Rice Bran Wax is an oil thickening agent used as a vegan alternative to beeswax. It comes in white pellets or flakes and comes from the bran of brown rice when it is hulled to make white rice. The same brown rice bran is what is used to produce Rice Bran Oil and the wax is the fatty esters that are separated out after winterization.
Beeswax uses are numerous in the cosmetic industry but there is not one single function that can’t still be done by using Rice Bran Wax. There are other alternatives such as Candelilla Wax, but that is a little more difficult to work with.
Polished white rice used to be the privilege of the Chinese Emperor and only he and his court were allowed to eat it. Everyone else had to eat brown rice or face the punishment of death, As a consequence of this, the Emperor and his court suffered from a lack of Vitamin B1 (contained in the husk) and developed BeriBeri which is now a recognised health condition of poor malnutrition.
The INCI name for Rice Bran Wax is Oryza Sativa Wax and the Oryza Sativa family produce several ingredients that are used in cosmetics. INCI is an abbreviation for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients which is a way the ingredients in cosmetics are identified and categorised. It is widely adhered to in the EU where the CosIng website gives free information.
There are so many parts of plants that can be used to make ingredients for the cosmetic industry. In just this case, the husk from brown rice is the starting point for Rice Bran Oil as well as Rice Bran Wax.
It doesn’t have any particular therapeutic value apart from being an occlusive. An occlusive forms a temporary “seal” on the skin which slows down TransEpidermal Water Loss. TEWL is a cosmetic industry term for how fast your skin loses moisture in the air and therefore how fast your skin becomes dehydrated.
From a naturopathic point of view, this is also a good way to ensure active ingredients or herbal extracts go into the body rather than evaporate away into the surroundings. It’s sort of like putting a waterproof dressing over the top to keep the active ingredients going into the skin.
Is beeswax vegan? It’s a question I used to get asked a lot on my courses. The simple answer is no, it’s not, which is why I started using Rice Bran Wax, which is vegan. It’s not a straight forward swap of ingredients because the Rice Bran Wax’s melting point is 79℃ to 82℃ which is higher than beeswax is. That means that it will make your products harder if used at the same amount as beeswax especially as it contains high levels of Palmitic Acid. Therefore, you need to modify an existing beeswax formulation and use less of the Rice Bran Wax to get the same effect.
This extra hardness is very beneficial for using to make and Rice Bran Wax can also be blended with other waxes like Soy Wax to enable different textures.
It smells slightly waxy but nowhere near as strong as beeswax does. The aroma is easily covered up when using it in creams and lotion making where it gives a good spreadability and a very silky, non-sticky feel. In hair conditioners, it is very softening and smoothing of the hair shaft.
Rice Bran Wax can be used for candles, balms, ointments, lip balms, face and body creams and lotions, lotion bars, hair conditioners and even in small amounts in gels. It’s a good emollient on the skin as it locks in moisture keeping the skin well hydrated and supple.
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