Carnauba Wax: Side Effects, Uses & Origin


Have you ever heard of carnauba wax? Not many people have, but people see and eat it all the time. So, what is carnauba wax exactly? It is a common, edible wax that is used as a finishing coat to make things shiny.

You have probably encountered carnauba wax on multiple occasions, but had no idea what you were using or eating. You may be wondering if there are carnauba wax side effects, and there are, both positive and negative.

What Is Carnauba Wax?

what is carnauba waxDerived from carnauba tree leaves, carnauba wax is native to a northeastern region of Brazil that is the only area that produces and exports carnauba wax in the world. During the hot summer months, carnauba wax is produced as a secretion to maintain moisture by these trees. Wax is harvested from the trees by detaching leaves and drying them in the sun and later beating them to remove the wax.

Only 20 leaves are removed per tree per season by the manufactures to sustain the trees. The wax is produced in either flake or powder form, which is most common, in one of three different grades depending on its level of purification.

Uses of Carnauba Wax

Carnauba wax is mostly used to make things shiny, and it is often used by manufacturers as a glossing agent in surfboard wax, car wax, instrument polish, shoe polish, and furniture wax. When it is combined with beeswax, it is used to waterproof and shine leather goods. Woodworkers will also use to buff out wood since it doesn’t flake like other finishes but fades with time.

It is most commonly used in the United States as a coating for paper. Other uses for carnauba wax include finishing coats for different food products and pharmaceuticals like pills and vitamins plus certain candies. Cosmetics and skincare products also use is as a thickening agent in deodorant, lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, and dental floss.

where to buy carnauba wax

Along with Beeswax and plant waxes, carnauba wax is included in formulas that also include baby products, non-coloring hair products, bath products, fragrances, skin and nail care products, shaving products, plus suntan and sunscreen products. Other benefits of carnauba wax include its durability, it dries to a glossy finish, and it makes your skin soft and smooth.

Is Carnauba Wax Vegan?

Some people are concerned if carnauba wax is vegan. Many people think of bees when they hear the word wax, but they can rest easy knowing the carnauba wax is actually derived from a palm tree and is safe for vegans to consume.

Product Safety

Product safety is always a common concern of any product that we ingest or use on our bodies. Carnauba wax is hypoallergenic and non-toxic, and it can be used in a variety of ways. It is made up of fatty alcohols, fatty acid esters, hydrocarbons, and acids.

People in the United States will find carnauba wax on many everyday products. You will encounter it in foods like hard candy or candy-coated chocolate, and it is used in anti-caking and glossing agents in sauces and frosting.

carnauba wax side effects

It also covers medications that are in tablet form to make it them easier to swallow. Since it is found in so many food and medication, you may wonder if it is safe for you to eat. Because it has such a high melting point, the body can’t melt it, so when you ingest it, it will go right through your system without being absorbed at all.

Also, the inherent properties of Carnauba wax are already safe, but it is impossible for it to break down enough for it to reach your body. There may be some reactions from the other ways your body comes in contact with it like through makeup, deodorants, or wax in paper cups. There are so many different ways that the product is used, you more than likely have come into contact with it often without even knowing it.

Carnauba wax is commonly found in the following products:

  • Automobile waxes
  • Surfboard Wax
  • Paper Coatings
  • Shoe polishes
  • Sweets
  • Candies
  • Instrument polishes
  • Dental floss
  • Gummies
  • Furniture and floor polishes and waxes

Positive Side Effects

When combined with Beeswax and plant waxes, carnauba wax will keep emulsions from separating into liquid and oil elements, so that personal care products and cosmetics will retain their creamy consistency. These combined waxes will also increase the lipid thickness in solid and stick-like products like lipstick so that they have structure and can be applied smoothly while remaining solid. The waxes help to keep eye makeup flexible, but not hard, so that it is easy to apply, and these waxes also work well in depilatory products to help eliminate unwanted hair.

carnauba wax originNegative Side Effects

The following are negative side effects that are associated with topical carnauba wax:

  • Dry Skin
  • Rash
  • Acne
  • Inflammation of a Hair Follicle
  • Contact Dermatitis
  • Skin Irritation

Other Uses

The pharmaceutical industry uses carnauba wax in many of its tablet coatings and binding. Since carnauba wax is made mostly of fatty acid esters, it allows you to swallow tablets easily and is a non-toxic and safe ingredient.

Also, known as the “Tree of Life”, carnauba wax is derived from is called a Brazilian palm tree (Copernicia cerifera). It is known as the hardest natural wax that is available, and it is commercially used in body care, food, cosmetics, food, and automotive industries. Since it is very durable and dries to a glossy finish, it is the perfect ingredient to use in cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balm as well as salves and balms.

Wax Alternative

Carnauba wax can also be used as an alternative to beeswax that is an important ingredient in vegan cosmetics. If you are interested in using carnauba wax in a recipe, you must heat it to a higher melting point than you would need for beeswax. It needs a temperature of at least 180 to 185 degrees to melt, and it is important to remember that Carnauba wax is a harder wax than beeswax, so make sure to take that into consideration when using it in your own recipes.

Carnauba wax is sometimes referred to as the “Queen of Wax” since it has such a higher melting point than other waxes do, plus it is also very hard. Its durability makes it perfect for making really strong coatings for automobiles, floors, and other products that are worn hard. Although the wax is used in varnishes, polishes, candy, and tons of other products, it has been replaced largely by synthetics, although it is still produced and used in many areas of the world.

Melting Point

Since a temperature of 180 to 185°F, or 78°C, is need to melt carnauba wax, it is not readily soluble and cannot be broken down by water. Usually, only specific solvents mixed with heat can break down carnauba wax making it extremely durable. When used on its own, it can make something wear-resistant and waterproof, but, when it is combined with other products like tins and dyes, it can make a long lasting polish. When heavy duty wear strips wax from surfaces, additional layers can be applied and you will find that many older homes that have hardwood fixtures and floors probably had carnauba wax used on them as a conditioner at some point in its lifespan.


Carnauba wax is often used either in combination with or instead of other waxes due to its durability. Surfers use waxes frequently on their boards that incorporate carnauba, and it is allowed used on dental floss, paper plates, and as a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. It is also used in packaged foods and commonly on tablet coating in the pharmaceutical industry. Carnauba finishes do not flake off after time like other waxes, it just becomes dull, but this makes it the perfect wax where a flaking wax finish would look horrible.

Where to Buy Carnauba Wax

Carnauba wax is not something you can pick up in the store by itself. If you are interested in using carnauba wax in a recipe as a substitute for beeswax, there are several online wholesalers that you can purchase the wax from.

Despite being a common, edible wax that is used in many products you use on a daily basis, people often wonder, what is carnauba wax exactly and is it safe? People have used carnauba wax without any side effects in their food, medicine, and household products on a daily basis, and, since there aren’t any health risks from the wax, it is a versatile wax that is safe for everyone, even vegans, to consume.

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