Paraffin wax is applied to the face, hands, feet and body during spa treatments that are intended to moisturize and soften the skin. Paraffin wax is a soft wax made from petroleum byproducts and has been laboratory tested to be hygienically safe to use. Pure paraffin is colorless, tasteless and odorless, although scented versions are available. If you ingest liquid paraffin or inhale paraffin candle fumes, you may have adverse reactions including nausea, vomiting, headaches or even benzene pollution that can lead to lung cancer. But there are no major side effects to the standard topical application.
Paraffin melts at a lower than normal temperature, meaning that the skin can be submerged in the wax without causing burning or blistering. However, if you have highly sensitive skin, you may experience heat rash from a paraffin application to the skin. This rash, also called prickly heat, looks like tiny red bumps on the face, neck, and upper torso. It can be itchy and uncomfortable.
Paraffin treatments are not recommended for people with hypertension, diabetes or varicose veins. This treatment can lead to abnormal sensations, numbness and hinders circulation if you are diabetic.
Because paraffin comes from petroleum products, people with chemical sensitivities may develop minor swelling or breakouts from the wax treatment. Avoid paraffin wax treatments if you have any skin rashes or open wounds.
Brian Lewis began writing in 1998. His published works appear in the "Ellensburg Daily Record," "South County Journal," "Seattle Times" and "Northwest Anglers" as well as on ESPN.com. Lewis has written concert and travel reviews and poetry and short stories. He has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Washington.