What is a Wax Pen? Wax Pen vs Dab and Vape Compared

wax pen vs dab pen
By Anthony Pellegrino Updated March 8th

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

Wax pens have become increasingly popular as a convenient and portable option for enjoying cannabis concentrates. These sleek and discreet handheld vaporizers are specifically designed for consuming potent extracts like wax, shatter, or budder. With a battery, heating element, and a chamber or atomizer, wax pens vaporize the concentrates, allowing users to inhale the flavorful and potent vapor without needing a torch or dab rig.

Consumers may use terms like wax pens, dabs, and vapes interchangeably, but each refers to distinct methods of consuming cannabis concentrates. Wax pens are handheld vaporizers specifically for concentrates, offering a discreet and portable design. Dabbing, on the other hand, involves heating a concentrate on a dab rig and inhaling the vapor, providing powerful and instantaneous effects. In a broader sense, the term, "vaping," encompasses various devices for inhaling vaporized substances, while wax pens specifically cater to cannabis concentrates.

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What is a Wax Pen?

parts of a wax pen

Before getting into the specifics of what wax pens are, it's important to first touch on what wax actually is.

Wax is a highly potent cannabis concentrate derived through extraction methods using solvents like butane or CO2. It gets its name from its sticky, wax-like consistency. People like wax because it offers a more intense experience due to its high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes.

A wax pen is a handheld vaporizer designed to consume concentrates like wax, shatter, or budder. These pens consist of several key parts, including a battery, a heating element, and a chamber or "atomizer."

The battery in a wax pen provides the necessary power to heat the heating element, which is usually a coil or ceramic plate. This heat source then vaporizes the concentrate placed in the chamber or atomizer, transforming it into an inhalable vapor. Many wax pens also come with adjustable temperature settings to tailor the vaping experience based on each person's preferences.

While such devices may seem high-tech, especially to cannabis smokers who traditionally prefer joints or blunts, using a wax pen is relatively straightforward. 

You must first remove the mouthpiece or the top portion of the pen to expose the heating chamber. Take a small amount of your desired cannabis extract, such as wax, and place it directly onto the heating element. Be mindful not to overload the chamber to avoid any potential issues with airflow or performance.

Once the concentrate is loaded, reassemble the pen and turn it on. Most wax pens have a button or a simple control mechanism to activate the heating element. Press the button, inhale, and the heat will vaporize the concentrate, producing flavorful vapor to inhale. Remember to take slow, controlled draws to fully savor the experience.

The terms "wax pen" and "weed vape" may be used interchangeably, but they're not quite the same. Typically, "weed vape" can refer to a handheld dry herb vaporizer or a pre-filled cannabis oil cartridge. Wax pens, however, are versatile devices that accommodate various (and thicker kinds of) cannabis concentrates. Along with wax, the namesake of these pens, you can also use other extracts such as shatter, budder, crumble, rosin, or live resin.

Types of Wax Pens

thc-o vs other cannabinoids

These days, there are a variety of brands and types of wax pens that can cater to users' diverse needs and preferences. While weed vapes can come in disposable varieties, these aren’t considered wax pens or dab pens. Instead, the most common types of wax pens are the reusable or rechargeable varieties.

Reusable/Rechargeable/Electric Wax Pens

Reusable, rechargeable, or electric wax pens are designed for multiple uses, offering frequent users a more sustainable and cost-effective option. These pens typically feature a rechargeable battery that can be easily replenished using a USB charger. They often come with interchangeable components, allowing users to refill the concentrate and replace worn-out parts as needed.

Pros of Reusable/Rechargeable/Electric Wax Pens:

  • Cost-effective: While the initial cost may be higher than a disposable pen, reusable pens offer long-term savings as they can be refilled with concentrates, eliminating the need for frequent repurchases.
  • Customization: These pens often have adjustable temperature settings, giving users control over their vaping experience. They may also offer compatibility with a wide range of concentrate types.
  • Sustainability: Reusable pens reduce waste, since they can be used multiple times before disposal (and can last years with proper care and maintenance).

Cons of Reusable/Rechargeable/Electric Wax Pens:

  • Maintenance: Reusable devices may require more care and maintenance than disposable pens. This includes cleaning the components, replacing coils or atomizers, and ensuring proper charging.
  • Size and portability: Some rechargeable pens may be bulkier than their disposable counterparts, making them slightly less portable.

Why Choose a Wax Pen?

There are many reasons that these devices are becoming more popular than traditional ways of smoking weed. 

First and foremost, in the long history of cannabis, wax pens are pretty new. Just 20 - 30 years ago, they didn't exist at all. But now, with the cannabis industry highly developed in some areas, they’ve become relatively commonplace. 

Their compact design and portability have also made them convenient for on-the-go (and relatively discreet) consumption. Whether you're attending an event, exploring the outdoors, or simply relaxing at home, wax pens provide an easy way to use concentrates without drawing much attention. 

Not only that, but wax pens offer a controlled and efficient method of consumption compared to traditional dab rigs. By eliminating the need for bulky rigs, torches, and dab tools, wax pens simplify the process while maintaining the potency and flavor of the extracts. 

Finally, wax pens and vapes have lower perceived risks than other forms of consumption, like smoking. That is, a person concerned about the potential damage that may come with smoking bud (as any smoke inhaled comes with some risk to the lungs) may prefer something like a wax pen, which they view as a relatively healthier option.

Wax Pen vs Dab Pen: Is There a Difference?

Wax Pen vs Dab Pen

Cannabis extracts are a subset of concentrates which are highly potent forms of cannabis obtained through various extraction processes. These extracts, such as wax, shatter, or budder, contain high levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, offering intensified effects compared to traditional flower.

Dabbing traditionally refers to consuming cannabis concentrates using a dab rig. A dab rig typically consists of a water pipe or bubbler, a nail or banger, and various accessories. To dab, the concentrate is heated on the nail or banger using a torch until it vaporizes, and then the vapor is inhaled through the rig.

Wax pens, also called dab pens, serve the same purpose as traditional dab rigs but in a more compact and portable form. These handheld vaporizers are specifically designed to vaporize cannabis concentrates like wax, shatter, or budder. While dab rigs can be bulky and require additional accessories, wax pens offer a more streamlined and convenient option for enjoying concentrates on the go.

Keep in mind that "wax pen" and "dab pen" are often used interchangeably, referring to the same type of device. 

While wax pens and dabbing are specific to consuming cannabis concentrates, they differ from the broader category of vapes. Vapes, in a general sense, are a wide range of devices used for inhaling vaporized substances, such as nicotine-based liquids. However, when talking about weed vaporizers, you're probably referring to a vaporizer that uses a cartridge filled with THC oil. These devices are usually pretty simple, consisting of a reusable battery that can be attached to the THC cartridge for use. 

What sets wax pens and dabbing apart from these and other vapes is their focus on vaporizing cannabis concentrates, rather than e-liquids or cannabis oils. Wax pens and dabbing devices are engineered specifically for the higher viscosity and potency of cannabis concentrates, providing a tailored experience for concentrate enthusiasts.

How to Use a Wax Pen

Using a wax pen is a straightforward process that can be easily mastered. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you make the most of your wax pen and enjoy your cannabis concentrates:

prepare your wax pen

Step 1: Prepare Your Wax Pen

Make sure your wax pen is fully charged. Most models have a charging port to connect it to a USB charger. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to ensure proper charging.

load concentrates into wax pen

Step 2: Load the Concentrate 

Remove the mouthpiece or the top portion of the pen to expose the heating chamber or atomizer. Take a small amount of your desired cannabis concentrate, such as wax, and carefully place it directly onto the heating element. Avoid overloading the chamber to ensure optimal performance and airflow.

reattach wax pen mouthpiece

Step 3: Assemble the Wax Pen 

Once the concentrate is loaded, reassemble the pen by attaching the mouthpiece or the top portion securely. Make sure all components are properly aligned and connected.

activate wax pen

Step 4: Activate the Heating Element 

Most wax pens have a button or a control mechanism to activate the heating element. Press the button a specified number of times (usually three to five times) consecutively to turn on the device. Check the user manual for your specific pen to determine the exact procedure.

Adjust the Temperature (if applicable) 

If your wax pen offers temperature control, use the designated buttons or controls to adjust the temperature settings. Different concentrates may require different temperatures for optimal vaporization. Consult the manufacturer's recommendations or experiment with different settings to find your preferred temperature.

enjoy your wax pen

Step 5: Inhale and Enjoy 

With the wax pen activated and ready, inhale slowly and steadily through the mouthpiece. Take controlled draws to allow the heating element to vaporize the concentrate fully. 

Practical Tips for Enjoying and Making the Most of Your Wax Pen

  1. Start with small amounts: Begin with a small amount of concentrate to prevent overloading the chamber and ensure efficient vaporization.
  2. Clean regularly: Clean your wax pen to maintain optimal performance and flavor. The manufacturer should include instructions for cleaning and maintenance. Specifically, pay close attention to the heating chamber and mouthpiece.
  3. Experiment with temperatures: If your wax pen has adjustable temperature settings, experiment with different temperatures to find the sweet spot for your preferred vapor production and flavor.
  4. Store concentrates properly: Properly store your concentrates in a cool, dark place to maintain their potency and prevent degradation. Follow the storage recommendations provided by the manufacturer or dispensary.
  5. Use high-quality concentrates: Invest in high-quality concentrates obtained from reputable sources. The quality of your concentrate dramatically influences the flavor and overall vaping experience.
  6. Avoid excessive heating: While users must adequately heat the concentrate for vaporization, avoid excessive heating as it can lead to burnt flavors and harsh vapor. Find the right balance to achieve a smooth and flavorful experience.

Best Wax Pens for 2023

Best Wax Pens

Pax 3

The Pax 3 is a highly acclaimed, versatile weed vaporizer with exceptional performance. Known for its sleek design and ease of use, the Pax 3 features precise temperature control and a rapid heat-up time. It provides an impressive vapor quality and offers various heat settings to suit individual preferences. With its long-lasting battery life and compatibility with both wax concentrates and dry herbs, the Pax 3 is a popular choice among vaping enthusiasts.

Puffco Plus

The Puffco Plus is an excellent vaporizer for wax aficionados in 2023. With its sleek design and coil-less ceramic bowl, this wax pen bills itself as one of the most flavorful vapes out there. While it may generate average clouds compared to other coil-based wax pens, the Puffco Plus delivers intense flavors. Some reports note that it can occasionally overheat around the heating chamber. Nevertheless, it remains highly regarded for its exceptional flavor profiles, making it an outstanding choice for vaping enthusiasts seeking a flavorful experience.

KandyPens Crystal 2

The KandyPens Crystal 2 is a stylish, portable wax pen known for its exceptional flavor production. It features a quartz atomizer and multiple heat settings, offering quick heating and a long-lasting battery, making it an attractive option for those who prioritize flavor and convenience.

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Wax Pen FAQ

How much is a wax pen? 

The price of a wax pen can vary depending on brand, features, and quality. Entry-level wax pens can range from $20 to $50, while more advanced or premium models can cost anywhere from $50 to $300+.

How long does a wax pen battery take to charge? 

The charging time for a wax pen battery can depend on the specific model and its battery capacity. Generally, it takes around 1 to 2 hours to fully charge a wax pen battery. However, charging times may vary, so it's best to refer to the manufacturer's instructions for the recommended duration.

How long do extracts from wax pens stay in your system?

The duration that extracts from wax pens stay in your system can vary based on your metabolism, frequency of use, and the amount consumed. While the effects of vaping typically wear off in a few hours, cannabis use can typically be detected in the system for up to 2 to 5 days for infrequent users. It can be detectable for up to 1 to 15 days for chronic or heavy users. It's important to note that individuals with higher body fat may have positive tests for an extended period, ranging from 1 to 30 days.

Do wax pen cartridges expire? 

Wax pen cartridges, like any consumable product, can expire. The expiration or shelf life of a cartridge will depend on the quality of the cartridge and the storage conditions. Over time, the potency and flavor of the concentrate in the cartridge may degrade. It's generally recommended to use cartridges within one to two years of purchase and store them in a cool, dark place to maintain quality.

How long do wax pens last? 

The lifespan of a wax pen can depend on factors such as usage frequency, maintenance, and build quality. A well-constructed wax pen can last several months to a few years with proper care and maintenance. Components such as coils or atomizers may need replacement over time. Still, the overall durability and lifespan of a wax pen can vary.

Are wax pens illegal?

The legality of wax pens and cannabis concentrates varies from country to country and within different jurisdictions. In some places, cannabis and its derivatives, including concentrates, may be legal for recreational or medicinal use. However, in other regions, they may still be considered illegal or subject to specific regulations. It's essential to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations of your particular location before using a wax pen or any cannabis-related products.

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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