oil
Brand: Earthology Vegan Wax Wraps
Ingredients: Organic cotton, jojoba oil, tree resin
Ingredients: Organic cotton, vegan natural wax, jojoba oil
Ingredients:Tree gum, jojoba oil, candelilla wax
Ingredients: Candelilla wax, cotton, pinon pine resin, organic jojoba oil
Now, I know many groceries won’t have these options yet. If you can’t get them online, that’s okay because you can just make your own at home!
DIY Vegan Reusable Food Wrap
If you love some arts and crafts, I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding time to do your own wax wraps. There are actually plenty of DIY ideas you’ll find on the web!
With beeswax being a direct product (secretion) of insects, it is, without a doubt, not vegan. But that should be none of your worries anyway, because there are so many vegan waxes that can take its place.
Vegan beeswax alternatives like carnauba and candelilla wax are just as useful and versatile! Just remember to always choose sustainable sources.
Now you can say goodbye (and good luck!) to the bees!
What’s your favorite vegan beeswax alternative? What uses have you had luck with it so far? Let me know in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article on your favorite social media platform.