After the rather surprising success of my Quick Guide to Beeswax & Liquid Oil Ratios post, it seemed like a good idea to do more of them, with different ingredients. So, today I’m venturing into vegan wax territory. Candelilla wax is a plant based wax, derived from the candelilla shrub. It has a melting point of about 70°C, compared to beeswax’s ~63°C melting point. It’s used as a food additive as well as in cosmetics, and I’ve decided it’s time for the two of us to become better friends.
I used the same method for this experiment as for the last wax and liquid oils guide. Working with 1g increments, I tested ratios of 1:1 through 1:8, increasing the amount of oil (I used olive oil again), and always using 1 gram of candelilla wax. So, 1:1 was 1 gram of each, while 1:8 was 1 gram of wax and 8 grams of olive oil.
I labelled each little tin, melted them one by one in a water bath, and then let them set up for four full days as most sources agree that it takes candelilla wax up to three days to reach its full hardness after being melted. At any rate, anything you make with it is likely to last longer than four days, so it seemed prudent to wait.
When it came time for my observations, I used the same criteria as I did with the beeswax experiment:
- 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.
And, as before, I did everything in my house, 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.
My first observation on day 1 was that the blends were all very shiny—so glossy that they looked like they had a layer of oil floating on top. Interesting.
Observation #2—candelilla wax is not a very appropriate direct swap for beeswax it’s very smooth and harder than beeswax, but seems to melt much faster than beeswax when it does start to melt. To draw a comparison, candelilla wax is to beeswax as grapeseed oil is to shea butter. Candelilla wax is thin and smooth, producing products that spread thinly and absorb quickly. Beeswax is thicker and softer, and it’s sticky—this can make for skiddy products at higher concentrations, but makes for thicker, slower-absorbing products at lower concentrations.
1:1—This equal parts mixture was extremely hard and smooth. Before I started attacking it with my fingers it was very glossy. It felt very smooth, but would be useless for body product applications. I did manage to eventually crack it with a lot or pressure, but it shattered into shards that wouldn’t be overly useful.
1:2—Still very hard, I cannot dent it with pressure from a finger (and I nearly hurt myself trying). This one might be useful for a super hard salve as I found rubbing my finger on top of it for an extended period of time yielded a small amount of product. Smooth and shiny.
1:3—Cracks and shatters abruptly under pressure from a finger, breaking into smaller shards that can be snapped into smaller pieces. It does melt a bit after extended handling. Still very smooth and hard.
1:4—Now we’re getting somewhere useful. This one gives relatively easy, though it does fall into pieces and chunks rather than denting like something made with beeswax would. Pieces melt easily and quickly, and the melted substance is thin and smooth—not at all sticky. This could be useful for lip balm or a harder salve.
1:5—This one gives easily to pressure from the thumb, and is about the texture of a softer salve. The melted substance is thin and smooth, and absorbs quickly.
1:6—At this point the mixture gives easily. Smooth, melts quickly, and is quite thin. Useful for a very soft salve.
1:7—This one actually dents instead of breaking into chunks. Squishy and soft, it melts very quickly. The melted substance is still thin and smooth, and absorbs into the skin quickly.
1:8—Very soft and creamy. The mixture itself isn’t totally homogeneous, but it melts quickly and is smooth on the skin. Fast absorption, thin liquid.
Some lessons learned:
- Candelilla wax is very smooth at all concentrations.
- At high concentrations it makes concoctions glossy.
- It’s not very sticky, so balms made with it won’t get any staying power from it—it would need to be paired with beeswax or something like shea butter.
- The mixtures didn’t want to stay blended or mix together easily. Some pots had hard waxy skins on top and oily gels underneath. Others were soft on one side of the container, and rock hard on the other.
- In many of the mixtures you can still see wee bits of wax floating in the oil—they don’t seem to have melted together.
- It’s not actually that different from beeswax in terms of hardening power. I’d say 1:3.5 beeswax: olive oil is roughly equivalent to 1: 4.5 for candelilla wax: olive oil.
- The texture differences are big. Beeswax helps create salves and balms that will stick around on the skin, whereas candelilla wax is very smooth and sinks right in.
- I’d say 1:4–4.5 is about the lowest ratio you’d ever want to use