See L. Roth and J. Weiner, Waxes, Waxing and Wax Modifiers (1961); H. Bennett, Industrial Waxes (2 vol., 1963); P. E. Kolattukudy, ed., Chemistry and Biochemistry of Natural Waxes (1976).
It is an imprecisely defined term generally understood to be a substance with properties similar to beeswax, namely
Waxes may be natural secretions of plants or animals, artificially produced by purification from natural petroleum or completely synthetic. In addition to beeswax, carnauba (a plant epicuticular wax) and paraffin (a petroleum wax) are commonly encountered waxes which occur naturally. Earwax is an oily substance found in the human ear. Some artificial materials such as silicone wax that exhibit similar properties are also described as wax or waxy.
Waxes are used to impregnate and coat paper and card, to waterproof it or make it resistant to staining, or to modify its surface properties. Waxes are also used in wax polishes for furniture and other wood products, footwear and vehicles, as mold release agents in mold making, as a coating for Edam and Gouda cheeses, and to waterproof leather and fabric. Wax has been used since antiquity as a temporary, removable model in lost-wax casting of gold, silver and other materials. Waxes and hard fats such as tallow have long been use to make candles, used for lighting and decoration in a number of religious traditions, including Christianity and Hinduism. Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights which centers on the lighting of candles, dates back to 165 BC. There are several Biblical references to candles, and the Emperor Constantine is reported to have called for the use of candles during an Easter service in the 4th century AD. Candles continue to be used to by Christians in worship as symbols of the light of Christ. In the Roman Catholic Church, beeswax candles are used, since a colony of bees is a celibate sisterhood with a single mother. Candles have also played a role in paganism, in Wiccan ceremonies, and in modern humanist festivals. Wax candles were also used in secular life for lighting, signals in warfare, safety in travel and for time keeping, and are still in popular use today to provide soft lighting for meals and other social activities. Wax with colored pigments added has been used as a medium in encaustic painting, and is used today in the manufacture of crayons and colored pencils. Carbon paper, used for making duplicate typewritten documents was coated with carbon black suspended in wax, typically montan wax, but has largely been superseded by photocopiers and computer printers. In another context, lipstick and mascara are blends of various fats and waxes colored with pigments, and both beeswax and lanolin are used in other cosmetics. Also, the sports of surfing, skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding often use wax to enhance the performance.