This is an experiment I’ve been meaning to conduct for ages. For as many DIY concoctions I’ve made over the years, I still found myself wondering how much beeswax to add to something to get a certain level of hardness or thickening. So, one short winter day I set out to settle that once and for all, and here’s what I learned.
I started with eight little stainless steel bowls with ratios noted on the side—1:1 through 1:8. The “one” was always beeswax, the second number olive oil. As always, I worked in weight, using a unit of 1 gram. So, 1:1 was 1 gram of beeswax and 1 gram of olive oil. 1:4 was 1 gram of beeswax and 4 grams of olive oil.
I melted each little pot of beeswax and oil together using a double boiler, and let them all harden for several days (because the weekend ended and I had to go back to work, haha). I did everything in my house during the winter, with an average ambient temperature of about 20°C. So, if you live somewhere drastically warmer than I do, you will likely find these observations a little on the harder side.
Now, for my observations. Here’s what I was looking at:
- How hard was it? I tested this by pressing on the surface of the mixture with my fingertip (as you would to apply a salve or lip balm), and then scraping with a fingernail.
- How quickly 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 on my lips as they are more sensitive than my arm, and also very familiar with lip balm.
Here’s what I noticed:
1:1—Equal parts beeswax and olive oil yielded a very hard mixture. I could not push through it with my finger, and it didn’t start to melt at all as I tried. I was able to scrape it up with my finger nail. When handled, it was quite tacky/sticky and hard, with terrible slip (it skidded) and a high melting point.
1:2—I still could not push a finger through the surface. Sticky, poor slip, high melting point.
1:3—I could make a dent in this one with my finger, though it took quite a bit of effort. It’s wasn’t sticky (nothing from here out is), but still too hard for a salve. This one was body butter bar territory, or perhaps a harder lip balm for hot climates.
1:4—I could easily press my finger through this one, and it melted on contact with the skin. Good slip, not sticky. This one would be good for a hard salve. This is also the last decidedly solid one.
1:5—Quite soft—this is the first one that gives to finger pressure without the mixture cracking. This ratio makes a nice soft salve. Melts quickly on contact with the skin. Good slip, not sticky.
1:6—Very soft, though the beeswax seems to have floated to the top a bit on this one as it is hard on the surface, but soft underneath. Melts quickly.
1:7—I stopped noticing big differences around this point. Again, very soft, melts quickly, absorbs easily.
1:8—Melts almost instantly on contact with skin, very soft. It’s about the consistency of thick lip gloss.
So, lessons learned:
- 1:1 and 1:2 are pretty much useless for skincare, so avoid recipes that use more than 33% or so beeswax, and don’t try to “save” something by adding boatloads of beeswax
- Use 1:3–1:5 for most salves and balms
- After about 1:6 you’re just thickening to varying degrees