Sign in

The Evolution of Paraffin Treatments

Elizabeth Myron June 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

From stove top to tank-heating, paraffin, as it is known today, has evolved from origins of being brushed on wounds by the French for its therapeutic benefits. Moving into the beauty industry, it has been used for its esthetic value of moist heat tissue regeneration, becoming identified as thermotherapy. Paraffin therapy also is known to be successful in reducing pain and stiffness around joints by removing excess fluid from the surrounding tissue while also providing lubrication and reducing the signs of aging.

Yet knowing the therapeutic benefits of paraffin doesn’t make the delivery process of the liquid any easier for treatment therapists. Many in the professional industry have long been waiting for the next generation system that will deliver paraffin to the treatment site quickly, simply and more hygienically than traditional methods. With a reinvigorated interest and new ideas on the subject, paraffin treatments are back and here to stay.

Paraffin primer

Paraffin is a clear, white liquid matter that is tasteless, odorless and can be obtained from hydrocarbons through dry distillation of petroleum. Paraffin has many uses and can be found in various items in the cosmetic industry, including creams, lipsticks and hair products, as well as being used to waterproof material or as an ingredient in candle-making. Identified in the 1830s by German scientist Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach, paraffin wax has earned quite a name for itself in the beauty industry, especially in regard to its ability to help revitalize lifeless, aging or undernourished skin.

When in liquid form, paraffin has the ability to expand and mold itself in and around the peaks and valleys of the skin. On cooling, it quickly begins to contract, compacting its molecules closely together and solidifying itself around the contours of the area being treated. This creates an encapsulated envelope, eliminating the loss of heat.

When applied as heated flowing fluid, paraffin has the ability to transfer heat to the skin’s tissue, creating natural thermal energy and enabling the active product applied under the paraffin to possess energy that can transfer active ingredients into the skin. Through this method, skin is transformed with the use of infusion.

Menu infusions

As paraffin can create a thermal energy environment, therapists have the ability to step up service menu offerings by providing customized paraffin treatments. Paraffin can assist in carrying product into the skin tissue, infusing active ingredients to the treatment site. It can also enhance results as a pre-treatment to glycolic peels, microdermabrasion, LED treatments or even surgical procedures. Used as a post-treatment, paraffin has the ability to advance the recovery and regeneration time of the skin.

The temperature of paraffin is key to the success of the product’s liquidation, solidification and treatment results. The traditional method of paraffin application is via a paraffin spa tank system where the paraffin is kept at a liquid temperature of 127–131°F. While this may be the optimal melt point and a successful temperature to apply paraffin to the body via a brush method, submerging a hand or a foot directly into the spa tank at these temperatures can be uncomfortable and unsanitary. To properly offer this method of paraffin treatment, be sure that your spa tank is cleaned and sanitized for each client, and always be sure the client is comfortable, checking in throughout the procedure’s progress.

New developments

New to the market are self-contained paraffin treatments that are boosting the popularity of this spa standby. These sanitary, single-use disposable packs help to eliminate the risk and liability of bacterial and fungal cross contamination, which aids in ensuring your clients feel safe and well-treated.

Creating a simple option, the disposable chamber heats up the paraffin using either a chemical reaction or a heating element. The heating system melts the paraffin directly into the sealed gloves or slippers, which can be great for client comfort. Aromatherapy can also be provided during the heating process with a choice of essential oils.

Paraffin perfection

Take a close look at your paraffin and the way you are offering this service. Make it your goal to move toward the paraffin system that works best for you, whether it is one that offers single-use packs or the traditional tank-and-brush method. Utilize a system that can deliver a premium, luxurious, sanitary treatment that also ensures your clients’ satisfaction and safety. Customize your treatments and evolve into the next generation of paraffin therapy.



Silky Smooth Hand Treatment

One great way to utilize paraffin is in a customized hand treatment. The following is an idea on using paraffin to give clients a beautiful look for their hands.

Products and equipment needed:

UL-approved paraffin heating device containing liquid paraffin or single-use paraffin packs

Essential oils


Hand lotion or moisturizer

Bleaching agent

Tea tree oil

Anti-aging hand or facial cream

Massage cream

Hand or body SPF 30 sunscreen

It is recommended all lotions, creams, oils and exfoliators used are water-soluble.

Cost: $40–50+, depending on length of treatment

Length of application: 30–45 minutes; can also be used as an add-on service

Step 1: Soak. Submerge hands into a warm tub of water infused with a few drops of an essential oil mixture. A range of mixtures can be offered including: rose, jasmine, lemon and bergamot as a soothing tonic; mandarin to promote healing and repair dry skin; or a blend of neroli, myrrh and sandalwood to treat anxiety. Float a few rose petals or slices of orange and lemon in the water for added aesthetic pleasure.

Step 2: Exfoliate. A helpful trick here is to mix a body exfoliant with a hand moisturizer. This will work wonders on the cuticles and soften the hands immensely. Be sure to exfoliate from the tips of the fingers up to the elbow for three to five minutes.

Step 3: Treat. Analyze the hands and determine what additional treatments are required. If the hand has age spots, apply a bleaching agent to these areas. Apply tea tree oil under and around the cuticles to prevent fungus and infection, especially if the hands have any type of artificial nail. Follow with a light application of hand moisturizer.

Step 4: Hydrate. Perform the procedure with the appropriate paraffin treatment created specifically for your client, infusing the products applied in Step 3 into the skin. If you are customizing the treatment, choose scents for the paraffin and products that will complement each other.

Step 5: Massage. Select your favorite massage medium and complete a five- to eight-minute massage on the hands, fingers, wrists, forearms and elbows.

Step 6: Protect. Complete this luxurious hand treatment by applying sunscreen.

Tip: To clean up paraffin that has been spilled on clothing, carpet or bedding, place a paper bag over the spill and iron the paper with a warm iron.

Next image >