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What are the functions of liquid paraffin?

Updated November 21, 2016

Liquid paraffin is a highly refined white mineral oil that is white, odourless, tasteless and waxy. Absolute Astronomy reports that food-grade paraffin wax--the solid form of paraffin--is used to coat fruit to give it a shiny appearance. Paraffin is edible but nondigestible, as it passes through the body without breaking down. Omnipelagos.com explains that paraffin in the United States is distinct from the fuel of the same name in the United Kingdom, which is known as kerosene in the United States.

Therapeutic

Paraffin baths are a therapeutic treatment for people with arthritis, range of motion issues, sprains, joint stiffness and chronic pain. Fitness Wholesale Online (FWO) explains that paraffin wax--which is less expensive than paraffin oil and also is reusable--is put into a deep tank and warmed just enough to melt. After it is melted, hands and wrists, feet and ankle, or elbows can be immersed into the liquid. FWO warns that persons with open cuts or wounds, inflammatory skin conditions, a peripheral vascular disease or impaired circulation should not use a paraffin bath. If in doubt, consult a physician or therapist.

Laxative

Liquid paraffin, in its highly refined state as a mineral white oil, is used as a laxative for people with chronic constipation. The paraffin passes through the digestive and gastrointestinal tracts without being absorbed. According to Women's Menopause Health Center, liquid paraffin (mineral oil) is an over-the-counter option that is taken orally to lubricate fecal matter so it can pass more easily through the intestines. Like any laxative, overuse causes anal irritation, and the body's ability to absorb some vitamins could become impaired and lead to a severe nutritional deficiency.

Cosmetology and Dermatology

White and mineral oils are created through a liquid paraffin refining process. Paraffin oil is used as a blending base for cosmetics. The viscosity and other properties can be altered to affect the thickness of the bases. According to Paraffin Oils' website, products containing paraffin oil include baby oil, moisturising lotions, suntan oils and hair oils. In dermatology, it is used to treat skin conditions like eczema and as an emollient. Notify a physician or dermatologist if the skin should break out or change appearance after using paraffin oil-based creams or lotions.

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About the Author

Jerrie began writing in 1994 as an early childhood education consultant, reviewing Early Head Start and Head Start programs while assisting with writing and editing reports. She wrote a parenting column from 1993 - 2001. While working on her associate's degree in journalism, Jerrie wrote for the Pratt Community College newspaper. She earned additional education credits in family health and safety, mental health, and disabilities.