Natural waxes

Published: 23-May-2014

Cosmetic Science Technology: Martina Heldermann looks at natural waxes – perfect for beauty and care, provided by mother nature

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Waxes are a class of chemical compounds that can form at around room temperature. Typically, they are harder, less greasy and more brittle than fats and show extreme resistance to moisture, oxidation and microbial degradation. Characteristically they melt above 45°C, yielding low viscosity liquids. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, non-polar solvents. Natural waxes consist mainly of complex mixtures of esters of fatty acids and long chain alcohols and free forms of these molecules, whereas synthetic waxes constitute long-chain hydrocarbons lacking functional groups.

Natural waxes are synthesised biochemically by numerous plants and animals. Those of animal origin typically consist of wax esters derived from a variety of carboxylic acids and fatty alcohols. Those of plant origin additionally contain characteristic mixtures of un-esterified hydrocarbons. The chemical composition depends not only on the species but also on the geographic location of the organism. Typically, as a consequence of the fact that these waxes are complex mixtures, naturally produced waxes are softer and melt at lower temperatures than their pure components would.

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