Chemical of the Month: Candelilla Wax

by Ewa Daníel

What is it?

Candelilla wax is a natural wax from the leaves of the plant called Candelilla, Euphorbia cerifera, Euphorbiaceae. The plant grows on sandy soil in places like Mexico and Texas.

The wax can be found in many different types of cosmetics because of its many different functions from being able to add structure to give gloss, waxy and smoothness to creamy emulsions.
Beside the use in cosmetics Candelilla can also be used as a food additive (E902) where it is a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredient used in chewing gum and as a surface finishing agent, listed with no limits. 

What is the problem?

Candelilla wax seldom causes allergic reactions, but the wax can contain impurities of a perfume known by the name Benzyl alcohol.

Benzyl alcohol is a fragrance ingredient which is on the EU list of 26 fragrances that must be declared by name on a product if it is used in a specific concentration, which can cause allergic reactions. 

For products that are rinsed off like shampoo, soap and the like the limit is 0,01% and for products meant to stay on your body like creams, body lotion, deodorant the limit is 0,001 %.

You can see the list here:

What do the experts say?

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) – is an expert panel that studies individual chemical compounds as they are used in cosmetic products. CIR has found the use of Candelilla cera wax in cosmetics safe.  Studies show nor skin or eye irritation in human testing, but CIR expert panel do notice that there was limited data on the composition of the wax.

The European Food Safety Authority/EFSA
Has found Candelilla wax to be safe as food additive.

The EFSA panel found no concern regarding Allergenicity, hypersensitivity and intolerance: No information was identified by the Panel concerning such effects relevant to Candelilla wax exposure via the oral route.


When AllergyCertified certifies a product, we demand not only information about the chemical itself but also concentrations, additives and impurities. This means that we have full information about composition of raw material and thus more documentations that dermatologist and CIR/SCCS has for their assessment. As to Candelilla wax we unfortunately experience that both consumers, dermatologist and even producers of cosmetics are not always aware that Benzyl alcohol can be found in Candelilla cera.

The concentrations of Benzyl alcohol can differ a lot depending on the Candelilla waxes used. There are examples where concentrations of Benzyl alcohol are so high that between 8-12 % Candelilla wax contains Benzyl alcohol in a concentration where it must be declared by name on the products due to EU legislation.

Since perfume is not allowed in the AllergyCertified products, Candelilla Cera can only be used if there’s no detectable perfume in the final product. This must be documented by a laboratory test by an independed laboratory.