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Beeswax in lipbalm – ethical considerations for vegans

I’m ethical and mostly vegan, but I use beeswax (produced by highly evolved social insects) to make cosmetic products, because it’s simply the best base for skin care balms and cosmetics, and possibly the only wax with healing as well as protective qualities. We humans have been using it for skin care for time immemorial, as seen in ancient Egyptian pyramids.

Wild Bee Comb by wingswormsandwonder.com
Wild Bee Comb by wingswormsandwonder.com

In an ideal world, I would use only beeswax that is excess to the needs of the hive, collected from the outermost combs of happy hives, sustainably farmed on my countryside smallholding.

I myself don’t have such a smallholding, but I know some one who does.

One might argue that skilled beekeepers can extract beeswax with no harm to the hive, and that bees desperately need safe places (such as ethical farms) to live in this relentlessly exploited world – but there is no doubt that most beeswax “on the market” is extracted using modern industrial bee farming techniques that are are brutal, destructive and probably damage many of the health giving properties of bee products: honey, beeswax, and propolis.

Greenman has tried every kind of alternative wax ranging from hemp oil wax, to Candellila, to petroleum products, to synthetic waxes made from industrial olive oil production (see here for discussion of my researches). But I insist on organic purity and functional excellence.

There is no other wax that matches beeswax, with its tiny platelets formed by the rubbing action of millions of bees, and its mysterious healing qualities. Melting point, consistence at room temperature are handling considerations. But where real, pure, humanely farmed beeswax really comes into its own is in its healing and protective qualities. It naturally forms a waxy protective barrier, but also helps heal. How this healing happens is not scientifically proven, but my intuition and common sense points to the presence of propolis in the hive. Propolis is a powerful healing agent made by bees and used for the protection of the hive.

The beeswax we use at Greenman is as pure as you can get, coming from virgin African forests – and Soil Association Certified Organic.

It’s also humanely farmed, using traditional methods, and brings sympathetic trade to traditional communities in rural Africa. I enjoy working with this beeswax, as I come from Africa and have seen log-hive beekeepers at work in Western Zambia’s rain forest. I support the effort to give traditional cultures an alternative to being destroyed by globalised neoliberal capitalism, even if only a partial alternative.

Other ingredients in Greenman lip balm include:

Bees were traditionally kept in hollow logs, not only in Africa but around the world, with excess honey and comb cut from the outer comb, sometimes without upsetting the bees at all, or after driving the bees deep into the hive with smoke. When hives became old or diseased and the bees left or colonies died, they were cleansed with fire – no pesticides or antibiotics were used, and as a result, Africa remains free of the industrial bee-farming diseases such as varroa mite (recent reports say this is changing in Africa). Modern hives are now used by traditional bee farmers, but the traditional purity is assured by the integrity of traditional African farmers, who have used organic, herbal methods of pest control since time began, and the UK’s Soil Association Certificate.

Other ingredients in BeeBalm help protect and heal skin:

  • Tea Tree Oil, a great, proven anti-viral, anti bacterial anti-fungal and all-round antiseptic that helps heal cold – damaged skin.
  • Cocoa-butter is for moisturising luxury and hints of chocolate.
  • Wheatgerm oil is for anti-oxidant, vitamin E healing.

It’s all packed into a cute oval shaped lipstick that you can see the golden balm through. I keep a tube in my pocket, and have done so for the past 12 years, and use it for every little skin blemish that comes along.

To experience BeeBalm yourself (or PureBee for sensitive skin): follow the link to our ebay shop and we’ll post a tube to you:

Or click here for link to Greenman’s stockist in Brighton: the Honey Shop https://wp.me/p52YDP-6P

Finally, a link to a video by Gaia Beekeeping, showing what a beehive in a log looks like

Thanks! Russell for Greenman Bodycare

Reflections on 12 years of making ethical bodycare products (the Beebalm story)

Greenman is my 12 year-old micro-bodycare-craft-enterprise, based in Brighton’s Seven Dials, where my companion. Depsite various setbacks over the decade and a but I’ve been doing this crazy thing, my companion and continue to blend and pour hand-made organic lipbalms using community-farmed Ethiopian forest beeswax in my studio in Seven Dials in Hove, England.

In the beginning I hoped to build my hobby of using natural oils to look after myself, into business that might even pay the rent, and who knew, the sky was the limit. I quickly ran into difficulties of trying to produce craft type goods in the industrialised West. Labour is too expensive, regulations are intense (lipbalm and body oil are regulated as cosmetics, and even the simplest formulation needs to be OK’d by a certified chemist), organic certification costs £600, supermarket distribution requires health and safety inspections of your premises. So you need business plan which can payback an investment, the plan itself costs money and so your overheads excalate to the point where you can only really consider an industrial sized project, for example farming out your production to antiseptic cosmetics laboratories in England, and, soon, you realise, you might as well be manufacturing in India or China and then your unit costs really come down. You can buy whole carton of product fr what it was costing you make single units. But can you really be sure the beeswax they are using is one you specified from the villages in Western Zambia or Ethiopia? I expereinced problems with distributors demanding price reductions for volume orders, and certifications as above. Greenman was not paying the rent, so I had to start night work in social care. So I withdrew from trying to succeed in national distribution, and nearly withdrew the product from sale altogether.

But a couple of people tracked me down, sending somewhat desperate emails, that BeeBalm was the only product that helped with life long problems with cold sores, or PureBee was the only product that helped the sensitive lips of a wind-instrument musicians, and could they buy a pack of ten… One woman was pregnant in hospital in Poland during COVID isolation, and demanded I airmail her a tube of BeeBalm as she had run out. These stories convinced me I must continue with BeeBalm at least for those who seemd to genuinely appraciate the product. So I continued making a few batches per year.

Then, my companion introduced me to a charming Polish Beekeeper who had set up shop in Brighton’s Old Market. This Gentleman keeps most of his bees in Poland, and his product is not certified organic. But he is a real appreciator of bees and their products, and understands what BeeBalm is, and was prepared to stock it even though it is more than double the cost of his in-house lipbalm. So, now, I have stockist again: Honey Shop Brighton

The beeswax we use as pure as you can get, coming from virgin African forest (Soil Association Certified Organic), and humanely farmed using traditional methods, bringing the benefits of traditional farming methods to traditional communities in rural Africa. I enjoy working with this beeswax, as I come from Africa and have seen log-hive beekeepers at work in Western Zambia’s rain forest. Bees were traditionally kept in hollow logs, with excess honey and comb cut from the outer comb after driving the bees deep into the hive with smoke. When hives become old or diseased and bees leave or colonies die, they are cleansed with fire – no pesticides/antibiotics are used, and as a result Africa remains free of the industrial bee-farming diseases. Modern hives are now used, but the traditional purity is assured by the integrity of traditional African farmers, and the UK’s Sol Association certificate.Other ingredients in my lipbalm include Tea Tree Oil, a great anti-viral and antiseptic that helps heal cold – damaged skin. Cocoa-butter is for moisturising luxury and hints of chocolate. Wheatgerm oil is for anti-oxidant, vitamin E healing. It’s all packed into a cute little oval shaped lipstick that you can see the golden balm through. I keep a tube in my pocket, and have done so for the past 12 years, and use it for every little skin blemish that comes along. And yes, I suppose it makes a great stocking filler or thoughtful seasonal present for the winter solstice, if that is your thing.

Follow the link for directions to Honey Shop – for links to online ebay shop ☀️

Or, buy a tube from our ebay shop – we’ll post it to you:

Click here to order BeeBalm https://www.ebay.com/itm/154148460461.

Click here to order PureBee. https://www.ebay.com/itm/154148534062


Click here to go to Greenman website and for Honey Shop map https://wp.me/p52YDP-6P


PS I now only make Greenman Body Oil to order. The sumptuous, deeply sensual undertones of Bulgarinian Rose Oil come at a price, and makes the product too expensive for everyday use, and too expensive to keep in stock as it is best fresh (useby 12 months). But if you do want a 30ml bottle for the £30 pricetag, please message me and I’ll do a special making for you. Link to product description here: https://greenmanbodycare.wordpress.com/greenman-body-oil-30ml/

Fresh Lipbalm delivery to Honey Shop in Brighton

15 November 2021 – The Greenman team has made fresh batches of BeeBalm and PureBee lipbalm. We have now delivered to Brighton stockist, the Honey Shop, in the Open Market off London Road in central Brighton. The Honey Shop is the place to get honey and bee products in Brighton, stocking a wide variety of of honeys and a special health giving propolis extract. Honey is an appropriate stockist for Greenman lip balms, since they are made of special Ethiopian, community-farmed, organic beeswax, collected in virgin African forests. So they are very pure and health-giving!!!

Honey Shop’s owner at work, checking out his bees in the field

Get yours now from Honey Shop! Here’s the map to find Honey Shop (on contact page).