Paraffin wax is a petroleum-based wax that stores heat exceptionally well and has great hydrating effects on skin. The wax melts at a temperature of around 116°-147°F, and is applied to hands either by way of a dip in a paraffin bath or through individual bags with single-size doses of wax. The heated wax forms a coating over the surface of the skin that increases blood flow to the skin and opens up pores to allow hydrating emollients to penetrate the dermis while also stimulating detoxification.

Paraffin was first used by doctors in the 1950s, who used the waxes to help patients suffering from arthritis. In the ’80s, paraffin baths hit their stride and became commonplace in nail salons as add-on services to standard pedicures and manicures. Since then, paraffin applications have diversified with new single-service kits that offer disposable, one-time paraffin services. Clients simply put their hands or feet into individual bags filled with melted wax. And paraffin baths have evolved as well, with warmers now having multiple settings and more automated features.

Melissa Pechey, owner of The Matrix Nail Lab in Cape Cod, Mass., incorporates paraffin into her salon menu as the highlight to her Heat Therapy Manicure and Pedicure, and it is also available as an add-on to other services. “I have about seven to eight clients a week doing paraffin,” she says, “And they absolutely love it.”

Pechey uses the “ladle” technique for paraffin, where a paraffin bath is used to warm the wax and keep it in liquid form, but when it’s time to apply the wax, she ladles the liquid wax into disposable plastic liners, and then inserts the client’s hand or foot.

The “ladle” technique is a direct result of the general public’s heightened awareness of salon sanitation. Many clients feel dipping a hand into a paraffin bath that has been used by other clients before them is unsanitary. However, the cross-contamination issue has proven to be non-existent if proper sanitation procedures are followed.


Why Not to Worry

There are a few factors that prevent paraffin from ­being a good conduit for transferring bacteria and other pathogens. One is that because paraffin is an oil-based wax and does not contain water, it doesn’t provide an acceptable breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and viruses to grow. Another is that during the act of dipping a hand into paraffin, the wax completely encapsulates whatever comes in contact with it, thus preventing it from touching any of the liquid wax around it. This can be seen when the hand or foot is removed from the wax. The wax covering prevents the skin from coming into contact with the rest of the wax in the bath.

Lorna Nehme, an account executive at Divi International, instructs that if nail techs educate clients on the sanitation procedures they follow in the salon, it will ­allow the client to feel more comfortable and enjoy the service more. “Explain the procedures you do to clean and sanitize the baths, and also tell them how the wax encapsulates everything it touches so there is no doubt in their mind that they are safe and in the hands of a professional.”
According to Beverly Ho of the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, whenever inspecting establishments, the inspector ensures that the paraffin wax is not re-used or visibly dirty. Some paraffin users have been cited because they re-use the paraffin that was peeled off a client’s hand or foot after a treatment. This is definitely not protocol, and should never be done. But if board inspectors see that the wax is clean, and in a clean and closed container, it is not standard to write a citation.


How to Sell Paraffin

The best way to sell a paraffin service is to give clients a free sample, because clients will usually spring for the full treatment after trying it just once. Renee Borowy, owner of VIP Nails in Riverview, Mich., says that if a client is interested in a paraffin dip she’ll do it for free on one hand, and the client will usually start incorporating the dip into her services from then on. “They always rebook it after a dip,” she says, “Once they do a service with paraffin they don’t book another without it.”

The service can be especially enticing to clients during the winter months. During this time, offering a discounted paraffin service for standard manicures and pedicures or advertising it as an add-on in posters, coupons, and specials can attract many more customers to the treatment.  

Paraffin also works great for clients who are waiting for their appointments. Offering a complimentary paraffin dip while she waits is a great customer perk, and it also helps to entice your client to incorporate it into her service. And for salons that do hair as well, offering free paraffin dips to waiting hair clients is an easy way to talk about the great nail services offered at the salon. Why not turn hair-only clients into full-service nail clients too?
The pricing of getting a paraffin unit operating is relatively small. One machine typically costs $200, but can be found as low as $150 at tradeshows, and the wax itself averages about $25 for 6 lbs. Charging $10 for a service, techs can recoup their cost in one month if they can do about five paraffin dips a week. According to the latest NAILS poll on paraffin in 2005, the average price techs are charging for the service is $9.83.


Paraffin Wax Treatment

Here are a couple techniques for standard paraffin wax services at the salon.


1a. Dip the client’s hand into the paraffin up to the wrist, making sure the hand is ­relaxed, for a few seconds, then remove. Repeat this dip four or five times until hand is fully coated.



2a. When the dipping process is done, put hands in a plastic liner, or wrap in warm towels.



3a. Place a mitt over the plastic liner, or just leave the hands sitting in the towels.

4. Allow the wax to stiffen for five to 10 minutes, then remove the mitts, liner, or towels.

5. Remove the paraffin and throw away the used wax.

6. Massage the hands and forearms, using massage lotion if desired. ­Remember if you are putting polish on after the paraffin dip to wipe the nail plate with a dehydrator so it is ready for polish adhesion.


1b. Some prefer the ladle technique, where paraffin is scooped into a plastic liner for individual use.



2b. While the client’s hands are in the bag, spread the wax around their hands for them to ensure full coverage.

3. Follow steps 4 to 6.



Some Things to Remember

> It is recommended to have two separate baths for dipping, one for feet and one for hands.

> Always keep the bath clean.

> Do not service clients with open cuts, sores, or burns, and make sure they are not wearing any jewelry.

> Always cleanse hands and feet thoroughly with soap and water or antiseptic spray before immersing.

> If applying polish, remember to dehydrate the nail plate after the dip.

> If using the ladle technique, be sure to clean and disinfect the ladle or use disposable cups.

> Never reuse wax that has been applied to a client — under any circumstances.



Changing the Paraffin Unit

As the paraffin bath is used, dust will eventually fall into the wax and settle at the bottom. When salons are cited for improper paraffin use, it is usually because the inspector can see signs of dirty wax by just looking into the bath. Some manufacturers recommend cleaning the unit every month, while others say to do so after every 25 uses. Get to know your paraffin equipment, and when the wax appears dirty schedule regular cleanings to make sure the wax is always clean. Here are some general instructions on how to clean the bath.


1. Unplug the unit, remove the lid, and let the wax sit overnight so it can harden. Some nail techs will insert hangers, rope, or other objects into the wax while it is still liquid so they imbed into the solid block and help them remove it.



2. After the paraffin has solidified, turn the unit on for a few minutes to heat up the outside edge of the paraffin and loosen it from the unit.



3. Then press down on one end of the paraffin or use the hanger or rope to lift the block out of the unit.



4. You can either remove the block of wax, or carefully slice off the bottom layer that has accumulated the debris. Make sure that the slice fully removes the dirty layer and that the remaining wax is clean.



5. Scrape and wipe out the remaining paraffin wax in the unit. A blow dryer can help soften stubborn pieces of hardened wax to make them easier to remove.



6. Clean the inside and outside of the unit with an all-purpose cleaner or sanitizer, and thoroughly dry the unit.



7. Place the block back into the unit and add any additional paraffin to bring the level up to the proper height.



On to the Wax

There are many different kinds of paraffin wax out there, each with its own scent. But they all have excellent moisturizing properties and are great conductors of heat to make for soothing and relaxing paraffin services. Here’s a sampling of some professional offerings.


Depilève’s Tropical Paraffin Wax is enriched with mango oil and vitamins E and F to obtain an intense moisturizing treatment with a delicious and revitalizing aroma. The wax leaves the skin healthy and luminous.


FPO’s Pinnacle Nurture Infused Therapeutic Paraffin penetrates at the cellular level to super-moisturize and protect the skin, replenishing vital nutrients necessary for healthy, beautiful skin. It also creates a moisture shield to prevent dryness and premature aging of the skin. Nurture Paraffin is available in Unscented, Peachy Vanilla, Coconut Mango, Kicked Up Cranberry, and Spa Blend.


GiGi has a collection of different scented paraffin waxes. They incorporate different fruit extracts to maximize the waxes’ antioxidant and hydrating powers, and the light scents help soothe the client and relax her. Scents include Crushed Grape, Pomegranate Cranberry, and Blueberry.


Helen of Troy’s Peach and Lavender Paraffin Waxes help bring dry, damaged skin back to life. The Lavender Wax is infused with lavender oil to remove nervous tension, relieve pain, and disinfect skin, while improving circulation, and the Peach Wax uses peach oil to heal dry, sensitive skin.

PerfectSense Paraffin treatments guarantee sanitary care by offering disposable, individualized treatments to every spa client. The activator and minerals in the heater pouch mix and create heat, which melts the paraffin. Each mitt or bootie has 70 grams of medical-grade paraffin inside it, and it is placed over the client’s hands or feet for the treatment.

Sheba Nails’ Peach Scent Paraffin is infused with peach oil and essential ingredients to calm and smooth dry, rough skin. The wax creates a great experience with its moisturizing and deep-skin conditioning qualities. It also increases circulation, eases aching joints, relaxes stiff muscles, and leaves skin looking fresh and healthy.


Keep your paraffin bath safe and free from microbial and bacterial contamination with Mastex’s Thermal Spa Plus Anti-Bacterial Waxes. The waxes kill many harmful bacteria or other possible contaminants. The waxes also include aloe vera oil and lanolin to moisturize and condition dry, damaged skin.

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