What is paraffin wax?

Paraffin wax is a white or colorless soft, solid wax. It’s made from saturated hydrocarbons.

It’s often used in skin-softening salon and spa treatments on the hands, cuticles, and feet because it’s colorless, tasteless, and odorless. It can also be used to provide pain relief to sore joints and muscles.

Paraffin wax has many other uses, too. It’s often used as lubrication, electrical insulation, and to make candles and crayons.

Read on to learn more about the uses, benefits, and side effects of paraffin wax.

What are the benefits of paraffin wax?

Paraffin has cosmetic and therapeutic benefits.

Cosmetic benefits

Cosmetically, paraffin wax is often applied to the hands and feet. The wax is a natural emollient, helping make skin supple and soft. When applied to the skin, it adds moisture and continues to boost the moisture levels of the skin after the treatment is complete.

It can also help open pores and remove dead skin cells. That may help make the skin look fresher and feel smoother.

Therapeutic benefits

Paraffin wax may be used to help relieve pain in the hands of people with:

It acts like a form of heat therapy and can help increase blood flow, relax muscles, and decrease joint stiffness. Paraffin wax can also minimize muscle spasms and inflammation as well as treat sprains.

Are there side effects?

Paraffin wax is tested in a lab to make sure it’s safe and hygienic to use on the body. It’s completely natural and has a low melting point, which means it can be easily applied to the skin at a temperature low enough not to cause burns or blisters.

However, if you have very sensitive skin, paraffin wax may cause heat rash. Heat rash results in small red bumps on the skin that can be itchy and uncomfortable.

You should not use paraffin wax if you have:

  • poor blood circulation
  • numbness in your hands or feet
  • diabetes
  • any rashes or open sores

If you have a chemical sensitivity, you may develop minor swelling or breakouts from the wax treatment. That’s because paraffin comes from petroleum products.

If you’re doing a paraffin wax treatment at home, take care not to heat the wax too much, as it may catch fire. It should be no more than 125°F (51.7°C) when you start your treatment.

What happens during a treatment?

Some salons and spas may offer a paraffin wax bath as part of their manicures and pedicures, but most offer it as a separate treatment, too.

The cost of a paraffin wax treatment varies greatly by salon, starting from around $15. It generally takes around 30 minutes.

How to use it at home

You can have a paraffin wax treatment done at a nail salon or spa, but you can also do it at home. It’s important to follow the correct steps to get the maximum benefits from the treatment.

To do an at-home treatment, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • four pounds of food-grade paraffin wax
  • double boiler
  • measuring cup
  • mineral oil
  • greased plastic container
  • thermometer
  • olive oil
  • sealable plastic bag
  • towel or oven mitt
  • timer
  • tissue
  • moisturizer

You could also purchase a portable paraffin wax bath to use for at-home treatments. These devices help reduce the number of supplies you need, and many of them come with paraffin wax.

If you’re using a paraffin wax bath, follow the instructions provided with your machine.

Step 1: Melt the wax

The easiest way to melt paraffin wax at home is to use a double boiler. If you have nail polish on, remove it before starting the process. Wash your hands well and dry them with a lint-free towel.

To melt the wax:

  • Add four pounds of paraffin wax to the top of a double boiler. Add water to the bottom of the boiler and place it on the stove over low heat.
  • Add one cup of mineral oil to the wax.
  • When the wax is completely melted, take the boiler off the stove. Carefully pour the wax into a greased plastic container.
  • Wait for a thin skin to form on the top of the wax.
  • Check the temperature of the wax with a thermometer. The wax is ready to use when it reaches 125°F (51.7°C).

Step 2: Apply the wax

Once the wax is prepared, it’s ready to use. To apply:

  • Massage a few drops of olive oil into the skin of the area you’re going the treat.
  • Dip your entire hand or foot into the wax and leave it in for a few seconds until a layer forms over the area.
  • Wait for the wax to dry. You’ll know it’s dry when the shine has faded. Once dry, put your hand or foot back into the wax, going a little less deep than you did before. This stops warm wax from getting under the previous layers of wax, preventing burns.
  • Repeat this process until you have at least 10 layers of wax on your hand or foot.

Step 3: Bag your hand or foot

Once you’ve applied at least 10 layers of wax to your hand or foot, put a large plastic bag over that. Then place it in an oven mitt or wrap it in a towel for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 4: Remove the wax

After 15 to 20 minutes, remove your hand from the mitt or towel and the plastic bag. Use soft tissue to remove the wax residue from your skin. Apply moisturizer all over your hand.

When you’ve completed your treatment, cover the paraffin and store it in a safe place for your next treatment.

The takeaway

A paraffin wax treatment has many aesthetic benefits and can also provide relief for people with conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia. You can pay for it to be done in a nail salon or spa or you can do it at home, if you have the right equipment.

Healthline and our partners may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link above.