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Ingredient spotlight: Carnauba wax

This emollient is a popular ingredient in many skincare products.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 5 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
creamy honey yellow texture
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 5 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Allow us to introduce you to a popular skincare ingredient that you may not yet be familiar with: Carnauba wax is a hypoallergenic ingredient used to soften and thicken skincare and makeup products, often along with other ingredients such as beeswax, cocoa butter, and emulsifying oils like mineral oil and ester oil. It comes from the wax of the leaves of the Copernicia prunifera, a tropical palm tree native to Brazil.¹ This emollient wax is one of the most popular additives used in skincare and makeup products today, and it’s most likely found in some of your favorite products.

We asked our experts to give us the details on everything about carnauba wax, including its potential benefits and side effects. Here’s what they had to say. 

What is carnauba wax? 

A hypoallergenic, natural wax, carnauba wax is used as an ingredient in face and eye makeup, fragrance, hair color, conditioners, nail and skincare, and suntanning products. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it has been used in 1,484 formulations. This wax can safely come in contact with the  eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as the skin of the face, hands, and scalp.² This ingredient is vegan-friendly, as it contains no animal products. 

5 potential benefits of carnauba wax 

Carnauba wax has many possible benefits for the skin and hair. Its functional properties make it a key player in many of your go-to products, as it helps keep them in pliable, solid forms. It can also:

1. Help stabilize cosmetic formulas

Carnauba wax has a high melting point, which makes it ideal for improving the thermostability of your cosmetics.³ A high melting point allows products like lip balms, deodorants, makeup, and even candles to be heated to a high temperature while maintaining their composition. This improves their shelf life and shape.

2. Forms a water-repellent film

Carnauba wax is not water-soluble, which means it helps repel water⁴ When water comes into contact with a product containing this additive, it can’t penetrate the layer of carnauba wax. This protects the product underneath. Carnauba wax also gives surfaces a shiny finish, which is helpful in many different cosmetic and pharmaceutical products

3. Help keep products from melting

We’ve already mentioned the high melting point of carnauba wax, which sets it apart from other waxes like beeswax. A coating and binding agent for skincare and cosmetic products, carnauba wax helps keep products from melting at room temperature or body temperature. It’s safe for human consumption,⁵ which makes it an ideal binder for lipsticks, lip balms, and other products that might end up near your mouth.⁶ 

4. Helps keep products creamy and spreadable

Carnauba wax mixes well with mineral, plant, and animal waxes.⁷ It has excellent emulsification properties and strong oil-binding abilities as well.⁸ This creates lasting creamy consistencies that are perfect for skincare and cosmetics. 

Carnauba wax is also used in cosmetic products that come in stick and solid form, like lipsticks and deodorants, allowing these products to be applied easily without melting at elevated temperatures.⁹ This helps products glide across the skin while retaining their structure,¹⁰ which makes makeup products easier to apply.

organic carnauba wax on container

Is carnauba wax safe?

Carnauba wax is considered non-toxic and safe for the skin. It’s also non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores, and it’s safe for consumption, however,  this is not recommended. Use it externally only and contact your healthcare provider if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction. 

If you’re pregnant or nursing, or if you have sensitive skin, it’s recommended that you discuss using products containing carnauba wax with your medical provider. 

Side effects of carnauba wax 

Carnauba wax is generally well-tolerated and doesn’t frequently cause serious side effects. To see if carnauba wax works for your skin, you can conduct a simple patch test at home. Melt one teaspoon of carnauba wax in one teaspoon of carrier oil (like coconut or olive oil) and apply a dime-sized amount to a small area of your skin.

Which products contain carnauba wax?

Carnauba wax uses are varied, so you can find it in a wide range of products, many of which you probably use every day. Carnauba wax can act as a thickener, emulsifier, hardener, stabilizer, and more for the following products: 

  • Lip balm

  • Lipstick

  • Eyeliner 

  • Eyeshadow

  • Mascara

  • Foundation

  • Moisturizer 

  • Sunscreen 

  • Deodorant 

  • Hair care 

  • Hair removal 

When used in skincare and makeup, carnauba wax can add shine, slip, and gloss, provide smoothness and texture, give solid and stick products their structure, add firmness, and complement other waxes.¹¹ That’s why you’ll find it in so many different kinds of products.

Curology’s hydrating lip balm contains carnauba wax from Brazilian palm trees, which gives the lip balm a silken, buttery texture and moisturizing finish. It’s available in three flavors, plus the original unscented formula for sensitive skin. Truly vegan, this beeswax-free formula is non-clogging, non-drying, and acne-friendly. 

Customized skincare by Curology

The Lip Balm by Curology - Original Vanilla Mint Passionfruit and SPF 30

If you want to learn more about a new skincare ingredient or trend, your medical provider can help. And if you’re ready to incorporate it into your routine, Curology can guide you. Start (or continue) your skincare journey with a complete dermatologist-designed skincare routine—sent to your door. Your subscription features a personalized prescription formula with a mix of ingredients designed to help meet the needs of your unique skin.

Signing up is easy. Just answer a few questions and snap a few selfies to help us get to know your skin. If Curology is right for you, one of our in-house dermatology providers will create a personalized Curology formula that targets your specific skin goals. They’re always available to answer any questions you may have.

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FAQs

What is carnauba wax?

A hypoallergenic, natural wax, carnauba wax is used as an ingredient in face and eye makeup, fragrance, hair color, conditioners, nail and skincare, and suntanning products. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it has been used in 1,484 formulations.

Is carnauba wax safe?

Carnauba wax is considered non-toxic and safe for the skin. It’s also non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores, and it’s safe for consumption, however,  this is not recommended. Use it externally only and contact your healthcare provider if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction.

Which products contain carnauba wax?

Carnauba wax uses are varied, so you can find it in a wide range of products, many of which you probably use every day. Carnauba wax can act as a thickener, emulsifier, hardener, stabilizer, and more for the following products: 

  • Lip balm

  • Lipstick

  • Eyeliner 

  • Eyeshadow

  • Mascara

  • Foundation

  • Moisturizer 

  • Sunscreen 

  • Deodorant 

  • Hair care 

  • Hair removal 

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Liebert, Mary Ann, Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. (1984).

  2. Liebert, M. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. (1984).

  3. Liebert, M. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. Ibid.

  4. Liebert, Mary Ann, Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. Ibid.

  5. Liebert, M. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. (1984).

  6. Carnauba Wax. Pharmacognosy. (2017).

  7. Liebert, M. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. (1984).

  8. Tinto WF, et al. Pharmacognosy.Academic Press. (2017)

  9. Liebert, M. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. Ibid.

  10. Liebert, Mary Ann, Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. Ibid.

  11. Liebert, Mary Ann, Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Candelilla Wax, Carnauba Wax, Japan Wax, and Beeswax. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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