The Dangers of Carnauba Wax Explained: Stay Safe!
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Some of you in the homeopathic circles may have had some experience with carnauba wax and for many it is seen as a safe and healthy alternative to a wide variety of chemical-based waxes that may used in its place for a wide variety of products and applications.
However, many of us are largely unaware of just how many different uses this wax has and while it may be a natural product that is generally considered a lot safer than petroleum-based waxes, the truth is that it is often blended with synthetic chemicals as a means of strengthening its use as an industrial agent.
This applies to certain foods, sweets, various industrial products (such as sealants, polishes, adhesives and molding agents) and even as an addition to certain natural oils such as coconut oil as a means of increasing the volume per product.
However, in recent times, I’ve come across articles or spoken to people who seem to be turned off the idea of using carnauba wax or products that contain carnauba wax and the series of reasons always seems to differ from possible negative health effects to the various ecological knock-on effects that harvesting the wax may have on the environment.
So because I was under the impression that it was a healthier alternative, I decided to investigate the matter a little further as a means of understanding whether it’s something worth avoiding or not and whether there are natural or synthetic chemicals that would be a suitable alternative in terms of health issues/benefits or ecological dependencies.
Because the internet seems to be somewhat dry on this subject, I hope that this article can shed a little light on the subject and give you a better idea of whether to stay with carnauba wax (and its related products) or make the switch to a simpler, less harmful alternative.
What Is Yellow Carnauba Wax?
Carnauba wax is native to Brazil and is harvested, or collected, from a palm known as the Copernica prunifera which only occurs in the northeastern states of Brazil. The wax occurs on the leaves of the palm during dry, hot weather as a natural means of protecting the leaves from the elements.
In order to harvest the wax, workers beat the leaves as a means of removing the wax, which fall off as flakes, and then collect it for processing and storage.
However, in recent years, a greater awareness about the ecological effects of harvesting the wax has lead to workers only removing up to 10 -20 leaves from a given tree at any time. This is due to the fact that by removing more than 10-20 leaves, you stunt the tree’s growth and can ultimately cause it to die off slowly.
This in turn, has a very negative effect for the surrounding ecosystem that may be dependent on these trees, so it’s important that these regulations are enforced.
During the processing stage, the flakes are either ground up into a finer powder, or kept in their natural state. In some cases, the flakes are dissolved in aliphatic solvents, which are petroleum-based chemicals such as paraffin, iso-paraffin or cyclic paraffins.
This is part of a process that is used to ultimately create a stronger form of the wax that is free of any unnecessary chemical constituents that may form a part of the natural composition of the wax, thus making it more suitable for industrial use.
However, this seems to be one of the issues that most homoeopaths point out as being problematic for the long-term health benefits of using carnauba wax over time -- but I’ll get into that in the following section of the article. So keep reading!
Health Hazards And Dangers Of Yellow Carnauba Wax Explained
So in doing my research on the general uses of this wax, I realized that it’s not always the wax itself that is the problem -- rather how it’s used.
In the previous section I pointed out that certain variations of the wax are processed with various aliphatic solvent mixtures which ultimately help to make the final product more suitable for industrial uses.
However, it is during this process that the addition or inclusion of said solvents becomes a health issue blip (at least on a sound-minded homeopaths radar) and where the problems start.
While carnauba wax in its natural form is generally considered safe for human ingestion (whether orally or through the surface of the skin) due to the fact that it does not get absorbed into our system and simply tends to pass through our bodies without affecting our biological processes.
Because it is made up of natural alcohols, fatty acids, acids and hydrocarbons, it is a potent hypoallergenic and natural emollient. However, some have (rather ironically) reported having allergic reactions to the wax even in its natural state and this seems to be the leading cause of the health issues that are associated with the wax.
On top of that, another common problem that has been associated with the wax is based on its inclusion in mascara and eyeliners. When the wax comes into contact with the eyes, it causes the oil glands to become clogged which can lead to irritation and in some cases, dry eye disease.
Dry eye disease can vary in its symptoms ranging from itchy or scratchy eyes to something more serious like a burning sensation or blurry vision.
The issue is due to a lack of tears or moisture on the surface layer of the eyeball and can become a chronic issue -- which is not something anything wants to have to deal with for an extended period of time.
What Kinds of Products Use Yellow Carnauba Wax?
Carnauba wax is contained in a wide variety of products -- in fact, a lot more than I had ever realized before doing my research.
For a long time, I was under the impression that it was generally sold as a product on its own or simply included in cosmetics products and certain food products -- but the wax has far more uses than that.
In terms of cosmetics products, you’re most likely to find carnauba wax in eye-related makeup products such as eyeliners and mascaras as it’s generally used to increase the hold that these products offer, allowing them to stick longer and as a bonding agent allowing liquid and chemical ingredients to hold together. It’s basically a natural binding agent through and through.
In terms of food products, the wax is used in a variety of different products from chewing gums to gelatin sweets, chocolates, paper coatings, fruit coatings and even M&M’s to name but a few.
While it may not be toxic, people suffering from allergies may want to double-check the ingredients lists of any candy before buying them just to be on the safe side. Besides this, carnauba wax can be found in products across a wide variety of industries.
Is Yellow Carnauba Wax Vegan? Carnauba Wax In Food Explained
Okay, so there’s a lot of contention online surrounding the health benefits or hazards of consuming carnauba wax in food products and I help to debunk a bit of this and make it easy for you to make up your own mind here.
Firstly, while carnauba wax is technically a plant-based product (and therefore vegan-friendly), a lot of vegans refrain from eating it or using products that contain it due to the effects that this may have on the forests of northeastern Brazil.
It’s a common misconception that carnauba wax is harvested with the use of monkey’s. While this is a serious issue, and one that animal right’s activists and vegans are very concerned about (and rightfully so), it’s generally related to the harvesting of coconuts and palm olives, not carnauba wax.
Even though regulations are in place to ensure that the trees are not damaged during the harvesting phase, some argue that it’s better to avoid the issue altogether.
So really, it’s up to you as a vegan to decide whether you’re comfortable or not using products that contain carnauba wax and if you do -- I’d recommend using a brand that follows the harvesting guidelines carefully to ensure reduced damage or harm to the environment.
With regards to its use in various food products, the wax is generally considered safe for use unless of course you happen to suffer from an allergy. Ironically, the wax also acts as a natural hypoallergenic for other forms of allergic reactions and is rich in fatty acids (good for brain function and the skin).
However, if you suffer from a specific allergy to the wax then it would be best to avoid food products that contain the wax altogether, as this is most likely the best way to avoid any health issues.
In general, the worse cases of illness or health ailments related to the ingestion of carnauba wax can be attributed to an allergy or sensitivity.
So if you start feeling ill or show any signs of an adverse reaction after consuming a certain food product, you may suffer from an allergy. Consult a GP for advice on how to treat these issues or avoid the problem for occurring in future i.e. which foods and products to avoid or keep an eye on etc.
Natural Alternatives To Yellow Carnauba Wax Explained
Carnauba oil, in its natural form, is generally used as the substitute for a wide variety of different chemical-based or petroleum based agents in a variety of different products -- so it is essentially the natural alternative.
If you’re against the idea of using products that contain ingredients such as carnauba oil, which is generally used in a large-amount of different products and not limited to food products or industrial products, then you’re going to have to cut a lot out of your usual spending.
I would recommend sticking with carnauba oil though because it’s considered safe for general use and is also vegan-friendly when harvested correctly. I would say that it’s a perfectly good, natural alternative on its own and one that you can trust more often than not.
Ultimately, a lot of the aversion to carnauba wax seems to be based in the wrong places. It’s vegan-friendly so long as it’s harvested within the regulated amount and due to the fact that pressure from ecological organisations has increased in recent years, unethical harvesting is bound to be controlled and prevented.
Carnauba wax is relatively healthy, highly versatile and a fantastic natural alternative to petro-chemicals or other chemical solvents that are frequently used in products ranging from industrial to food products.
I think it’s safe to say that there are less dangers to using carnauba wax (other than cosmetics products) than many of the chemical binding agents such as sulfates or parabens that are commonly used today. I hope that’s helped to clear up some of the confusion about this natural product and its possible effects or uses.