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Waxes are mixtures of organic compounds that characteristically consist of long aliphatic alkyl chains, although aromatic compounds may also be present: (natural waxes) unsaturated bonds and include various functional groups such as fatty acids, primary and secondary alcohols, ketones, aldehydes and fatty acid esters; (synthetic waxes) often consist of homologous series of long-chain aliphatic hydrocarbons (alkanes or paraffins) that lack functional groups.[1]

Def. any "oily, water-resistant, [solid or semisolid][2] substance;[3] normally long-chain hydrocarbons, alcohols or esters"[4] is called a wax.

Animal waxes

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Chemical structure diagram shows cetyl palmitate. Credit: Hbf878.

Waxes of animal origin typically consist of wax esters derived from a variety of fatty acids and carboxylic alcohols.

Spermaceti: (occurs in large amounts in the head oil of the sperm whale) one of its main constituents is cetyl palmitate, another ester of a fatty acid and a fatty alcohol. Lanolin is a wax obtained from wool, consisting of esters of sterols.[1]


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A major component is myricyl palmitate which is an ester of triacontanol and palmitic acid.

"The total [polycosanol] PC contents of wheat straw (164 mg/kg) and sugar cane peel (270 mg/kg) were of the same order of magnitude. The total PC contents of brown beeswax were about 20 and 45 times higher than those of the [wheat germ oil] WGO-solids and sugar cane peel, respectively. Commercial dietary supplements contained less total PC than were claimed on the product labels."[5]

Chinese waxes

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Chinese wax is produced by the scale insect Ceroplastes ceriferus.


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Lanolin is from the sebaceous glands of sheep.

Shellac waxes

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Shellac wax is from the lac insect Kerria lacca.

Plant waxes

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Plants secrete waxes into and on the surface of their cuticles as a way to control evaporation, wettability and hydration.[6] The epicuticular waxes of plants are mixtures of substituted long-chain aliphatic hydrocarbons, containing alkanes, alkyl esters, fatty acids, primary and secondary alcohols, diols, ketones and aldehydes.[7]

Bayberry waxes

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Bayberry wax is from the surface wax of the fruits of the bayberry shrub, Myrica faya.

Candelilla wax

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Candelilla wax is from the Mexican shrubs Euphorbia cerifera and Euphorbia antisyphilitica.

Carnauba wax

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Carnauba wax is from the leaves of the Carnauba palm, Copernicia cerifera.

Castor waxes

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Castor wax is catalytically hydrogenated castor oil.

Esparto waxes

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Esparto wax is a byproduct of making paper from esparto grass, Macrochloa tenacissima.

Japan waxes

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Japan wax is a vegetable triglyceride (not a true wax), from the berries of Rhus and Toxicodendron species.

Jojoba waxes

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Jojoba wax is a composed almost entirely (~97%) of mono-esters of long-chain fatty acids and alcohols (wax ester), accompanied by only a tiny fraction of triglyceride esters, from the seed of Simmondsia chinensis.

Ouricury waxes

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Ouricury wax is from the Brazilian feather palm, Syagrus coronata.

Rice bran waxes

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Rice bran wax is obtained from rice bran (Oryza sativa).

Soy waxes

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Soy wax is from soybean oil.

Tallow tree waxes

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Tallow Tree wax is from the seeds of the tallow tree Triadica sebifera.

Petroleum waxes

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Paraffin waxes

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Prills of paraffin wax are shown. Credit: Gmhofmann.

In waxes of plant origin, characteristic mixtures of unesterified hydrocarbons may predominate over esters.[7]

Brown coal waxes

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Montan wax is a fossilized wax extracted from brown coal and lignite.[8]

Lignite waxes

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Ozocerites are found in lignite beds.

Ceresin waxes

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Ceresine occurs naturally as Ozokerite.

Ceresin (also cerin, cerasin, cerosin, ceresin wax or ceresine) is a wax derived from ozokerite by treating with heat and sulfuric acid. It is an alternative to beeswax in ointments.[9]

Peat waxes

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Raw peat wax is typically a mixture of three primary components: asphalt, resins and wax.[10]

See also

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Wilhelm Riemenschneider1 and Hermann M. Bolt "Esters, Organic" Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 2005, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a09_565.pub2
  2. Montrealais (19 May 2021). "wax". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 10 September 2021. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  3. Paul G (13 July 2004). "wax". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2020. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  4. SemperBlotto (4 April 2006). "wax". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 1 February 2020. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  5. Sibel Irmak, Nurhan Turgut Dunford and Jeff Milligan (March 2006). "Policosanol contents of beeswax, sugar cane and wheat extracts". Food Chemistry 95 (2): 312-318. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.01.009. Retrieved 15 July 2021. 
  6. Uwe Wolfmeier, Hans Schmidt, Franz-Leo Heinrichs, Georg Michalczyk, Wolfgang Payer, Wolfram Dietsche, Klaus Boehlke, Gerd Hohner, Josef Wildgruber (2002). Waxes In: Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a28_103. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 EA Baker (1982). DF Cutler, KL Alvin, CE Price. ed. Chemistry and morphology of plant epicuticular waxes In: The Plant Cuticle. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-199920-3. 
  8. Ivanovsky, Leo (1952). Wax chemistry and technology. 
  9. Akrochem (15 July 2003). "AKROCHEM® CERESIN WAX" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  10. A. J. Howard. D. Hamer, The Extraction and Constitution of Peat Wax. A Review of Peat Wax Chemistry. The Journal of the Americal Oil Chemists' Society. October 1960 No. 10 Vol. 37 Page 478

Further reading

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