Health & Beauty, Makeup

The Bee Diaries : The Chemistry of Makeup

Take any beauty product, makeup or skincare cream, hand, foot or body lotion turn it around and look at the ingredients, most probably you will find beeswax as the first or main component.

Little had I known that extensive studies and research in molecular biology, biochemistry and entomology of the humble honey bee (click here to read how I stumbled upon bee research the bee diaries part 1) would lead me to the understanding of makeup! Now I do use makeup regularly but actually as a stress reliever, an essential mask to hide away my perfectly sleepless nights and panda eyes (yes in PhD life it’s impossible to get good sleep for years). But one fine morning at the bee hives, as I looked at the chunk of beeswax which my teacher was unceremoniously removing from one the shorter frames with evidently no regard for how much effort the bees put in building that, I wondered how extensively was this wax actually utilized?

The intricately perfect hexagonal nest architecture, all made with beeswax, this one which I took out had nectar in it, I wonder if nectar will also be added to face creams as the Next Big miracle ingredient .

The beeswax was a gradient shade from yellow the newly made to brown and blackish the old wax and I curiously asked my teacher if it was the same wax processed for cosmetics.

My teacher said “Yep you can melt it and use it for your skin if you want!” , “You mean I can mix a bit if pigment and make it into my own custom made lipstick?” I asked in bewilderment. “Yep!” He replied, “You know Burt’s bees?”, I replied “The lipcare brand?”, “Yep that’s the one! This is how it started , with real wax!”

I realized then, how simple and convenient it was to know just a simple chemistry and understand how makeup is made, and how to use it up without considering it as a super product with unknown magic ingredients from Mars.

It was so rudimentary! Just a pigment and wax and a few stabilizers and extra essential oils and vitamins E and C from olive oil and lemons and Voila! The product is made and ready for sale!

One day on a trip to the forest, to lay on a hammock, I forgot my foundation. I had no idea what to do with my blue face and purple eye circles…. Then as if naturally my brains clicked…. I had learnt that makeup is just all pigments and different oils mixed in various consistencies.. so I took the max factor stick concealer, I read what ingredients were in the hand cream from Madame Coco, I skimmed through all the ingredients. It contained no mineral oil so i knew instantly that it wouldn’t clog my pores and rubbed it all on my face and used the concealer as a stick foundation and it blended into the cream like a perfect foundation with medium coverage. It was perfect! Just a little bit of science saved my day and it amazed me how knowing the chemistry of makeup made it so convenient for me. Knowledge is Power!

Furthermore my experiments continued on to mascara. I added saline solution to the clogged mascara, which I reckoned was just another concoction of hardened waxes and oils. I was thinking that there must be loads of waxy mascara gunked up inside of my supposedly empty mascara tube, the way Vaseline usually is. I removed the stopper from my Benefit They’re Real mascara and was amazed to find how much product there was underneath. The application I got from that supposedly “empty, dried” mascara tube after adding saline solution and removing the stopper was a substantially large amount of product on the wand so much so that I never saw my lashes so long, voluminous, and thick before. Imagine how a little bit of basic chemistry can lead to such a difference in understanding what we use and how we use it everyday!

Images credit: Pixabay

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