Paraffin wax is a white or colourless wax made from petroleum byproducts. Paraffin is commonly used to make candles, as an ingredient in cosmetics and for creating waxed paper. It is also popular in spas and salons as a manicure feature.
Paraffin may have been the hot oily wax used for massages by ancient Romans. However, modern paraffin was discovered by German chemist Carl Ludwig von Reichenbach in the early 1800s.
Paraffin wax is melted in a special warmer or double boiler until it is a clear or translucent liquid. Hands may be dipped directly into the warmer, or the liquid wax may be poured into plastic bags. Each hand is slipped into a bag of paraffin. The hands are covered in the wax for several minutes.
Paraffin wax retains heat, and this heat increases the skin's circulation and opens pores on the hands, allowing the lubricants in the wax to penetrate and soften the skin.
The heat provided by melted paraffin wax is absorbed by the skin and tissue on which it is placed, making it beneficial for people suffering from arthritis or other joint or muscle pain.
Because paraffin comes from petroleum products, people with chemical sensitivities may suffer side effects from paraffin wax. If using melted paraffin wax at home, take special precautions and keep out of reach of children to avoid serious burns.
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