AskDefine | Define carnauba

Dictionary Definition



1 hard yellowish to brownish wax from leaves of the carnauba palm used especially in floor waxes and polishes [syn: carnauba wax]
2 Brazilian fan palm having an edible root; source of a useful leaf fiber and a brittle yellowish wax [syn: carnauba palm, wax palm, Copernicia prunifera, Copernicia cerifera]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A Brazilian palm tree having waxy, fan-shaped leaves and toothed leafstalks
  2. In the context of "not countable": The hard wax obtained from the leaves of this plant and used especially in polishes



Scientific names

Extensive Definition

Carnauba is a wax derived from the leaves of the carnauba palm (Copernicia prunifera), a plant native to northeastern Brazil. It is known as "queen of waxes" and usually comes in the form of hard yellow-brown flakes. It is obtained from the leaves of the carnauba palm by collecting them, beating them to loosen the wax, then refining and bleaching the wax.


Carnauba wax contains mainly esters of fatty acids (80-85%), fatty alcohols (10-16%), acids (3-6%) and hydrocarbons (1-3%). Specific for carnauba wax is the content of esterified fatty diols (about 20%), hydroxylated fatty acids (about 6%) and cinnamic acid (about 10%). Cinnamic acid, an antioxidant, may be hydroxylated or methoxylated.


Carnauba wax can produce a glossy finish and as such is used in automobile waxes, shoe polishes, food products such as candy corn, instrument polishes, and floor and furniture polishes, especially when mixed with beeswax. It is used as a coating on dental floss. Use for paper coatings is the most common application in the United States. It is the main ingredient in surfboard wax, combined with coconut oil.
Carnauba wax is a prominent ingredient in cosmetics formulas: lipsticks, eyeliners, mascara, eye shadows, foundations, blushers, skin care preparations, sun care preparations, etc.
It is the finish of choice for most briar pipes. It produces a high gloss finish when buffed on to wood. This finish dulls with time rather than flaking off (as is the case with most other finishes used.)
In foods, it is used as a formulation aid, lubricant, release agent, anticaking agent, and surface finishing agent in baked foods and mixes, chewing gum, confections, frostings, fresh fruits and juices, gravies, sauces, processed fruits and juices, soft candy, tic tacs and Altoids.
It is also used in the pharmaceutical industry as a tablet coating agent.
In 1890, Charles Tainter patented the use of carnauba wax on phonograph cylinders as a replacement for a mixture of paraffin and beeswax.
When used as a mold release, carnauba, unlike silicone or PTFE, is suitable for use with liquid epoxy, epoxy molding compounds (EMC) and some other plastic types. Carnauba wax is compatible with epoxies and generally enhances its properties along with those of most other engineering plastics.
An aerosol mold release is formed by suspending carnauba wax in a solvent. This aerosol version is used extensively in molds for semiconductor devices. Semiconductor manufacturers also use chunks of carnauba wax to break in new epoxy molds or to release the plunger when it sticks.
Carnauba is used in melt/castable explosives to produce an insensitive explosive formula to enhance safety of munitions. Used in munitions such as Composition B, which is an RDX/TNT blend.

Technical characteristics

  • INCI name is Copernicia Cerifera (carnauba) wax
  • E Number is E903.
  • melting point: 78-85 °C, among the highest of natural waxes.
  • relative density is about 0.97
  • It is among the hardest of natural waxes, being harder than concrete in its pure form.
  • It is practically insoluble in water, soluble on heating in ethyl acetate and in xylene, practically insoluble in ethyl alcohol.


carnauba in German: Carnaubawachs
carnauba in Spanish: Cera de carnaúba
carnauba in French: Cire de carnauba
carnauba in Italian: Cera di carnauba
carnauba in Hungarian: Karnauba viasz
carnauba in Dutch: Carnaubawas
carnauba in Polish: Carnauba (wosk)
carnauba in Swedish: Karnaubavax
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