The dangers of beeswax in locks

Brambleroots does not recommend the use of wax under any circumstance. It cannot be chemically dissolved with any compound that is safe to use on the human body. This article will describe the chemical structure of wax, why people use it, and several harmful myths perpetuated by wax manufacturers to sell an unnecessary product.

Why do people use wax?

People are tempted to use wax because it functions like a super heavy-duty hair gel. They use it to neatly twist the roots, smooth frizz, and add firmness to each lock. However, these perceived benefits are not without a price.

Myth: Wax makes locks mature faster

Though it is appealing to use wax to imitate a dense, smooth mature look in your locks, the reality of it is that beeswax actually slows — and sometimes utterly prevents — the maturation process. Beeswax has an extremely sticky, strong hold that “freezes” the hair strands inside of each lock. This prevents hair strands from moving around, looping/budding, and tightening. A lock that can’t tighten is a lock that cannot mature.

Myth: Wax encourages lock rot

One argument against using wax is that it supposedly encourages decomposition within locks. This is untrue.

Organic compounds (compounds that contain carbon) from living organisms rot mainly in the presence of bacteria; roadkill would rot incredibly slower if bacteria weren’t around to gnaw on it. Beeswax is distinguished from living organic compounds because it is chemically simpler (only three elements involved: C15H31COOC30H61 = carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen!) than plant or animal matter, which is rather complex. The structure of beeswax is too simple and does not “decompose” in the manner forgotten items in your fridge do. Because decomposition can only occur given in a set conditional environment, beeswax tends to never, ever rot — unless, of course, it’s mixed with other things that do have the ability to rot.

Not only does bacteria have a lot to do with the decomposition process, but moisture does, also. Beeswax is a nonpolar substance, meaning that it repels water, which would inhibit the ability of bacteria to thrive.

Since locks are washed regularly, bacteria doesn’t hang out and build up on your scalp like it would on a dead body. The cleanliness of your scalp combined with the general lack of moisture wax permits means that pure beeswax generally never rots and wouldn’t have any reason to while on your head in small quantities.

Egyptians used beeswax in the embalming process because it does not rot by itself and it prevented the bodies it covered from rotting, as well. Therefore, it does not logically follow that beeswax makes locks rot.

Myth: Wax can be removed with shampoo or “deep cleaning” ingredients

The durability and resistance of wax is great for bees, but not so great for your hair when you mess up, because it is extremely difficult to remove. Because it is nonpolar, beeswax doesn’t “wash out” or dissolve in water — otherwise beehives would dissolve in the rain!

Its unique structure also makes it extremely hard to remove with shampoo or “deep clean” ingredients. Water, vinegar, and baking soda are all polar substances that cannot dissolve wax. Shampoo derives its cleaning power from surfactants, which do little to dissolve wax as well. In fact, the only substances that truly dissolve it are polar solvents like hexane — i.e., the thing that makes gasoline go “boom.” Therefore, once wax is in your locks once, some residue of it will be trapped in there forever.

Conclusion
While wax won’t rot your locks, it will also do very little to benefit them. The short-term effects of locks may seem appealing, but the long-term risks far outweigh the brief excitement of minimized frizz. Frizz will go away on its own with time, but if you simply cannot wait, then explore other, safer options other than wax first.


Pros
  • Diminshes frizz
  • Makes retwists last longer
Cons
  • Slows maturation
  • Increases the weight of each lock
  • Increases scalp tension
  • Does not wash out
  • Decreases pliability
  • Costs extra money
  • Makes locks harder to brush out/take down.

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