Beeswax- is it vegan?
Introduction to veganism
According to the Vegan Society, veganism is a “philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude— as far as is possible and practicable— all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
Veganism not only can be embraced through the incorporation of a plant-based diet by avoiding animal-based foods such as meat, dairy and eggs, but it can also be upheld by limiting use of animal-derived ingredients that may pose harm to animals when harvested.
An ingredient commonly discussed on whether or not it is suitable for vegan consumption is beeswax. A waxy substance produced by honeybees, beeswax - which is essential for the preservation of honey - is used for the construction of hives. Nevertheless, removing beeswax from our natural habitat for human consumption may be a form of animal cruelty, due to the process of the way it is harvested.
This article will introduce if beeswax should be considered vegan-friendly and appropriate for a vegan and sustainable lifestyle.
What is beeswax?
Beeswax is produced by the secretory glands of worker bees and is the main building material used to construct honeycombs for their beehives, a place to store honey from the bees.
To harvest beeswax and honey, wax and honeycomb must be first scraped off the beehive, which also contains other components such as bee pollen. As a result, many people often believe beeswax harvesting causes destruction to the living environment of bees, which is crucial for food and storage for their survival.
Can beeswax be considered vegan-friendly?
Although beeswax can be harvested without directly harming bees, risks of hive disruption and accidental bee death can occur during the harvesting process. What’s more, some people believe that disturbing animals and their habitats goes against the values of veganism, not to mention removing something from the animals without their consent.
Yet, in other diets such as vegetarianism, beeswax can be interpreted differently. As stated by Healthline, a product consumed by vegetarians may be produced by animals or insects, instead of the flesh of an animal itself. These include eggs, honey, and various dairy products. In other words, beeswax can be considered a vegetarian product as it is produced by bees instead of consuming bees.
However, in a vegan diet, due to the rigorous process of harvesting beeswax, beeswax production is an accurate example of animal exploitation and is a concern for many vegans. Hence, whilst beeswax can be classified as a vegetarian product, it is not a true vegan product.
Plant-based and vegan alternatives for beeswax
Beeswax is a common ingredient found in many consumer products such as food, beverages, and cosmetics. Although it is not truly a vegan ingredient, there are numerous plant-based alternatives that are more sustainable to our environment and for vegans who want a product with the same effects.
Rice bran wax
As one of the most essential food crops, rice can be made into a sustainable wax source which is suitable for vegans. During the harvesting process, rice grains go through processing which removes the rice husk and bran layers. Similar to rice bran cooking oil, rice bran can also be melted and solidified into rice bran wax, a resourceful way to make use of rice bran instead of putting it to waste.
Rice bran wax can be found in many self-care products, including lip balms, lotion bars, ointments, and creams.
Originating from small candelilla shrubs in Northern Mexico and Southwestern regions of the United States, candelilla wax is a fast-absorbing and affordable lubricant. Candelilla shrubs develop a thick layer of wax on the leaves and stems, which are then extracted by boiling the plant in order to separate natural wax for processing.
Candelilla wax can be found in a diverse range of products such as varnishes, paints, lip balms and lotion bars.
Carnauba wax is sourced from Brazilian carnauba palm trees and is a popular beeswax alternative for cosmetics. Similar to candelilla shrubs, carnauba palm trees develop natural waxes on their leaves, which are then extracted by drying and crushing the leaves.
Carnauba wax can be found in many cosmetic products, like deodorant, lipstick, mascara, eyeshadow and eyeliner.
Is beeswax a necessity?
Beeswax is a waxy ingredient important to the beekeeping industry and is used in a variety of commercial and consumer products.
Due to the disruption beeswax harvesting causes to the animals and their natural habitat, many people on a vegan diet believe that beeswax is not a vegan product, whereas it can be considered as vegetarian-friendly.
It is therefore important to think twice when purchasing a product containing beeswax and evaluate whether or not it is an essential necessity in your daily life. There are several plant-based and vegan alternatives that are just as effective to beeswax, so why not try them out? Your actions can help encourage more sustainable consumption in our everyday lives.
Written by: Lorraine Ng
Edited by: David Leung