A research team in Colombia has studied using palm oil bio-waxes as an alternative to petroleum products in cosmetics, Cosmetics Design Europe wrote on 12 October.

“Natural waxes derived from plants or animals such as beeswax, carnauba and candelilla are renewable, biodegradable and non-toxic, and have excellent physicochemical properties,” one of the scientists in the research team from the Universidad Industrial de Santander was quoted as saying.

However, the cost of beeswax is increasing due to bee population collapses and supply shortages, according to the report.

Prior studies had shown oil from palm could be used as a substrate for producing bio-waxes with similar traits to beeswax and carnauba, Cosmetics Design Europe wrote.

The researchers studied seven bio-waxes based on refined and bleached African palm oil and refined palm kernel oil. The seven bio-waxes were chosen from 45 based on analysis by the authors.

After hydro-treating the palm oil and palm kernel oil, analysis and experiments were conducted to determine pH, melting point, penetration value (or consistency), chemical composition, microbiological activity, toxicity, antioxidant activity and irritation, the report said. Beeswax and carnauba wax were used as controls.

Six of the bio-waxes were yellow-white and solid while one was liquid, with pH ranging from 4.4 to 5.4.

“Since the pH of the natural skin surface is acidic, on average 4.7, the pH obtained in the bio-waxes’ supernatants is potentially related to no, or low, risk of toxicological effects,” the authors wrote.

As the melting point of the bio-waxes was lower than beeswax or carnauba wax, chemical modification or refinement would be needed to achieve a higher melting point – if needed – for application. Penetration values were similar to beeswax.

No bacteria or fungi were detected in the bio-waxes and they were proven to not be cytotoxic to the cell lines studied. No antioxidant activity was recorded for both the bio-waxes and the control waxes and no irritation was found when tested on mice skin.

“The BW1–BW7 bio-waxes obtained by hydrotreating palm and palm kernel vegetable oils showed excellent physicochemical properties, including an intermediate hardness, which, when using this type of bio-wax, can eventually result in products with sensory characteristics related to their extensibility,” the authors wrote.

Their research paper, ‘Biowaxes from Palm Oil as Promising Candidates for Cosmetic Matrices and Pharmaceuticals for Human Use’, was first published on 15 June in Materials.