Most car waxes are a combination of the natural wax, solvents, silicone fluids, other waxes and colorants. Some will also contain abrasives, depending on the product your wax will effectively be smoothing out the surface of the paint by filling in many of the imperfections in the paintwork unfortunately if your paintwork is suffering from oxidation, fade or swirl marks there is only so much filling that the wax can achieve and all you are effectively doing is covering up and hiding the true nature of why your car is not looking as good as it should.
Todays most effective and popular form of wax for paintwork is quick wax spray this is a cheaper quicker way of keeping your cars paintwork protected but there is no need to wax your car more than once a month as your paintwork can only absorb so much, if you keep applying it you are effectively just spraying it on and wiping it back off again wasting time and money. Always make sure your car or vehicle is clean before applying wax or you could scratch the paintwork by smearing dirty particles or grains of dirt across the surface of your car.
Most car polishes are a product that uses an abrasive action to remove the layers of the top coat protection to level out the surface to ensure and equal reflection of the light and a highly polished look(like when you buy your car from the garage). These products come in varying degrees of abrasiveness from medium to ultra fine. The modern car polish will be made of what is known as diminishing abrasives which break down into further smaller particles as they are worked on the paint getting finer and finer the more they are polished into the paint.
This avoids the need to go through varying steps of abrasiveness in different bottles to achieve a highly polished look. Most polishes also contain gloss enhancing oils which can further help to provide a deep look shine to the paint work.
In conclusion car wax is the protective layer for your cars paintwork which is very important to maintain and car polish is for breaking down the car's paintwork levelling it out to remove scratches and swirl marks. They are 2 very different products not to be confused with each other.