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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Sealing wax, which was used to seal letters before the days of lickable or prepared envelopes, was originally made of a combination of beeswax with a special turpentine and coloring agent.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.