"Beauty Glossary" is a HuffPost series that breaks down beauty product techniques, treatments and ingredients so you know exactly what you're putting onto and into your body.
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You may have seen women dipping their hands or feet into an opaque white or pink substance at the nail salon and wondered what the heck that was about. The liquid is actually paraffin wax, which is commonly used in beauty products to soften and smooth skin.
Paraffin comes in many forms and is a type of mineral oil often found in face creams and body lotions. Paraffin is used in beauty products because it is a less expensive way to make skin feel moisturized.
According to board-certified dermatologist Michael Shapiro, paraffin wax has a long history of also treating many different physical conditions such as increasing blood flow, arthritis, improving joint stiffness and reducing pain when heated and applied/rubbed onto the skin/joint area.
"It has a low melting point, which means that it melts into a liquid at a temperature that is not too hot to immerse onto the skin," says Shapiro. Hence the relaxed feeling you get during a paraffin wax treatment when your hands or feet are engulfed in the warm substance.
Although the ingredient makes your skin feel softened and relieved from minor aches, Shapiro says that's about all it does. "It is not actually properly hydrating and repairing skin," he says.
The dermatologist adds that paraffin is known to clog pores and can also be harmful if swallowed because of the fact that it does not break down easily. "In skincare, paraffin is commonly used in its oil form and again, it is a derivative of petroleum," says Shapiro. "It is very smooth and slippery, which is why it's oftentimes put in lotions and creams so that it can smear and rub into skin easily. [But] paraffin is overall not good for the skin."