Is Rice Bran Wax a Sustainable Ingredient?

Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT


Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.


Rice is the world’s most common crop and a staple food for billions of people, but a large part of the rice plant is typically thrown away. What if these crude materials could be used instead? Step up rice bran wax, a sustainable alternative to beeswax and other plant-based waxes.

Table of Contents
  1. What is rice bran wax?
  2. Is rice bran wax safe?
  3. Is rice bran wax sustainable?

What is rice bran wax?

Rice bran wax is created from rice bran oil, which is obtained by extracting or pressing the husks of rice after they have been separated from the grains. The oil is then dewaxed, producing dewaxed oil and crude wax which can be further refined to rice bran oil and rice bran wax.

This wax is pale yellow, very hard, and has a melting point between 79 and 85 degrees Celsius (174-185 F), which is higher than beeswax, so you can use less in your formulations. It is available in pellets, beads, and powders for use in making candles, cosmetics, foodstuffs, and other items. Because it is non-sticky, it is a popular ingredient in body butters, lip balms, and in lipsticks where it also has the benefit of inhibiting weeping (syneresis) of liquids from gels in the formula.

Rice bran wax has the name Oryza sativa cera in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) registry. If you don’t see this on the label of a product claiming to be made with rice bran wax, it may be that the formula actually includes rice bran oil and hydrogenated plant oils (shortenings), which aren’t the same thing (and are a lot cheaper).

Is rice bran wax safe?

The US Food and Drug Administration allows rice bran wax to be used as a food additive in the US and the substance has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel and deemed safe as cosmetic ingredients as used in current practice.

Rice bran oil, however, is non-edible as it contains large amounts of fatty acids and waxes. Refined rice bran oil has these removed and is a popular (and safe) food ingredient used in many Asian cuisines.

Is rice bran wax sustainable?

In short, yes. The production of both sunflower seed wax and rice bran wax adds value to the supply chain as it makes use of crude materials that would otherwise be thrown away. That said, both are industrially processed waxes, which means energy is expended extracting these products. Even if they weren’t a commodity in themselves, though, the same energy would be expended to produce refined rice bran oil, so the waxes are in some ways an upcycled product.

Rice bran wax could even be used as a replacement for hydrogenated tropical oils currently favored as stabilizers in products such as peanut butter. Switch out the hydrogenated palm oil or cottonseed oil for rice bran wax and voila, you have a more sustainably made peanut butter!

Although rice bran wax is highly sustainable, it’s wise to pay attention to its provenance. As yet, there is no fairtrade or organic rice bran wax on the market. If you spot some, or are making any, please get in touch!

If you’re looking for suppliers of rice bran wax, here are some options:

Voyageur Soap and Candles

Sunrise Botanics

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