Carnauba is loved by car aficionados because it is a great wax that makes their cars shiny in the hot sun! The special properties in carnauba allow it to buff to a high sheen and stay put even in hot temperatures.
Carnauba comes from the beautiful Copernicia Prunifera, also called the carnauba, wax, or carnaubeira palm, above, found in northeastern Brazil. (This is one of my favorite palms!) The fruit and pith are eaten, and the wood is used. The leaves are covered with the pale yellow-green wax, which is gathered through drying the leaves then scraping the exterior wax.
The wax is extremely hard and brittle, which makes it an excellent protection for furniture finishes. We purchase it in flakes, and combine it with beeswax and other waxes and sometimes resins, depending upon the historical project, through heating them together. Carnauba can then be applied warm, or at room temperature, depending upon the formula. Carnauba can be buffed to a high gloss and is very durable.
Pre-WWII, bowling alleys lanes and skating rinks were protected with carnauba. Like shellac, it is also used as the outer coating for many hard candies, and is used to make lipsticks stay put!
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Image of the palm courtesy of the photographer through Creative Commons on Wikipedia.