If you’re ever gone for a manicure, you may have come across an extra service feature which involves dipping your hands in a liquid wax bath. Typically referred to as paraffin wax baths, therapeutic baths or arthritic relief baths, these devices are often seen in physiotherapy offices, spas and nail salons.
The idea behind them is relatively simple. Dipping your hands in warm melted wax feels nice, and creates a lasting, heated coating which prolongs that feeling for several minutes. In addition to encasing your hands in warmth, paraffin baths offer a few extra benefits such as moisturizing your skin and emanating pleasant aromas such as lavender or eucalyptus.
Beyond its basic wellness enhancing features, paraffin wax baths are often promoted as having therapeutic benefits for those suffering from arthritis and hand injuries. Those benefits are not conclusively proven, at the very least the warmth of melted wax against your skin should feel good and may even provide some temporary relief.
While paraffin wax baths shouldn’t be a solution to chronic pain or injury, they may be part of a therapeutic program. In fact, they are often used by physiotherapists as a value-added service.
These devices are essentially small tubs into which solid wax pastilles are poured and heated. When the wax has turned liquid and clear, you dip your hand in for a few seconds and remove it. This can be done a few times until a coating is created on your skin.
Each specific wax bath device has its own operating instructions, but the idea is to warm the paraffin wax to a temperature that is high enough to melt it, but not so hot as to burn your skin.
Once the hand is dipped into the wax bath a few times, it is removed and wrapped in plastic – usually in a specially designed bag or sleeve. Then, the hand is wrapped with a towel or placed into an oven-mitt like glove for a few minutes. This allows the heat to be retained.
This process can be done on one hand, or repeated to end up with both hands encased and wrapped in this way.
Once the heat dissipates (usually after about 10 to 15 minutes) the hand is removed from the glove/sleeve and the wax is peeled off. Paraffin wax used for this purpose is smooth and will peel off easily and without pain – this is not like an epilation wax procedure.
After removing the wax, clean off any residue with a tissue, and apply moisturizer if needed.
The entire process will usually take about 30 minutes in total.
Paraffin is a product obtained from oil refining, often referred to as petroleum wax. Moisturizing Paraffin is specially formulated paraffin which is soft, colourless and some formulas contain essential oils and scents. It is solid at room temperatures and is used in hand baths because of its desirable properties, the most important of which is its melting point.
Moisturizing Paraffin wax which is used for this application melts at around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a perfect point for therapeutic and cosmetic use. Skin can be damaged by heat starting at around 140 degrees, so it’s important that a wax coming in contact with skin melt at a much lower temperature but still provide warmth.
This is the main reason why you should only use specially designed paraffin wax for these heated baths. Do not use candle wax, canning/sealing wax, or any other type of wax not specifically designated for use with hand baths.
Another reason to use therapeutic paraffin wax with hand baths is that the paraffin is typically mixed with essential oils and scents that enhance its benefits. While paraffin is a natural emollient – removing dead skin cells and making skin softer – adding oils will help moisturize the skin and create a pleasant aroma to promote wellness and relaxation.
Paraffin wax baths are generally safe for the vast majority of people. Using a high-quality paraffin wax specially designed for heated baths will ensure that it is safe, hygienic, and will melt at an appropriate temperature.
Some people with particularly sensitive skin might experience heat rash when using these baths. Paraffin baths are not recommended for people who suffer from:
In addition, do not use a paraffin bath if you have open sores, cuts or skin rashes on your hands. Make sure your hands are clean before dipping them into the wax.
If you have a sensitivity to petroleum products, you might experience a reaction when using a paraffin wax bath.
It’s always best to use a wax bath under the supervision of a professional, but if you’re doing it at home, just remember to not heat the wax too much. Follow the instructions for your device, and never let the wax temperature exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Test the wax with the tip of a finger before you dip your entire hand in the bath.
After you remove the wax coating from your hands, you can re-use it if you’re doing this at home (just place it back into the warm bath). Note that due to hygienic regulations, wax will never be re-used in a professional establishment.
All in all, it’s a relatively inexpensive procedure to pay for at a nail salon or spa, but if you decide to do it at home, just make sure you follow a few simple rules: clean your hands, don’t heat the wax too much, and don’t make a mess!