Paraffin wax therapy is becoming an increasingly popular form of heat therapy with several therapeutic as well as cosmetic benefits. They can be used to treat a wide variety of different health complaints and conditions and have no unwanted side effects.
The first documented use of paraffin wax therapy dates from as far back as the 1950’s but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that it became a mainstream phenomenon. It was around this time that paraffin baths began to be mass produced for the consumer market.
Besides being a popular home remedy, hot wax therapy is also widely used in the fields of occupational therapy, podiatry and physiotherapy to help patients recover from various physical disabilities and sports injuries. Paraffin wax is a petroleum based wax having excellent heat retention and conducting properties. It is a solid at normal room temperature and melts at approximately 116 degrees F.
It’s therapeutic and healing benefits are due to the application of deep, penetrating heat which brings soothing relief from joint pain and stiffness. The areas of the body most often treated include hands, feet, wrists, ankles and elbows.
Besides common aches and pains in muscles and joints, it is also used, on occasion, to treat muscle spasms and inflammation. Moreover, it has proven to be an effective treatment for a number of medical conditions and diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and neuropathy.
People suffering from dry, cracked skin and various skin disorders such as eczema, have also reported significant improvements as a result of using paraffin baths. In fact, the hydrating effects of this treatment are another of its key benefits and have made it a popular add-on service at many nail spas.
Heat from the wax opens pores and increases blood flow allowing your skin to take full advantage of its moisturizing properties. The wax is sometimes infused with various oils and vitamins to further improve the beneficial effects which include softer and more supple skin. Dead skin cells are also removed with the hardened wax and recently it has even begun to be used as a facial treatment.
Paraffin Wax Baths
Paraffin wax baths differ according to their precise specifications. They are, however, broadly similar in design and function, consisting of a tank and integrated heating element. Most devices allow for the temperature of the heating element to be adjusted by means of a variable temperature control, which on some models is viewed on a digital display. Tank capacity averages 3lb – 6lb for most home use models, while machines employed in a professional setting sometimes have a capacity of 9lb or more.
The time it takes to melt the wax is directly related to its volume and tank capacity, as you would expect, but is also dependent on the particular design and power output of the unit concerned. Melting times, therefore, range anywhere from 1 to 6 hours.
The Treatment Process
Before using your device be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow directions. Baths can be purchased as a starter kit with wax included. Wax refills are available in a huge variety of different colors and fragrances and are sometimes enriched with essential oils and other additives. Scented wax is popular with some people for its ability to create an aromatherapy experience but hypoallergenic waxes are also available for those with allergies or sensitive skin.
A typical session involves heating the wax to the desired temperature before dipping the affected area in the melted wax several times with a brief pause between dips to allow the wax to harden slightly. In order to maximize heat retention, thermal mitts and glove liners are used for hands, or equivalent items for other areas. After approximately 15 minutes the wax will have cooled and hardened at which point it is peeled off and the process repeated for each hand, foot or other body part to be treated.
Paraffin wax baths are generally low maintenance; wax can be reused over a number of sessions but will need to be replaced eventually and the bath itself should be cleaned at regular intervals.
Buying a Paraffin Wax Bath
There are now a wide range of models available from brands such as Dr. Scholls, Therabath, Homedics, Revlon and Gigi. These devices can be purchased from suppliers at a number of locations, including Target, Walmart and Walgreens, and from online retailers such as Amazon. Read our buyer’s guide for more information before making a purchase.