Beeswax is a chemical wax comprised mainly of esters of fatty acids and long-chain alcohols. Sodium hydroxide breaks the bond between the esters and alcohols which results in the formation of soap and alcohol.
Sound familiar? It should! We recently discussed the interaction between jojoba wax and sodium hydroxide which also results in soap and alcohol. The saponification of beeswax creates a very hard waxy soap and the long-chain alcohols stabilize and increase the longevity of your lather.
In general, beeswax is added to soap to make it harder, more dense and to increase lather stability. The density can also trap salts below the surface which can help reduce soda ash in cold process soap, although this is not of concern in hot process soaps because they have already saponified by the time they are molded.
It is important to note that adding too much beeswax can have the opposite effect and can diminish the lather which will result in a bar that feels waxy with poor lather quality, so suggested usage rates are only between 1-3% of your total fats . Beeswax will be listed as an "oil" in your favorite soap calculator so be sure to include it in your recipe formulation!
Beeswax has a higher melting point of 144-147°F (62- 64°C) so the soaping temperature needs to match. In hot process soap making, this isn't an issue because we use heat throughout the entire process, but for those who make cold process soap and use beeswax, the soap must be made at a higher temperature or it risks clumping and other issues. Cold process soap making using higher temperatures is not recommended for beginners and a low temperature hot process method should be adapted for safety.
When using beeswax in recipe, cold or hot process, it is best made at a temperature above 170F; however, it should be noted that when beeswax reaches temperatures above 185F, it may experience a slight discoloration, although this does not have any negative impacts on the soap.
Looking for a great beeswax soap recipe? Visit the UG2HP Members Only Recipe Book for a brand new Buzzzz-worthy Beeswax recipe!