Is Beeswax Safe for Acne-prone Skin?
Yes. Beeswax Does Not Clog Pores or Irritate the Skin and Is Safe to Use on Acne-prone Skin
Beeswax, also known as Cera alba, is a wax commonly used in cosmetic products to impart a creaminess and structure to the product. Scientists have found that beeswax does not cause comedones (clogged pores) and does not irritate the skin, and it is safe for use on acne-prone skin.
What Is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a wax that honeybees make to form the walls of a honeycomb. Fresh beeswax is white but can contain pollen or insect matter that may cause the beeswax to appear light yellow to deep brown. Manufacturers usually remove these substances by melting the beeswax with hot water, and then straining it through a cloth. To obtain shiny, odorless, soft beeswax, it is bleached with sunlight or chemicals.1
What Does Beeswax Do in Cosmetic Products?
Beeswax is an ingredient commonly incorporated into cosmetic products, including soaps, detergents, fragrances, makeup, skin care products, hair coloring, shaving products, nail products, and sunscreens. Generally, beeswax is added to these products to add a creaminess or to give a product structure, like in a ChapStick®-type lip balm. The addition of beeswax makes the application of cosmetic products smooth and easy, as it causes it to glide across the skin with little pressure.1
In 1981, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that beeswax is found in 1909 cosmetic products, ranging in concentration from 0.1% to greater than 50%. It is likely that today, beeswax is found in even more cosmetic products than in the 1980s. The ingredient list on these products may state they contain beeswax, or Cera alba, which is another name for beeswax commonly found on product labels.1
Does Beeswax Cause Clogged Pores?
Acne is a disease that forms from clogged pores. To understand if beeswax can cause acne, it is important to know whether it is comedogenic (tending to clog pores). Scientists have performed two studies investigating the pore-clogging tendency of beeswax.
A 1972 study published in Archives of Dermatology examined the ability of beeswax, diluted in mineral oil to 25%, to cause comedones. To perform this study, the researchers used the rabbit ear assay, which is a technique that involves placing beeswax on the surface of the rabbit ear, and then examining the ear for the development of clogged pores. Rabbit ears are used because the skin is more sensitive than human skin, so clogged pores form more easily on rabbit skin than on human skin. This study found that beeswax does not cause clogged pores in rabbits, and because rabbit skin is more sensitive than human skin, it is unlikely that beeswax will cause clogged pores in human skin.2
A 1989 study published in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists also examined the ability of beeswax to cause clogged pores, again using the rabbit ear assay. This study found that beeswax generally did not cause clogged pores or irritate the skin. However, they did find that beeswax can sometimes clog pores, but the researchers claimed that this is the case only for beeswax contaminated with other substances. This research also suggested that beeswax does not cause clogged pores because the molecules that it comprises are too large to enter and clog the pore.3
So, from the evidence we have, the beeswax in today's cosmetics is likely safe for acne-prone skin.
Does Beeswax Irritate the Skin?
Skin irritation can aggravate already sensitive acne-prone skin and worsen acne, so it is important for acne-prone people to avoid products that may irritate the skin. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel of the FDA reviewed several studies on beeswax and skin irritation to determine if beeswax is a skin irritant. This review was published in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology in 1984.
According to the data obtained from both human and animal studies, beeswax is generally non-irritating, but can sometimes cause mild irritation. Further, beeswax does not increase sensitivity to the sun. Therefore, the FDA concluded that it is not a skin irritant for humans and is safe to use in cosmetics and on acne-prone skin.1
The Bottom Line
Beeswax is a wax found in many cosmetic products. Scientists have found that it does not clog pores and does not irritate the skin, and therefore is safe to use on acne-prone skin.
The Experts at Acne.org
Our team of medical doctors, biology & chemistry PhDs, and acne experts work hand-in-hand with Dan (Acne.org founder) to provide the most complete information on all things acne. If you find any errors in this article, kindly use this Feedback Form and let us know.
- Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. J Am Coll Toxicol 3, 1 - 41 (1984). Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers.
- Kligman, A. & Mills, O. H. Acne Cosmetica. Arch Dermatol 106, 843 - 850 (1971).
- Fulton, J. E. Comedogenicity and irritancy of commonly used ingredients in skin care products. J Soc Cosmet Chem 40, 321 - 333 (1989).