Waxes give structure to our products, keep them firm - in the case of lip balms or lotion bars - and help our products be flexible but not brittle.
There are two main groups of waxes, which can be sub-divided into further categories. Natural waxes include hydrocarbon, mineral, vegetable, and animal waxes. Synthetic waxes include polymer waxes, usually called synthetic wax (wow, that was helpful, eh?) I'm not going into synthetic waxes here as they are not readily available to the home crafter and I haven't used them enough to make any suggestions.
You'll notice a lot of these waxes are listed by their solubility in castor oil. This is because castor oil is one of the main oils used in making lipsticks and other lip colouring products. (More about castor oil tomorrow). If the wax isn't friendly with castor oil, it's less likely to be used or used in far smaller quantities than an oil that plays nice with castor oil!
Hydrocarbon waxes include paraffin and microcrystalline waxes.
Paraffin wax: This is what a lot of us think when we hear the word "wax". It's a hydrocarbon blend with a melting point of 45 to 70C. It is translucent with little odour or taste, which makes it perfect for lip products. It is quite inflexible with an oily feel and has poor solubility in castor oil.
Microcrystalline wax: These are long chained saturated hydrocarbons (mostly linear) derived from mineral oil that melts between 60C and 120C. Their small crystal size prevents sweating of your product. They have limited solubility in castor oil.
Mineral waxes include waxes from bituminous products, meaning they come from coal derivatives. These include ozokerite and ceresine (some sites have ceresine listed as coming from vegetables - this is not true).
Ozokerite wax: A naturally occurring white wax with a high melting point - 58C to 100C - used to prevent softness in products. It can also help with emulsification if you want to include some water based ingredient into your lipstick or anhydrous product.
Ceresine wax (also called refined ozokerite): A white wax derived from ozokerite with a melting point of 50 to 90C (it depends on the purity and manufacturer). It can be used interchangeably with ozokerite.
Vegetable waxes are probably the most popular of the waxes because of their vegan friendly profile and availability from local suppliers.
Candelilla wax: Produced from the Euphorbia cerifera and Euphorbia antisiphlitica trees found in Mexico. It is composed of hydrocarbons and esters, meaning it confers some moisturizing properties. It's melting point is high at 70C, and it confers strength to stick products. It offers a nice gloss, which is always a bonus in lip products. A good substiute for carnauba wax.
Carnauba wax: Produced from the Copernica prunifera tree (Tree of Life, a Brazilian palm tree). It is composed of 85% (or so) esters, so it offers some great moisturizing qualities. Its high melting point of 85C offers great rigidity to a lipstick and it will contract as it cools, making it easier to remove your product from a mould.
Japan wax: Produced from the berries of the sumac tree, it is a brittle glyceride wax with a melting point between 50 to 56C. Because of the fatty odour and oily feel it is usually used in pencils, not lipsticks.
Rice wax: This is the hydrogenation of crude rice oil. The melting point is high at 75C, so it sounds suitable for making a hard lipstick or bar, but it has an unpleasant odour. I'm not really sure why I'm mentioning here...
Sugar cane wax: A by-product of sugar production that offers a very hard lipstick or bar. It's not used very frequently.
Animal waxes are waxes derived from animal products, primarily beeswax and lanolin.
Beeswax: Composed of 70% fatty esters and 10 to 13% hydrocarbons, beeswax offers flexibility and plasticity to a lipstick or lotion bar. It generally has a pleasant odour, which is a plus for a product you're going to use on your lips. Its melting point is 50 to 55C, so it is generally combined with another wax to offer a higher melting point for warm days in your pocket. Too much beeswax can lead to poor stability and drag in a lipstick. it plays very well with castor oil - it is partially soluble in it, so it creates a viscous but tacky system that will keep the lip colour from seeping into fine lines in the lips or lip area. Include it in your lip sticks, but use another wax that will have a higher melting point and add more rigidity to your stick.
Lanolin: This isn't really a wax, but is used this way in a lipstick. It offers emulsification and moisturization. A lot of people are convinced they are sensitive to this, so it isn't used widely.
So there you have it - waxes! As a general rule, you wouldn't use just one wax in a lipstick the way we do in a lip balm. Each brings something to the party. Let's take a look at a possible "classic lipstick formulation" and why we use each ingredient...
2.5% carnauba wax - rigidity, high melting point
20% beeswax - solubility with castor oil, plasticity
10% ozokerite - high melting point, less softness
5% lanolin - moisturization and emulsification, if required
2% cetyl alcohol - conditioning and co-emulsification, if required
3% liquid paraffin (polyisobutene) - emollient
3% IPM - emollient and de-greaser
10% pigments - colouring, obviously
46% castor oil
0.5% Vitamin E
Let's say you're not a fan of animal products, what could we use instead? Beeswax and lanolin could be substituted by candelilla wax and more cetyl alcohol.
Or if you're avoiding petroleum based products, you could use more carnauba and candelilla wax or beeswax and another wax instead of ozokerite and squalene or other light emollient for the liquid paraffin (mineral oil).
There are so many substitutions you can make with waxes - you really have to try them to see which one you prefer.
Join me tomorrow for my new favourite recipe - the super sterol base from Croda.