How To Use Beeswax
Beeswax is magic. If you’re familiar with 100% beeswax candles, then you know exactly what I’m talking about — that sweet and almost spicy smell; that warm golden hue. But beeswax isn’t just for candles that create mood lighting or the scent of one’s sweetest dreams. Beeswax used in a lot of beauty products, too. From salves and creams to lips balms, beeswax is an amazing ingredient that moisturizes and protects the skin without clogging pores.
But it’s time to get real. As much as I love beeswax, it can be a real pain to work with. At room temperature, beeswax is rock hard and almost impossible to cut. In order to work with beeswax you have to melt it. Plus, it can leave pots and cooking utensils greasy and slippery if not properly cleaned.
So, how do you become a master of working with beeswax? You can just go for it and learn from the mistakes you make (a few burned fingers here, some ruined dish cloths there)… or you can read this guide.
What To Buy
You can purchase beeswax in a couple of forms. I work with either beeswax pellets or a beeswax block, and both have their pros and cons. So, what’s the difference?
Beeswax pellets are tiny beads of beeswax. Their small size makes it easy to pour and measure out beeswax for recipes, which is practical when you’re looking to just add a tbsp or two to firm up a product. The cons? It doesn’t have that gorgeous beeswax smell or golden hue. You’ll come across that comment a lot when reading customer reviews for beeswax pellets, and I can second it. I’m not sure why this is the case… maybe because the beeswax has to be so processed to turn it into pellets? Whatever the reason is, as a pellet beeswax loses its sweet aroma and colouring.
So, what does this mean?
Use beeswax pellets when you only need to add a small amount to thicken or firm up a product, such as a cream or lotion. When such a small amount of beeswax is required, using the pellets takes the hassle out of the equation. However, when creating a beauty product that’s primarily beeswax, like a lotion bar, you’ll want to use a beeswax block.
A beeswax block is exactly what it sounds like — a brick of wax that’s usually available in 1lb sizes. If you’re looking for that sweet honey smell, this is your go-to. However, these bricks of gold are hard to work with. They’re damn near impossible to cut and, unless you’re planning on melting the entire brick, difficult to measure. But working with a block of beeswax is not impossible.
Remove the beeswax from its wrapping. Place it in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer for 12-24 hours.
Take the beeswax out of the freezer. Keeping it in the plastic bag, use the hammer to smash the brick into small pieces. (I know… this sounds crazy. But like I said, beeswax is damn near impossible to cut. Hitting it with a hammer is the safest way to make it into small, useable pieces.)
Place the beeswax pieces in a 1 pint mason jar and store it in a cool, dark space.
When you’re ready to use the beeswax, bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove the lid from the beeswax mason jar and place the jar in the boiling water. (To ensure no water gets into the mason jar, I like to fill the pot up with just enough water so that half the mason jar is submerged.)
The heat from the boiling water will start to the melt the beeswax in the mason jar. When the beeswax is melted, use a pair of oven mitts or heat-resistant gloves to measure out the desire amount of beeswax and add it to your recipe. (Be aware that beeswax starts to harden as soon as it’s removed from its heat source. You’ll need to measure out the beeswax quickly in order to prevent it from solidifying.)
When you’re done, allow the jar and beeswax to cool before putting the lid back on and storing it in a cool, dark space.
How To Clean Up Beeswax
As I noted earlier, beeswax starts to the harden the second its removed from its heat source, which means it can be difficult to get off of pots and utensils. If you can, designate some old pots and utensils for your beeswax work. However, if you only have one set of pots to work with (welcome to the club!!), here are some handy dandy tools to help you clean up.
Dishwashing Gloves — Hot water is key to removing beeswax as it keeps it soft. Dishwashing gloves that can resist high temperatures will protect your hands from the hot water.
Silicone Sponge — A sponge is handy to scrub off beeswax, but then how do you get the beeswax off the sponge? I’ve found that it’s easier to remove beeswax from a silicone sponge than a regular sponge or bristle brush.
Dish Soap — No preference of dish soap here, but a good lather helps to remove the wax.
Old Cloth — After rinsing out the beeswax, I’ve found using an old cloth to dry kitchen equipment helps to remove any leftover layers of wax.
So, there you have it. I hope this guide takes some of the struggle out of this temperamental ingredient, because here’s the truth. Is beeswax tough to work with? At times, yes. Is beeswax absolutely glorious and delicious in beauty products? Absolutely.