Bayberry Wax

What is it? A wax made from the waxy coating boiled off of bayberries.
Appearance Dusty brownish green lumps.
Texture Dry
Scent Amazing; warm and spicy, and smells like the the forest. I love it!
Absorbency Speed Average to slow, depending on the recipe it’s in.
Approximate Melting Point  45°C/113°F
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? It’s a relatively good thickener, and it contributes a great forest-like scent.
Do you need it? It’s a good buy if you’re vegan, or if you adore the smell of the forest.
Refined or unrefined? Unrefined!
Strengths Smells fantastic, and is fairly close to beeswax for a vegan alternative.
Weaknesses As far as waxes go it’s a weak thickener with a low melting point, so you’ll probably need to pair it with other waxes. Check out this experiment to learn more.
Alternatives & Substitutions Nada. It’s very unique.
How to Work with It It’s great in balms and salves as a thickener and added lovely forest scent.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, bayberry wax should have an indefinite shelf life.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks It’s commonly used in candles for its distinctive scent.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Bayberry Wax

Candelilla Wax

What is it? A hard plant-based wax from the leaves of the Candelilla (Euphorbia Cerifera) shrub.
Appearance Small, brittle yellow flakes.
Texture Hard and firm flaky bits.
Scent A distinctive, mild, sort of sweet smell.
Absorbency Speed The wax itself won’t absorb into your skin on its own, but salves made with it tend to absorb faster than salves made with beeswax.
Approximate Melting Point 70°C/158°F
Solubility Oil
Why do we use it in formulations? To harden/thicken;
Do you need it? It’s a really useful additional wax, and it pairs well with beeswax in lots of recipes.
Refined or unrefined? You won’t really have a choice; refined.
Strengths It’s a strong, glossy thickener and works well in small amounts.
Weaknesses It’s so glossy that salves and balms made with it don’t have great staying power since they tend to be quite slippery.
Alternatives & Substitutions Carnauba wax works pretty well.
How to Work with It Use it to thicken and harden concoctions; learn about how strong it is with this experiment.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, candelilla wax should have an indefinite shelf life.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can try using it instead of beeswax at about 80%, but the consistency differences will impact the feel of the final product.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3.3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Candelilla Wax

Cocoa Butter

What is it? Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from cocoa beans.
INCI Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter
Appearance Beige chunks
Texture Hard and brittle at room temperature—just like a good bar of chocolate. When it melts, the oil is thin and smooth, and absorbs into the skin easily.
Scent Deliciously chocolatey! You can also buy deodorized stuff that smells like mostly nothing.
Absorbency Speed Fast
Approximate Melting Point  34°C/93°F
Why do we use it in formulations? Cocoa butter will help thicken recipes without adding a wax (and even solidify if used in high enough concentrations)—check out this experiment for more information. It’s wonderfully smooth, and brings its delicious chocolatey scent to projects. Yum!
Do you need it? I’d say so! I use it all the time, and I love just taking the lid off the tub and inhaling the super delicious scent. YUM.
Refined or unrefined? I say unrefined all the way, but if you don’t like the smell of chocolate then refined is your best bet.
Strengths Amazing scent, smooth texture, it’s a rare brittle butter.
Weaknesses Not everybody loves the scent (easily solved by purchasing deodorized cocoa butter (USA / Canada)).
Alternatives & Substitutions There aren’t a lot of brittle butters out there that make good swaps; kokum butter or tucuma butter would be the best choices.
How to Work with It Include cocoa butter in the oil phase of your products. Melt it gently in a water bath along with the rest of your ingredients.
Storage & Shelf Life Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, cocoa butter should last at least two years.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks You can also purchase dark cocoa butter (USA / Canada), but I’ve found that to be a bit of a novelty; I wouldn’t bother with it.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3oz)
Where to Buy it  Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Cocoa Butter


What is it? A lovely wax made by bees; you can buy a golden (unrefined) version, or a refined (bleached) version.
Appearance The unrefined stuff is a beautiful golden colour and will usually come in big chunks or bricks (often moulded with a cute honeycomb texture). The refined variety is white and comes in pellets. You can also purchase golden beeswax in pellets, but it’s not going to smell as amazing as the variety that you source locally in chunks.
Texture It’s a firm wax that’s a wee bit tacky to the touch.
Scent The lovely, unrefined stuff smells like honey and is utterly divine. The refined variety smells like nothing.
Absorbency Speed Beeswax on its own isn’t going to absorb into your skin as it melts far above body temperature. When added to concoctions, it will slow the absorbency speed.
Melting Point It melts around 63°C/145°F, which is one of the higher melting points we work with in DIY skincare and cosmetics.
Why do we use it in formulations? We use it to thicken and harden our concoctions. In low concentrations it thickens, in higher concentration it hardens and solidifies. It adds a lovely creaminess to concoctions that gives salves and balms great staying power on your skin.
Do you need it? Unless you’re vegan I would highly recommend getting some beeswax—it’s an essential part of my DIY pantry and you’ll see it in a lot of recipes.
Refined or unrefined? For almost everything I recommend getting the unrefined stuff; purchase it at your local farmer’s market! It’s one of very few ingredients that almost anybody can source locally.There are a few recipes in my book that call for the refined stuff, though. These recipes really rely on the precise strength of the beeswax, and I’ve found the slight variation in the unrefined variety can impact the performance of the final product.
Strengths It’s a wonderful thickener and hardener, even in small concentrations. It also increases the staying power of your projects, helping lip balms, salves, and body butters stick around on the skin by slowing absorbency speed.
Weaknesses At higher concentrations in makes projects really skiddy and sticky, so we generally don’t want to make beeswax more than 1/3 of a formula (though there are exceptions). I’ve done some experiments with beeswax and liquid oil and beeswax and coconut oil—check those out to see how it works at different concentrations.
Alternatives & Substitutions Beeswax’s creamy consistency is quite unique, and it’s hard to substitute out if you are looking to have the same skin feel in the end product.

Two popular vegan alternatives to beeswax are candelilla wax and carnauba wax, both of which are much harder and glossier than beeswax, and don’t work well for 1:1 swaps. You can try using them at about 80%, but keep in mind that the recipe will likely require some fine-tuning given the differences in textures between candelilla/carnauba and beeswax. They are much glossier/slippy-er and don’t have the creaminess that beeswax does. They’ll make something hard, but they will not lend much in the way of substantialness to your formula.

I highly recommend reading this FAQ and the linked experiments to learn more about how beeswax and many different waxes perform. I generally compare non-beeswax waxes to beeswax in those experiments so you can get an idea of how or if they could work as an alternative.

You cannot use an emulsifying wax, like Polawax or Emulsifying Wax NF, in place of beeswax.

How to Work with It If you buy it in a large hunk the first thing you’ll need to do is break it down into smaller, workable pieces. I recommend using a large, study chopping knife to shave off small bits of it on a cutting board. Store the shavings in a jar. You’ll need to use boiling water to clean off the knife blade as it’ll have sticky wax all over it.

Beeswax is best melted in a hot water bath; beeswax heated above 85°C / 185°F will discolour and turn a darker brown. Beeswax should not be left over direct heat unattended as it can spontaneously combust.

Take care not to wash large amounts of liquid beeswax down your drain as it’ll solidify further down and block the drain.

Storage & Shelf Life Store beeswax somewhere cool and dry; I will usually store the brick in a plastic bag, and store the smaller shavings I’ll make with a knife in a mason jar. The shelf life of beeswax is indefinite.
Tips, Tricks, and Quirks Boiling water comes in really useful when cleaning up beeswaxy messes, as does paper towel for wiping down containers while they’re still warm before washing them.
Recommended starter amount 100g (3oz)
Where to Buy it I highly recommend purchasing beeswax (USA / Canada) locally—try your farmer’s market and chat with anybody selling honey. They might not have beeswax with them that week, but they can probably bring some the following week.You can also buy it online from most DIY type suppliers, including Amazon.

Some Formulations that Use Beeswax