Must-Knows of Microcrystalline Wax


What it is?

Microcrystalline waxes are a type of wax produced by de-oiling petrolatum, as part of the petroleum refining process. It is derived from naturally occurring fossil wax. In contrast to the more familiar paraffin wax which contains mostly unbranched alkanes, microcrystalline wax contains a higher percentage of isoparaffinic (branched) hydrocarbons and naphthenic hydrocarbons. Its melting point is higher than that of paraffin wax, at 63° to 93° Celsius. The colour of micro crystalline wax ranges from brown to white depending on how refined the wax is and it is usually used as an additive in wax blends to increase opacity, hardness, and flexibility.

Where it comes from?

The source for microcrystalline waxes is non-complicated and yet multifarious. It is derived from the refining of the heavy distillates from lubricant oil production. This by-product must then be de-oiled at a wax refinery. Depending on the end use and desired specification, the product may then have its odour removed and colour removed (which typically starts as a brown or dark yellow). This is usually done by means of a filtration method or by hydro-treating the wax material.

What are its characteristics?

Its nuanced features and characteristics are highlighted by the following:

  • Fineness in its crystals in contrast to the larger crystals of paraffin wax.
  • It consists of high molecular weight and saturated aliphatic hydrocarbons.
  • It is generally darker, more viscous, denser, tackier, and more elastic than paraffin waxes, and has a higher molecular weight and melting point.
  • The elastic and adhesive characteristics of microcrystalline waxes are related to the non-straight chain components which they contain.
  • Typical microcrystalline wax crystal structure is small and thin, making them more flexible than paraffin wax.
  • It is commonly used in cosmetic formulations.
  • It can be scented and used to craft candles and wax tablets.

Where is it used?

It is often used in industries such as tire and rubber, candles, adhesives, corrugated board, cosmetics, castings, and others. Refineries may use blending facilities to combine paraffin and microcrystalline waxes; this is prevalent in the tire and rubber industries. Have you wondered about the components of some of the finest beauty products? Microcrystalline waxes are also used in anti-aging and other skin products and luxury beauty brands.

Luxury and high end products have a considerable application of microcrystalline waxes, for instance, in the custom making of jewellery and small sculptures. Different formulations produce waxes from those soft enough to be moulded by hand to those hard enough to be carved with rotary tools. The melted wax can be cast to make multiple copies that are further carved with details. Jewellery suppliers sell wax moulded into the basic forms of rings as well as details that can be heat welded together and tubes and sheets for cutting and building the wax models. Rings may be attached to a wax “tree” so that many can be cast in one pouring.

A brand of microcrystalline wax, renaissance wax, is also used extensively in museum and conservation settings for protection and polishing of antique woods, ivory, gemstones, and metal objects. It was developed by The British Museum in the 1950s to replace the potentially unstable natural waxes that were previously used such as beeswax and carnauba.

What are some excellent materials to use when modifying the crystalline properties of paraffin wax? Microcrystalline wax because it has significantly more branching of the carbon chains that are the backbone of paraffin wax. This is useful when some desired functional changes in the paraffin are needed, such as flexibility, higher melt point, and increased opacity. They are also used as slip agents in printing ink.

Did you know that microcrystalline wax is used in adventure and high impact sports such as ice hockey and snowboarding? It is applied to the friction tape of an ice hockey stick to prevent degradation of the tape due to water destroying the glue on the tape and also to increase control of the hockey puck due to the wax’s adhesive quality. It is also applied to the underside of snowboards to reduce friction and increase the gliding ability of the board, making it easier to control.

Gandhar Oil is one of the largest suppliers of this key ingredient to many industries and in particular to luxury beauty brands.

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