Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Carnauba Wax Bad For You?

Also Known As: Brazil wax, palm wax



Short answer

No, carnauba wax is not bad for you. It can’t be digested by humans, so its properties are never absorbed into the body. It is also a plant-based ingredient, making it safe for human consumption.



Long answer

Carnauba wax is derived from the leaves of the carnauba tree, native to Brazil. In fact, the only place in the world that produces and exports carnauba wax is the northeastern region of Brazil. Carnauba wax is produced by these trees in the hot summer months as a secretion to conserve moisture. The wax is harvested by detaching leaves from the carnauba tree, drying them out in the sun, then beating the leaves to remove the wax. Manufacturers only remove 20 leaves per tree each season in order to preserve the trees. Yellowish in color, the wax is in turn refined and then bleached.

Carnauba wax is exported in two forms: powder and flakes. Most of the wax is exported as a powder. It is available to manufacturers and consumers in three grades: T1, T3, and T4. The level of purification depends on how intensely the wax was filtered, centrifuged, and then bleached.

Carnauba wax is largely used as a finishing coat to make items shiny. This is why manufacturers use it as a glossing agent in products such as car wax, surfboard wax, shoe polish, instrument polish, and furniture wax. It is often mixed with beeswax to shine up and waterproof leather goods. Woodworkers like to use it to buff out wood because it fades with time rather than flaking like other finishes do. It is used in molds for semiconductor devices. The most widely used application of carnauba wax in the U.S. is as a coating for paper.

The glossy properties of carnauba wax are also used as a final coating for many food and pharmaceutical products, mainly vitamins and pills, candy, and the like. It is commonly used as a thickening agent in cosmetics and other skincare products like mascara, deodorant, eye shadow, lipstick, dental floss, and so on.

As far as being safe for the body, carnauba wax is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and inert. It is composed of fatty acid esters, fatty alcohols, acids, and hydrocarbons. Essentially, carnauba wax is a natural, hypoallergenic material that lends itself to a variety of uses. It has a very high melting point (around 180 degrees Fahrenheit), cannot be dissolved in water, and in its solid, pure form is harder than concrete.

Americans use carnauba wax in a variety of everyday products. You will come into contact with it if you take medications in tablet form, floss your teeth, eat hard candy or candy-coated chocolate, wear makeup, use deodorant, wax items like your car, floors, furniture, or surfboards, even in paper cups. It is used in cosmetics to prevent liquid and oil ingredients from separating, to help maintain a flexible but solid form, and for a glossy finish. In food, it is used not only as a polishing device in hard coatings, but also as an anti-caking and glossing agent in frosting and sauces.

The melting point of this wax is too high for the body to melt, therefore when it is ingested, it goes right through without being absorbed. Not only are its inherent properties safe, but it can’t be broken down enough for them to reach the body anyway.

Commonly found in

  • automobile waxes
  • shoe polishes
  • dental floss
  • sweets
  • candies
  • gummies
  • instrument polishes
  • floor and furniture waxes and polishes
  • paper coatings
  • surfboard wax


  • durable
  • dries to a glossy finish
  • makes skin smooth and soft

Healthier alternatives

  • beeswax has similar functions, but quite a few more health benefits

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 04-14-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by DeeAnne Oldham
Published on: 04-14-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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