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 further into vegan wax territory. Carnauba wax, also called Brazil wax is a plant based wax, derived from the leaves of Copernicia prunifera, a plant that only lives and grows in northeast Brazil. It is a very brittle wax, with a melting point of 82–86 °C, compared to beeswax’s ~63°C melting point. It’s used in everything from shoe polish and dental floss to mascara and eyeliner, and I wanted to understand how it works a bit better.
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 carnauba 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 carnauba 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.
1:1—Skiddy on the top when you run your fingers across the surface. I can’t press through it, but I might have made it crack a bit. Very tacky and hard—pretty much useless.
1:2—Still very hard. I was able to shatter it with a lot of force, and the bits that break off are smooth, brittle, and thin. Still sticky, and not very useful.
1:3—Still very hard. I can’t push through this one with my finger tip, either. I eventually got it to crack with an audible cracking sound. The shards glide nicely across the skin, and are smooth. I can get a small amount of melt from extended contact with the mixture. This would be a good texture for a hard body butter bar where you wanted a very thin application.
1:4—Smooth surface, melts a bit with some rubbing. I can press through the mixture with some effort, and it is definitely still solid. This is the first one that I can dent instead of shatter. The bits that come up glide across the skin nicely. This is solid body butter bar territory.
1:5—Smooth and hard, with moderate melting when rubbed with a finger. Still pretty darn hard, though. Dents more, shatters less. Good melt and glide, would make a nice body balm.
1:6—Smooth, great glide. I can dent it when pressed with my finger, but it’s still pretty hard and definitely solid. A thin, faster melt—would be good for a softer, thin balm.
1:7—This is the first one that’s easy to dent. Smooth, fast melt. This one would be good for a soft balm.
1:8—Soft and relatively smooth. Fast melt, would be good for a soft balm. Thin melt, great slip.
Some lessons learned:
- Carnauba wax is much more like candelilla wax than beeswax
- Offers good gloss and shine in higher concentrations
- Creates a thin final product with little staying power—you’d want to pair it with something stickier for a lip balm
- Not very useful at 1:1 and 1:2 levels