08 June 2011

What's your beeswax?

For those customers who don't mind if their body care products are vegan-friendly or not, I like what beeswax does for certain formulations, such as lip balms and lotion bars.  It gives it a silky glide that's incomparable.  There are many places online to purchase beeswax, but since the North Carolina state insect is the honey bee, then I personally prefer buying my beeswax from local beekeepers.  My favorite source for this is my friend Rick Coor, a beekeeper out of Goldsboro and a member of the Eastern North Carolina Beekeepers' Association.

When I get my beeswax from Rick, it's golden yellow and in a hefty 2-pound block of refined goodness, bearing that lovely warm scent that only beeswax can have.  However, it's not completely refined, so I have to give it a little extra refinement.  I thought I'd share that with you.  This is what it takes before I can even begin to put this luscious wax in my lip balms, lotion bars and bug repellents.

One pound block of beeswax as Rick gave it to me.

I wrap the block in a double layer of cheesecloth

Into the boiling water it goes.
The beeswax will melt in the hot water, but all the debris on the wax will stay in the cheesecloth.

Beeswax beginning to mix with the water

Checking to see how much of the wax has melted.  There's still a good chunk left.

All the wax is melted now, and all the residual debris (flecks of dirt, bits of wings, etc.) clings to the wax on the cheesecloth.  It'll go into the trash.
Melted wax and water.
Now this will sit for several hours while the whole mixture cools down.  The wax will harden and float to the top.

Wax hardening and cracking - a good sign.
Back to that beautiful golden yellow of the block initially.
After the beeswax and water mixture cools completely, the beeswax is now completely hard but will need to dry out for several hours before I can use it in anhydrous formulations.

The solid block of pure beeswax, nice, clean and ready to use.
When the beeswax gets dried out, it gets brittle, making it very easy to chip apart.  From here I'll chip it into smaller bits for body products.

If you're a soapmaker or chandler, what's your favorite ingredient to use?

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Amber said...

What a great tutorial, thanks! Do you have a pot dedicated to refining beeswax? Is it easy to clean the pot - or does it need any cleaning?

Sara's Soaps 'n Such said...

You're supposed to have pots dedicated to stuff like this, but since I'm not adding any fragrances to it in the pot, I'll admit, I don't worry much about it. The cooled beeswax pretty much pops right out of the pot, so there's not much residue at all. What might remain scrubs out pretty easily. My favorite way to clean up after working with waxes (like with lip balms or lotion bars, or after refining beeswax) is to melt a little MP base in that container and gently swirl it around so that the waxy parts are covered with soap. I add a little fragrance and then pour it into a mould; afterwards, I just rinse the container and voila!