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Candelilla wax is extracted from the leaves of the candelilla plant (Euphorbia antisyphilitica or Euphorbia cerifera). As a renewable raw material, the wax is an economical vegan alternative to beeswax with many industrial applications. Due to its beneficial chemical properties, candelilla wax is often used as an ingredient in the food and cosmetic industries, where its main purpose is to protect products (e.g. lip balm) and prevent other ingredients from sticking together.
On top of that, candelilla wax is a preferred release and coating agent in other industrial sectors.
Candelilla wax is hard and brittle and has a yellow-brown appearance. It is odorless, lipophilic and soluble in many organic solvents. The wax is, however, insoluble in water.
The melting point of candelilla wax ranges from 67 to 79 degrees Celsius (153 to 174 degrees Fahrenheit). It consists mainly of hydrocarbons, resins and esters that are derived from free fatty acids and free fatty alcohols.
The candelilla shrub is part of the spurge family (also known as Euphorbiaceae). It mainly grows in the semideserts of Mexico as well as in some parts of South America and the south of the United States.
To protect itself from the heat and other environmental conditions, the leaves of the candelilla plant are coated with a hard wax: the candelilla wax.
For the most part, a traditional process is used to extract this wax, which is a vegan alternative to beeswax. The process involves boiling newly harvested parts of the plant in water, causing the wax to melt and rise to top. After it has been left to cool, the wax hardens and is now ready for further industrial processing. In general, the wax is only extracted in the plant's country of origin because candelilla is considered an endangered species.
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The useful properties of candelilla wax (CAS 8006-44-8) offer many benefits to the food and cosmetic industries as well as many other sectors. The wax is also a popular choice of coating for paper, candles, metals, erasers, rubber, paint, ink, hot-melt adhesives and many other products. Furthermore, it helps improve a product's vibrance and consistency and protects it against moisture and clumping.
Due to its very high melting point and high strength, candelilla wax is able to bind well with oil. It also feels good on the skin and has a pleasant scent, hence making this natural vegan wax alternative an ideal ingredient for the cosmetic industry, particularly for the manufacture of natural cosmetic products (e.g. lip balm).
Besides being known for protecting the ingredients in cosmetic products, the wax is also valued for its ability to make dry skin feel soft and supple. Furthermore, because it is edible, candelilla wax is a popular additive in not just creams, soaps and haircare products, but also lip balm and lipstick. The hard wax gives these products an optimal consistency and improved stability.
Candelilla wax is also commonly used in the food industry and has the E number E902. There is no limit to the amount of candelilla wax allowed in foods because it is considered safe. Therefore, similar to carnauba wax, it is used as an additive in gummy bears, nuts, coffee beans and chocolate to prevent them from clumping. In addition, the wax is applied to baked goods before the baking process to help make their surface brown and crispy. Applying natural wax to fruits can prolong their shelf life, and it can also be used to give chewing gums the perfect consistency.