Paraffin: Friend or Foe?

paraffinParaffin wax is a heavy hydrocarbon that comes from crude oil. This makes it a by-product of fossil fuels. It is created by refining the wax from crude mineral oil. Sound like something you want to put all over your body or fragrance your home with? Maybe not when it’s put in that specific way. Yet, many of us use paraffin on a regular basis. Paraffin wax is most commonly used in candles and as a moisturizing therapy for skin.

Ever get the special upgrade in your pedicure or manicure? The nail technician gently guides your feet and hands into a tub of scalding yet sweet smelling liquid wax and then swaddles them in plastic lining and warm cotton mitts. When the nail tech removes the mitts and slides the semi hardened wax off your feet and hands, your skin feels amazingly smooth – almost slick with moisture and warmth. mmmm, crude oil therapy…

Paraffin wax treatments are popular in colder months or for relieving pain and soreness in the muscles and joints of the hands and feet. The wax’s heat increases circulation and opens the pores and the oil content softens the skin. While these benefits do serve a great purpose for those suffering from cracked heels and sore hands, there may be safer alternatives.

For hand and foot therapies, soy wax versions of paraffin treatments are available (even for home use.) Thermasoft is one company currently offering soy, shea nut and beeswax blends that can be heated and used on a regular basis with little clean up. Another option would be using nut and plant based oils, like coconut, shea nut, jojoba and grapeseed oils while soaking in the bath or massaged into the skin after each shower. For best result, exfoliated in the bath or shower so the skin can more readily absorb the moisturizing oils.

With the rise of soy based candle companies that provide greener cleaner jar candles, paraffin candles have some stiff competition. Soy and beeswax candles are also available as an alternative to paraffin wax candles. However, soy candles are much softer in consistency so they do not work as well for standalone pillar candles. Soy candles may still emit some “white” soot, but the burn is still cleaner than paraffin. Beeswax candles will give off some slight odor, so they are sometimes blended with soy to lighten it. It is also important to always trim the wick before lighting in order to eliminate as much soot as possible.

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