Carnauba wax is a jack-of-all-trades. You’re as likely to find carnauba wax as a coating on your M&Ms as you are to find it as part of the waterproof sealant on the hull of your boat. Carnauba wax, sometimes referred to as “the queen of all wax” is derived from the coating of the fronds of the carnauba palm tree, also known as the “tree of life.” It is also called “Brazil wax” and “palm wax.”1 Despite being nearly ubiquitous, many people are still asking: what is carnauba wax?
Carnauba palm trees are exclusively native to Brazil and are grown only in the northeastern Brazilian states of Piauí, Ceará, Maranhão, Bahia, and Rio Grande do Norte. In 2006, Brazil produced 22,409 tons of carnauba wax. The US imports about 25 percent of all wax produced.2
The wax is harvested from the palm fronds by collecting and drying them, beating them to loosen the wax, then refining and bleaching the wax. The leaves are harvested without harming the tree. Only 6 to 8 fronds are taken at a time, so it is a sustainable practice.3 Carnauba palms are not the same species as the ones that much-criticized palm oil is pressed from, a species that is quickly dwindling.
One reason that carnauba wax is considered to be the “queen of all waxes” is that it is among the hardest waxes in the natural world. It is practically insoluble in water, and it has a higher melting point than beeswax.4
Because it is derived solely from a plant-based source, carnauba wax is vegan and is often seen as a good alternative to beeswax and other non-vegan products such as gelatin. Carnauba wax is considered halal by the Muslim Consumer Group.5
Let’s take a look at some of the uses of carnauba wax.