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Beeswax and honey are two of the most controversial ingredients in the organic beauty industry. Are they ethical? Are they vegan? Is there even such a thing as organic honey?
One of my favorite products that contains honey is May Lindstrom’s Honey Mud. It is one of my desert island products, and I’ll never be without it. When questions and concerns arose regarding the bees, this was May’s beautifully written response:
“I completely understand your concern and take the sourcing of this vital ingredient very seriously. Our raw honey comes from a local apiary where the honey is collected from the hives of bees that forage on unsprayed wildflowers. These bees are fat and happy off their own honey and are thriving – which contributes to the life and sustainability of the fields and flowers and surrounding wildlife and our ecosystem as a whole.” – May Lindstrom, emphasis added
May’s statement illustrates the anchor to this conversation: not all honey is made equally. When choosing organic products, you have to research the company directly for the “where” and “how” of their sourcing. You want to look for brands that use sustainable and ethically sourced honey. In the case of Annmarie Organics, the raw honey is sourced from Honeyville, a third generation beekeeping company in Colorado that began in the 1920s. All of the hives are at an elevation of 6,000 feet, making a unique kind of plant community. Because the bees are there year round, this unique plant environment is sustained—plus, they all thrive on clean and fresh air.
What’s so good about raw honey? Yes, there is a difference between types of honey…even if that isn’t shown in the market. In 2011, the US had no standards for USDA certified organic honey. It was under their own discretion(!) Some looked at EU standards, but each certifier basically had the right to use his or her own criteria. Raw honey contains pollen, phytonutrients, and good bacteria. Because of these properties and its natural ability to cleanse and act as a humectant, it is amazing for healthy, balanced skin.
Most vegans avoid honey and other bee-sourced products because they are, simply put, made from bees. Although a certain percentage of vegans might disagree and provide a little leeway, saying avoiding a miniscule ingredient like honey could discredit the vegan trend because of rigidity of a natural ingredient. But, honey is not a by-product; bees are “accidental pollinators.” If you are a vegan who is dedicated to keeping honey out of your diet and lifestyle, there are some alternatives: agave nectar, coconut nectar, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt syrup, and brown rice syrup.
On the other hand, beeswax is also naturally derived, waxy in texture, and is found in bee hives. It is produced through the abdomen region of female worker bees. Beeswax also acts as a humectant, is a natural emollient, moisturizes, and is antibacterial. It definitely is not lacking in benefits. The controversy revolves around how beeswax is sourced through extraction.
So what if you want to avoid or are sensitive to beeswax, but still love a good lip balm? Look for products containing essential oils plus alternative waxes: candelilla, carnauba, or hemp. Top suggestions from “Your Daily Vegan” include Merry Hempsters lip balms, Hurraw lip balms, or Crazy Rumours Lip Balms. Even though the organic beauty market is full of beeswax-laden products, there are ethical options to choose from. These are completely vegan and all natural. Your alternatives for beeswax products include:
- Soy Wax – vegetable based wax made from soybeans.
- Candelilla Wax – plant based wax found on the leaves of the Candelilla shrub, native to northern Mexico.
- Carnauba Wax – plant based wax sourced from the leaves of the Copernica Cerifera palm tree, native to Brazil.
- Bayberry Wax — sourced from the surface of the bayberry shrub’s fruit.
And what about that insane bee venom trend? When brands say that bee venom causes no harm whatsoever to the bees, I have to disagree. It’s not possible. These companies trick bees into thinking there is an intruder by putting a glass frame in front of its beehive. A small electric current is passed through this frame, giving electric shocks to the bees, which induces them into “stinging” the glass and releasing their venom. I don’t think this sounds very ethical. Shocking bees continuously? Furthermore, there’s no way to ask the bee if they are experiencing any pain. The claims brands are making cannot be backed by any kind of research.
It’s quite hard to figure out which products contain ethically sourced bee products, but they are out there. But, just something to make you feel a little bit better in general: “A certain number of bees are undeniably killed by honey production, but far more insects are killed, for example, in sugar production.” –Michael Greger, MD
Do you avoid bee products? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
To Your Ethical Beauty,