The Kind Life is a community around Alicia Silverstone and The Kind Diet where friends, doctors, experts in green living, and members share vegan tips.

Kind 101

Kind Classis: My Thoughts on Beeswax

Ok, so here is my opinion on beeswax: I try hard not to use it, and would rather that no one use it.

Bees are smarter than we think, and have a lot going on in their nervous systems. Like many animals, bees have a very good sense of sight, smell, and communication. According to University of Arizona’s agricultural department, bees can see six “groups” of colors, including ultraviolet, a color that humans can’t see. They can also smell each other’s pheremones, and rely on smell to signal danger, as well as to identify who is part of their hives. They use their antennae to sense the space around them, which comes in handy when they are building comb. Bees experience life, do what they can to avoid pain and harm, and go after things that they want! Yes, they are bees, but they are creatures that deserve their natural, god-given right to life… and they are the most gifted pollinators!

Beekeepers truck nearly 2.4 million hives all over the country to track seasonal crops. This stresses the bees out and bombards them with pesticides and diseases that are present at the different locations where the trucks stop en route. Beekeepers also go to nasty extremes to keep colonies going. They will replace honey (what bees eat) with corn-syrup or refined sugar. Access to only a single food source weakens bees’ immune systems. In fact, studies show that bees who pollinate 5 crops have stronger immune systems than bees who pollinate just one crop, or subsist on just one type of nutrient. Beekeepers will also cut off the Queen bee’s wings, keep her in a cage to stay away from a hostile hive (Queen bees are often transplanted to foreign hives from their home hives), or kill her off when egg production slows. And they will often use smoke to force the bees out of their hives. 

In 2006 millions of bees across the country vanished from their hives.

There is a great PBS documentary called Silence of the Bees about this that researches why and what happened. The whole deal is just not at all friendly – the bees are kept constantly working and not living their bee lives as they would if they remained undisturbed.

All that said, I do need to give a disclaimer here. I would personally rather support a natural skin care line that has beeswax in it than a company that is vegan but uses tons of chemicals. That’s just my personal feeling. You have to remember that these chemicals we see in so many products on the market are hurting the planet, hurting us, and hurting animals as well (by destroying their habitats). The more we support natural products, the less damage we do to the environment, to ourselves and to animals.

beeswax

source:botheredbybees

Of course, I prefer that a beauty product line be as natural as can be, and be vegan and free of beeswax…but sometimes a pretty great line will have one or two ingredients that are less than ideal (i.e. carmine or beeswax, both not nice). Now, we can write letters to them and ask them why they use these ingredients and ask them to use something else instead. Maybe they’ve never tried to do it another way and with your help, will consider alternatives. Either way, it’s always good to be an engaged consumer.In the end, it’s all about finding the best possible solution, under all given circumstances. I will continue to search for the perfect solution and appreciate the best ones or the best-for-now ones in the meantime. This is why some of the products I have listed around the website have beeswax in them or insects – because they are the “best for now” options. And to be honest, I had gotten so excited about all natural and lanolin-free stuff out there that I forgot to check the insect/beeswax factor, so thank you, community, for reminding me. I have tons of respect for insects and definitely don’t want to use or harm them unnecessarily.

A word about organic beeswax – regulations are not well defined, and because bees often forage 1-2 miles from their hives, it is hard to control their contact with pesticides. Companies producing organic beeswax do claim that they keep their bees away from chemicals or pesticides. But as far as the bees are concerned, the “organic” label does not address practices that are hurtful to the bees – only practices that would be potentially harmful to humans (e.g. exposure to pesticides and chemicals). That’s an important distinction to keep in mind whenever assessing natural or organic products.

Of course there is so much more for me to learn on this subject – but this is where I sit with the info I have now. Stay tuned as I learn more.

Please share any insights you have here!

 

above photo source: Treesha Duncan

Recommended

  • tammy

    totally agree with you – I just don’t use much commercial beauty products at all. I don’t use makeup unless going out and then it is organic and as far as lotions etc. I use organic coconut oil & grapeseed oil, etc. I find that they work well on skin and hair and soak into the skin quickly. I get a lot of recipes for stuff at mother earth news and their living websites. Also organic cocoa butter and shea butter are good to make things with.

  • Jade DaRu

    I’m actually making my own organic/natural skincare and would love help finding a safe alternative to beeswax. I currently do use a tiny bit of it that I get from Andrew’s Honey in NYC (his hives are mostly rooftop hives with some in Connecticut). I’m afraid of emulsifying wax as I don’t trust what that could be, so this is why I have used beeswax. Any suggestions on an alternative would be most welcome.

  • AJ

    I would like to throw in that not all bee farmers are as described above. That description is likely very accurate for commercial farmers, but there are some good local farmers out there that are considerate of the bees health and way of life. I get our raw honey and beeswax from a local bee farmer who has hives out in the country, both in forested areas and in organic influenced farms. Granted that does not ensure the bees strictly access organic products, but at least the bees are in an environment that is as close to as nature intended as they can get these days.

  • Hannah

    I normally agree with a lot of what you have to say, but I think you are misinformed on this one. Personally, I love candles. Parrafin candles, we know, are not safe and they produce harmful breathing air in our homes. The alternative for most people has been soy wax. However, if you look into soy farming just as a general practice in this country, plus the fact that 100% organic soy wax doesn’t even EXIST, I would much rather support my local bee farmer than support Big Agriculture. Additionally, beeswax is hypo-allergenic and soy continues to be an irritant and allergen due to its prominence in nearly everything that we eat and drink. I think worker bees have this wonderful purpose to produce these wonderful things on this earth. I do not think that this is the same thing as torturing cows for milk…I truly believe in the wondrous nature of bees. Honey, for example, can be a powerful medicine for all kinds of things (Manuka honey, especially)…what a great way to get antibiotics and other harmful chemicals out of our system! So, while I respect your opinion, I think you should really look a little deeper.

  • http://www.driftperfume.com Drift Perfume

    While I support your efforts to inspire kindness toward all living beings, I wholeheartedly agree with Hannah, below. Because of the prevalence of
    GMOs and the dubious probability of cross-contamination, soy should
    probably be boycotted across the board. I don’t believe that organic soy
    exists anymore, and the mass cultivation of this “franken” crop (as well as
    corn, canola, etc) may threaten the survival of our many precious
    pollinator species–frightening. That said, there are countless problems (and
    cruelties) with large-scale agriculture of any kind, beekeeping
    included. Hope lies in the growing movement of conscientious local farm
    economies. Supporting benevolent beekeepers who abstain from pesticide
    use, close to home if possible, is actually a means of supporting the
    survival of bees. Pesticides are indeed harmful to bees and other pollinators (not just
    humans). A class of chemicals called

    neonicotinoids
    is now being blamed, in large part, for colony collapses. Creating wax
    is one of honey bees’ marvelous natural missions in life, and our
    relationship with them can be a cruelty-free symbiosis with benefit to
    all. Why do I use beeswax in my natural perfumery? Because I love bees, and because the fragrance of their raw, unfiltered wax is as close to heaven as one can imagine here on earth. I hope you’ll enjoy my gift of solid perfume on Earth Day via the Artisan Group, Alicia. Fragrant wishes! http://www.driftperfume.com