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Ingredients & formulation

Search for natural products increases demand for carnauba wax in cosmetics

The ingredient extracted from Brazilian palm trees is suitable for use in makeup and hair care products.

The growing appreciation of natural and organic products is boosting the use of carnauba wax in several industries including personal care and cosmetics, according to a survey conducted by US-based company Transparency Market Research.

The raw material is a natural alternative to paraffin waxes and has unique properties such as shine, high melting point and optimum oil retention potential. Since 2015, Lush Brasil has been using carnauba wax in the manufacturing of its products and the ingredient can be found in Lush’s lip balms, lipsticks, mascara and moustache wax. “In addition to being a 100% vegetable ingredient, carnauba wax helps provide stability to formulations and creates a texture dense enough for hair colors and lipsticks, without releasing any unpleasant odors or excessive rigidity in the product,” says Renata Pagliarussi, Managing Director at Lush Brasil.

Lush Lip Balm Rose Lollipop

Lush Lip Balm Rose Lollipop

When mixed with other ingredients such as cocoa butter, the carnauba wax acquires a denser texture, which is suitable for lip balms and lipsticks,” adds Pagliarussi. In addition to the natural shine of the wax, there is the added benefit of creating a protective layer that improves its use in mascaras and mustache waxes. The wax can also be used in other industries such as pharmaceutical, packaging and
automobile.

The ingredient is extracted from the leaves of the Copernicia prunifera, a palm tree that grows along the river banks of Northwest Brazil, particularly in the states of Ceara, Piaui and Rio Grande do Norte. This palm tree can also be found in Maranhao, Bahia (in the São Francisco valley), as well as Pernambuco and Paraiba. However, more than half of the production occurs in Ceara, according to the Union of Refining Industries of Carnauba Wax of Ceara State.

The extraction process consists of five steps, from the collection of the raw material, to its processing, according to carnauba wax processing company Carnauba do Brazil. The green palm leaves are collected from July to February. The process involves stem-cutting performed by the farmer using a long stick with a blade at the end to cut the stem off the leaf. “However, not all of the leaves are cut, so as not to hinder the growth and health of the plant,” says Pagliarussi.

The leaves are then left to dry on a compact soil surface or a solar dryer. The dried material produces a powder that is cooked and primed in large wooden presses or processed by solvent-based techniques. The cooling is done in shallow tanks, where the mass product is broken down in yellowish-green or dark brown colored bricks. This becomes the raw wax, which can be melted in pans or autoclaves. The extraction process ends with a succession of centrifugation, filtration and whitening procedures.

The presence of wax in the leaves is a consequence of its adaption to dry climates. It hinders the loss of water by perspiration and protects the plant against fungal attacks,” says Pagliarussi. According to the Transparency Market Research survey, although Asia, Equatorial Africa and some South American countries also grow this palm, Brazil still accounts for the largest share of the market.

The main importing countries, according to data from the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services, are the U.S. with 26.2% of Brazilian carnauba use, followed by Japan (16%), and Germany (15.3%). In 2016, the total volume of carnauba wax exported was 15,800 tons, generating revenues of US$ 99 million. From January to July this year, Brazil exported 9,330 tons of carnauba wax.

According to Brazil’s National Supply Company (Conab), there are plans to develop new products whose formula contains carnauba wax, with the goal of expanding the market. Pagliarussi confirmed new Lush products using carnauba wax will be released soon.

Amanda Veloso

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