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None of your beeswax: chemically tainted ingredient pushes brands to source abroad

By Lucy Whitehouse , 09-May-2014
Last updated the 09-May-2014 at 12:23 GMT

Beeswax is causing quite a buzz: demand for the material has risen by an estimated 25% in Australia over the last two years, and producers are citing its use as an ingredient in European and US cosmetics as a key factor behind the boom. 

It's a popular ingredient in products like body lotions and lip balms, but according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the natural material is often ‘tainted’ with miticide, a pesticide used to kill mites, in the Northern Hemisphere; as a result, it seems brands are increasingly turning south to get their syrupy fix.

Indeed, a study published in Pest Management Science on beeswax in France found that while environmental factors play a part in beeswax damage, pesticides play a much bigger role: "beeswax contamination was the result of both in-hive acaricide treatments and, to a much lesser extent, environmental pollution."

Consequently, the ingredient’s price in Australia is leaping up, with ABC reporting that for some suppliers, beeswax demand has doubled in the past year, and as such the price has risen from $3 to $7 per kilogram.

Driving demand

Beeswax has also been put forward as a possible alternative to the tiny polyethylene microbeads found in many exfoliating personal care products, which have recently been banned in states across the US.

Producer KahlWax offers the alternative of tiny beads of wax or hydrogenated oils: their ‘KahlBeads 7625P’ product consists of a mixture of beeswax and carnauba wax, which, the brand claims, cleanse the skin without damaging the skin’s natural protective barrier.

Dr. Uwe Zimmmermann, Technical Marketing Director at KahlWax, notes that; “KahlWax exfoliating beads are the perfect alternative to polyethylene beads – and they make an active contribution to protecting the environment.”

Naturals

The unrelenting consumer enthusiasm for naturals is pushing up the popularity and usage of ingredients, like beeswax, which can fulfil these claims.

Burt’s Bees relies on the material as a biding agent for its natural-claiming products:

Beeswax,” the brand notes, “is another natural solution to a common cosmetic problem: holding ingredients together. An excellent binder, Beeswax works with the same efficacy and flexibility of harsher synthetic formulations. It helps seal in moisture and keep skin conditioned."

UK cosmetic giant Lush notes that it also widely uses beeswax’s sister-material, honey, as a natural preservative:  “We’ve always used natural preservatives like salt, honey and clay to keep Lush products fresh for longer. As a result, more than 70% of our range is entirely self-preserving,” the brand told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

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