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What is Beeswax Used for?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Wax differs from fat in being harder and less greasy. Wax from a variety of animals is used for various purposes. Lanolin is wax from sheep's wool. Spermaceti is wax from the sperm whale. And beeswax is the material secreted by a bee's abdominal glands.

Health care is one area in which beeswax is used. In the area of skin care, one can find it used in lip gloss, lip balm, hand products such as creams, lotions, and moisturizers. One may also find beeswax in cosmetics, such as eye shadow, blush, and eye liner. It is also used in some pharmaceuticals.

Beeswax is also used in a number of crafts. Ukrainian Easter Eggs or Pysanky, which rely on a technique of successive dyeing from light to dark, are made by covering lighter colors with wax to keep them from being covered by the darker colors. It is similarly used in batik, which also relies on multiple dyeing.

Candles made from this type of wax are prized, and required for certain religious ceremonies. Beeswax candles are both dripless and smokeless and they smell of honey. This wax can also be used as a based medium to affix yarn for “yarn painting” or other material for collage. It is also used in painting, in Veronese paste, used to meld brushstrokes into a uniform finish. Sculpture or jewelry may be modeled in wax, and then cast with the lost wax method.

Just as oboe and bassoon players craft their reeds, didgeridoo players craft their mouthpieces — of beeswax! In fact, it is used as a sealant in reed making, too. Certain guitar and bass finishes used this wax to give the instruments a protective coat.

Sealing wax, which was used to seal letters before the days of lickable or prepared envelopes, was originally made of a combination of beeswax with a special turpentine and coloring agent. It was molded into a stick shape, which was melted onto the letter and sealed with a stamp or impression.

Beeswax has a place in the care of musical instruments. The mouthpiece of the didgeridoo is made of a uniform beeswax ring affixed to the end. It is also an ingredient in cork grease, used to lubricate the cork joints of instruments that are stored in pieces and then fitted together for performance, as many of the woodwind instruments are.

Food uses of beeswax include glazing of fruit, candy, and baked goods, and as an ingredient in natural chewing gum. It is also used to seal cheeses. Beeswax is also the coating of choice when making Canneles de Bordeaux, a confection that is fidgety about being removed from its mold, unless the mold is first coated with the wax.

It is used as a protective shield on concrete countertops, preventing oil and water stains and bringing out the color. This wax is also used as a finish for wooden kitchen implements, such as salad bowls and butcher’s blocks.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for HomeQuestionsAnswered, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Jan 20, 2013

I love beeswax candles but they're so expensive. Just curious, how many bees are needed for the amount of beeswax required in beeswax candle making? How long does it take for them to produce it?

By discographer — On Jan 20, 2013

@ZipLine-- I don't work in the cosmetic industry but I think it serves various purposes. It definitely has moisturizing properties so it is used as a moisturizer. It also works as a sealant and thickener, so it will make the product stay in place.

I personally love lip balms and lipsticks with beeswax in it. It makes my lips soft and it also prevents chapping from cold weather. Beeswax in skin lotion makes for longer lasting moisture because the wax acts as a sealant an seals the moisture inside.

But the most important part is probably the fact that beeswax natural and safe. Everything we put on our skin is absorbed into our body. Beeswax has no side effects and no risks, so it really doesn't get better than this.

By ZipLine — On Jan 19, 2013

What's the purpose of beeswax in cosmetics?

I've noticed it in the ingredients list of several of my products at home.

By Fa5t3r — On Dec 12, 2012

Some of my fondest memories are from my grandfather bringing home a fresh honey comb. I never knew what to do about the wax though. Apparently you can eat it, but I used to just kind of chew it up to get at the honey and then throw out the clump of wax.

By Mor — On Dec 11, 2012

@bythewell - Yeah, and it's not like harvesting beeswax or lanolin harms the animals. I know there are people who claim that taking honey from the bees is harming them, but in reality they are cossetted bees and they don't need as much honey as they make.

It just doesn't make all that much difference to their lives when they lose some of their honey and beeswax. And natural beeswax can be used for so many things that might otherwise need chemical substitutes (like furniture polish for example) that I really think it's a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. Or, it would be like that if using beeswax was evil, which I don't think it is.

By bythewell — On Dec 11, 2012

I didn't realize that lanolin was considered to be a type of wax. It makes sense though, because I know it can be used in the place of beeswax for things like soap or waterproofing.

I've also heard that using lanolin is one of the reasons that most soaps can't be called vegan. You have to make a special kind of soap with vegetable oils in order to make it vegan.

I actually think in a way that it's a shame, since that kind of product, made out of lanolin or beeswax, is much more sustainable, because it's a byproduct of something else that's already being made. Whereas so many vegetable crops are already competing for space that using vegetable oil just isn't as good for the environment.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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