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Due to the use of bees and non-consent, beeswax is not vegan. Some people argue beeswax can be obtained through safe practices without harming bees. You be the judge.
Beeswax’s status presents a cloudy topic in veganism.
You’ll undoubtedly cross paths with beeswax in your everyday life, as it’s used in lots of utility items as a good substitute for chemicals since it’s natural and environmentally friendly.
Cosmetic and personal skincare lead the line of industries that manufacture beeswax items.
When combined with plant oils, beeswax helps beauty products such as lotions achieve that creamy consistency. In products like lipsticks and lip balms, beeswax increases their thickness, which is why you can apply such items multiple times without altering their smooth shape.
Other skincare products that use beeswax are; anti-aging creams, concealers, and skin treatment products.
Beeswax is also used in the food industry as a glazing agent. And in the manufacture of candles, soap, and perfumes, beeswax is added to bring out a pleasant scent.
Some vegans might be innocently using beeswax or products containing the ingredient.
But with the growing consciousness about their lifestyles, many vegans are now questioning the eligibility of beeswax.
Starting with explaining what beeswax is, this post will help you understand what’s wrong with the versatile ingredient and why the broad definition of veganism considers it unethical.
What is Beeswax?
The common ingredient in various commercial products, beeswax, is the main material bees use to construct the entire hive, starting with the honeycomb cells.
And after making honey, bees use the same wax to cap their golden goodness. True to say beeswax is the hive’s building block?
How Bees Produce the Wax
All bees participate in producing wax. However, it’s the young female worker bees that contribute the lion’s share.
And the process starts when bees feast on the honey, then secrete liquid wax through their eight special glands. Upon exposure to air, the liquid wax immediately turns into thin sheets known as scales. As these scales are not yet a finished product, the bees have to soften them through chewing until they’re malleable enough to be used to construct the honeycombs.
How Humans Obtain Beeswax
Humans obtain beeswax during honey harvesting, meaning it’s a by-product of the honey industry.
Since the wax shields the honey, you must remove it first to gain access to the cells containing the golden liquid.
Beekeepers employ a method referred to as frame decapping. It involves running a hot knife on both sides of the frame, with the resulting cappings representing the wax. The cappings are then melted down and cleaned and sold, or domestically used for various uses.
Harvesting 100 pounds of honey can produce about 1 to 2 pounds of beeswax.
Is Beeswax Vegan?
The whole process of decapping the frames to obtain the wax is pretty harmless. The wax is neither forcefully extracted from the tiny insects nor tested on them or any other animal. So, technically, this makes beeswax a cruelty-free product that vegans can comfortably consume?
Wrong, in different perspectives.
Firstly, beeswax comes from animals. Therefore its consumption goes against the rule of veganism which prohibits the use of items derived from animal products. This only gives vegans the first reason to avoid beeswax and any product having it as an ingredient.
Secondly, the beeswax you find on its own or as an ingredient in many commercial items rarely comes from local beekeepers.
As it’s required in large quantities, it comes from large-scale factory bee farming, where virtually all companies collect the wax in an unethical manner. No matter how careful the beekeepers might be, the beeswax extraction process risks hive damage or disruption. Worse yet, the poor bees are killed either accidentally or with intent while protecting their territory.
Even for local beekeepers, who might prioritize the welfare of bees first, it’s unlikely the insects come out unscathed while extracting the beeswax.
What’s more, the beeswax producers directly rely on the honey industry, where things are even worse.
To understand this more, let’s unmask the honey industry.
Cruelties in the Honey Industry
Like any other mistreatment case involving animals, not all bees’ cruelty cases go public.
However, you’ll find the following unethical practices in the honey industry, thanks to some heartless commercial beekeepers.
Clipping the wings of queen bees: At some point, the queen bee flees to start a new life elsewhere. As this will undoubtedly decrease honey production and, hence, beeswax, the beekeepers resort to clipping the queen bee to prevent swarming. While the method boosts sales, it’s a very unethical practice that limits the bees’ freedom.
Clipping bee’s wings do not only limit their freedom of movement as it’s in itself a cruel act. But at least the beekeepers boost sales.
And worse, in some cases, the beekeepers kill the queen bee and replace it with a younger one.
Killing the entire colony: During the winter, honey and beeswax production falls while the hive’s maintenance costs remain constant. If you do the math, this negatively affects the business. So to save costs, the best method for beekeepers is to kill the whole colony.
The farmers may also kill the bees as a way of stopping the spread of diseases.
Renting bees: The same bees bred in the hive to produce wax are rented to crop and tree farms for pollination. In many cases, the bees are victims of long, stressful journeys as they travel across the country.
Cruelties aside, as veganism is broad, there are other things many vegans consider before judging the status of ambiguous products, including beeswax.
For example, many vegans are against invading animals and their habitats and taking what’s rightfully theirs without their consent. And this is what happens when extracting beeswax.
Therefore, beeswax from the local beekeeper is as unethical as the one industrially produced. Why? The local beekeeper, who might be innocent in his breeding methods, doesn’t obtain consent from the bees.
Vegan Beeswax Alternatives
It’s true the cosmetic, personal care, and candle markets are buzzing with products that contain beeswax.
That said, if you’re leading a plant-based lifestyle, there are plenty of products you can turn to, to improve the quality of your life without causing harm to bees.
Such vegan-friendly products use various ethical ingredients, as explained below.
Please note that, unlike beeswax, many alternatives are specific and not best suited for all products. Some may perform an excellent job when used in hair products but fail to impress when in skin or food products. The good thing, there’s a good beeswax alternative for every category.
1. Candelilla Wax
Candelilla wax comes from the leaves of Candelilla, a shrub native to the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico.
Thanks to stabilizing and emulsifying properties, this vegetable wax is used in various beauty products, including lotions, creams, salves, and balms.
It also serves as an excellent skin conditioner as it’s odorless, easily absorbed, and nutrient-rich.
2. Soy Wax
Soy wax, totally natural and renewable, is obtained from the oil of soybeans.
Although you can find it as an ingredient in lip balms, it’s used in candle making.
A candle made from plant-based wax has many advantages over others, including;
- Burning slowly, for a longer time, and cleanly
- Produces less soot
3. Bayberry Wax
The aromatic green bayberry wax is found on the surface of bayberry fruits. To obtain the wax, you boil the berries before skimming the substances that form on the surface.
It’s used in the making of scented candles, which are known for their unique and earthly smell as they burn.
4. Rice Bran Wax
This vegetable wax comes from rice bran oil extract.
Of all beeswax vegan alternatives, rice bran wax has a fighting chance against beeswax for the most versatile ingredient, as it blends well with most plant and mineral oils.
In cosmetic and skincare products, rice bran wax serves multiple purposes including plasticizing, and thickening.
Although used in the food industry, rice bran oil is non-edible, thanks to excess waxes and fatty acids. If you’ve to use it at home, ensure it’s refined, which is safe.
Besides being a by-product of animals, beeswax is, in different ways, non-vegan.
But with various ethical alternatives, the challenge is over for vegans who are fans of homemade products.
If you have to get your products from the market, you’ll fight a losing battle negotiating with the industries that use beeswax to go for ethical alternatives in the items you need.
Luckily, you don’t need to sweat a bit; many similar products using vegan-friendly beeswax alternatives.
Finally, it’s good to know the brands behind such vegan-compliant products, but to be sure, always read the ingredient list of every product you buy.