I’ve been having fun playing with a new ingredient lately—cera bellina. Cera bellina is derived from beeswax, and it does some really cool things. For starters, it makes oil gels! Think about ointments—that soft, creamy, translucent texture. Cera bellina does that! It also helps with even ingredient distribution, preventing sweating, and even preventing that irksome graininess we’ve all encountered with buttery concoctions. It can be used anywhere you’d use beeswax, albeit with different results—so even though you can, you might not want to. Anywho, I thought it was best cera bellina and I got better acquainted so I could have a good baseline understanding of how it works before I start diving into DIYing with it, which means it’s time for another one of my quick guides!
If you want to learn more about the chemistry behind cera bellina, I highly recommend checking out Point of Interest’s post on it—she’s also got some great links in there for further reading. I’m quite intrigued by her note on it working differently with different oils; how novel! And potentially irksome, haha. Anyhow, I purchased my cera bellina from Windy Point here in Canada, but I’ve also found it on Lotion Crafter and Brambleberry. It comes as wee pastilles and looks just like refined beeswax.
For anyone keeping track at home, the set up of this experiment is identical to my experiment with beeswax, making it easy to compare how beeswax and cera bellina behave in otherwise identical circumstances.
Here’s how I set up the experiment:
- I weighed 1 gram (0.03oz) of cera bellina into eight little glass dishes.
- I weighed olive oil into each dish, increasing the amount by one gram per dish. So, dish one had 1 gram of cera bellina and one gram of olive oil, dish two had two grams of olive oil, etc.
- I melted the contents of each dish in a hot water bath. Once everything was thoroughly liquid I remove the dish from the heat, swirled it to combine the melted ingredients, and set the dish aside to set up.
- They ended up setting up for about five days, which was more so a function of me being busy than any sort of scientific reasoning.
- Observations time!
Now, for my observations. Here’s what I was looking at:
- How did it look? Any cracks or visible differences between parts of the mixture?
- How hard was it? I tested this by pressing on the surface of the mixture with my fingertip (as you would in order to apply a salve or lip balm), and then scraping with a fingernail. I’d also check to see if I could press my finger through the top of it.
- How quickly did it melt, and how did it melt? This was pretty easy to observe by simply handling bits of each mixture.
- How sticky was it? I rubbed the mixtures into my arm and tested to see how tacky they were.
- How was the slip? I tested this by rubbing bits of the mixture between my fingers, on my legs, and on my lips.
1:1 (50% cera bellina)
Looks very solid and a bit milky. When I run the pad of my finger across it, it’s not sticky, but I’m also not picking up much (if any) product—it almost feels a bit velvety. I can’t press a finger through it. I can start to pick some up with a fingernail (this goes smoothly—no crumbling or cracking), and when I rub that into my skin it’s quite thick and pasty, and a bit tacky. It’s nowhere near as hard or sticky as a 1:1 beeswax mixture.
1:2 (33.3% cera bellina)
Still pale and solid looking, and I cannot press a finger through it. Rubbing a fingerpad across the surface of the mixture has good slip, but very little product pickup—could be a good consistency for something like a solid perfume. I can relatively easy scrape some up with a finger nail, and that bit of the mixture spreads really nicely on the skin; it actually reminds me quite a bit of unrefined shea butter. It’s smooth, yet a bit tacky. The melting point is still quite high; I can leave it on my skin and it softens, but doesn’t melt or liquefy. Once I rub it into the skin it vanishes quickly, leaving no noticeable tack. It also doesn’t skid, like a beeswax mixture at this concentration would. It’s nice as a tacky lip balm that’s not too firm; it spreads well but maintains a slight tack that’s great for extended wear.
1:3 (25% cera bellina)
This one has a crack across the surface, and is the first one I can press my finger through, though it is still quite firm. Running a finger pad across the top of it is still very similar to the 1:2; it’s smooth, but I’m not picking up much product. It melts enough that my finger will glide across it, but very little oil ends up on my finger. Scraping a finger across the surface picks up some product relatively easily. It does not melt on contact with the skin, but softens. It rubs into skin really nicely, absorbing quickly once it is sheered out well (rather than concentrated in one spot). It has very slight tack in higher concentrations.
1:4 (20% cera bellina)
I can see a very slight crack in the surface of this one, and otherwise it just looks like a milky solid. When I rub a finger pad over the top of it is has an almost plasticky feeling; it’s very smooth and has great glide. I am getting some product with my finger pad, but very little. I can press my finger through it, and this is the first one that is gel-like—though beneath a firmer top layer. It’s very smooth and has a really ointment-y feel. Higher concentrations do not melt/liquify on the skin, but once it’s rubbed in it absorbs quite quickly. Picking some up with a fingernail is really easy.
1:5 (16.6% cera bellina)
This one also has a crack across the surface. Running a finger across the top of it is similar to the 1:4, except for accidentally pushing a finger through it—it’s definitely the softest one yet! Like 1:4, this one has a harder top and a softer, ointment-y under belly that starts to look quite melty after quick contact—this one does melt and liquefy on skin contact. I popped a blob on my arm and it definitely melted, though not instantly (nothing like coconut oil would, for instance). This one is also quite translucent on the skin, and more so the more it melts. It has great slip and feels very oily (surprise!) when handled. It rubs into the skin very easily and when spread over a wide area it absorbs quite quickly, leaving a smooth finish.
1:6 (14% cera bellina)
This one has a crack across the surface, and another around the edges of the dish. Disregard the colour change, I just had to swap to a new bottle of olive oil from here on out and it was obviously a slightly different colour! This one is definitely soft—I dented it with my finger when I went to check the surface feel. This one has a thin, firmer film on top that easily gives way to a soft, ointment-y, definitely-a-gel, under belly. The soft part is so soft that it’s barely not liquid—maybe like heavy cream? The top film is also not blending into the soft stuff very well, so in concentrations from down it would be a good idea to stir the mixture as it cools to avoid having harder shards of product distributed through an otherwise very soft ointment.
1:7 (12.5% cera bellina)
No cracks on this one, which is odd as 1:6 and 1:8 both have cracks. Another softie—running a finger across the top of it leaves a long, finger-shaped dent. This one also has a soft underside and a harder film overtop, while the edges are a hybrid; neither firm top not super soft ointment. The slip is fantastic, and it absorbs quickly—it almost feels like a pure carrier oil rather than one mixed with wax. Stirring throughout cooling is definitely recommended for this concentration as well—because of the differences in the consistencies of the different parts of it, this one is quite lumpy when stirred and mashed up.
1:8 (11% cera bellina)
This one has a crack across the top and I can clearly see the firm top/gooey bottom through it—gentle pressing with the pad of a finger has the soft under bit seeping out of the cracks. It’s still thick enough that it doesn’t completely ooze out on its own, but barely. The soft part is virtually indistinguishable from plain olive oil. Fantastic slip and good absorbency. Stirring through cooling would be a must with this blend; it would definitely be thicker overall with better mixing.
- Cera bellina is much softer than beeswax
- While cera bellina will product solids of similar hardness to beeswax, they have much better slip and feel
- Where beeswax gets creamy, cera bellina gets ointment-y
- Cera bellina concoctions at 20% and less form a really neat translucent, gel-like product
- If you want to make anything ointment-like, this is a must
- You could use cera bellina in any recipe that calls for beeswax and vice versa, but keep in mind that swapping to cera bellina will make for a softer, glossier product, while switching to beeswax will make for a harder, potentially skiddier product. I would not use beeswax instead of cera bellina for higher concentration applications, and definitely not in anything where you want a gel texture.
|1:1||Yes||Yes||Very, very slow||Yes, but not irritatingly so||OK|
|1:2||Yes||Yes||Slow||Not sticky, but a bit tacky in a creamy way||Good|
|1:4||Firm||Yes||Average to fast||Maybe the teensiest amount?||Good|
|1:5||A soft firm||Soft solid||Average to fast||No||Great|
What do you think? Have I piqued your interest? Watch for recipes featuring cera bellina in the near future!