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One of the most commonly used industrial products is also a common beauty product ingredient: paraffin. Though you're probably aware of the basic facts when it comes to paraffin (white, waxy, gets made into candles, all that jazz), a savvy consumer always wants to know a bit more about what goes into and onto her skin. Learn about where paraffin comes from, how it's used and of course, what, exactly, it is to feel more sure about the products you use with paraffin in them.
Where Paraffin Comes From
Unlike beeswax or other natural waxes, paraffin is man-made. In fact, just like the gas in your car, it's derived from petroleum. That means it's extracted in a lab using a process you'd have to be a bio chem major to fully understand, but it's not really artificial. Originally, the stuff was made by plants, millions of years ago, which then became part of the raw petroleum. So in that sense, it's just like natural plant oils and waxes of today, just really, really old.
Paraffin wax is odorless and tasteless and melts when you heat it to somewhere between 117 and 147 degrees F. It's waterproof and stores plenty of heat when it melts, but it solidifies quickly. When soft, paraffin is stretchy and flexible. And though you wouldn't really want to eat it, it's safe if you do. In fact, it's pretty common for factory farms to give their produce a thin, waxy coating that will make it shine and look more appetizing. It's also used as an ingredient in some chocolates.
The most common beauty uses of paraffin are its use as an ingredient in some of your favorite cosmetics: lipsticks and lip balms, foundations, lotions, soap, hair products, you name it. Where you've mostly likely encountered paraffin by name is in paraffin hand and foot treatments. With these, you dip your hands or feet into melted paraffin, then remove the wax after it hardens. While the soft wax is in contact with the skin, it moisturizes it by imparting natural oils into the pores.
Many people enjoy paraffin's moisturizing effects because the hardening of the wax creates a deep moisturizing without leaving behind a greasy or oily residue. As with all skincare products, results may vary according to individual skin sensitivity and the particular wax product used; some paraffin moisturizers or dips may contain scent ingredients that can irritate. Also, some individuals may suffer from a paraffin allergy that can cause redness and irritation. Consult your doctor if you're concerned about how your skin may react.