Wax On, Wax Off

Ahhh, 80’s movie references never let us down, do they?

But we’re not waxing cars, painting fences or building spare rooms here. In fact, all of those could be reasons why today’s topic is even more of a necessity!

If you’ve ever upgraded from the standard to the “spa” manicure, you may have experienced the odd but oh-so-heavenly paraffin dip as part of your day of beauty. While having ones hands encased in melted wax may seem a little strange, once you get over the part about not being able to use your hands for 20 minutes, it’s quite relaxing.

It’s also great for “owie hands”. Most of you probably know that in addition to maintaining several blogs, I’m also a cartoonist. Over time I’ve developed tendinitis in both thumbs and if I overdo it, the consequences are quite painful. One night I decided to give warm wax a try on my unhappy hands and the relief was instant and amazing! While inflammations tend to be treated primarily with cold therapy, everyone is different and heat can work wonders in small doses.

Paraffin dips–for hands, feet, elbows or any other rough spot–are like hot oil treatments for hair: they sooth and infuse much-needed moisture into tired, frazzled skin. And while you can pay for this treatment at any swanky day spa, you can also do this in the comfort of your own home.

DIY Paraffin Dip

Supplies needed for a DIY paraffin dipYou’ll need:

Paraffin Wax
Mineral Oil
Essential Oil (optional)
Slow Cooker or Double Boiler
Candy Thermometer
Plastic bag(s)
Towels

And even all of that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Basically, for a skin-softening treatment you want 1/4 cup of mineral oil (from almost any drugstore) per 1 lb of wax. And this wax can be the same stuff you find in the grocery store canning aisle, it doesn’t need to be anything special (though you can buy specialty waxes, with the oil already in it, if you really want to). 3 to 4 pounds of wax will give you a good volume to dip hands or feet into, but go with whatever works for you. A few drops of your favorite essential oil can be a nice touch, but is certainly not mandatory.

To melt the wax, slow and steady really is the best way. You can do it on the stove in a double boiler (a large coffee can, for instance, in a water bath) like you would melt the wax to make your own candles but a spare slow cooker or electric pot you can dedicate just to your paraffin dips really is the best. Yes, you can buy paraffin baths for $40 and up, but a flea market Crock Pot will work just as well. Especially if it has a “warm” setting option, that will come in handy later.

So, melt the wax and then let it cool a little bit. This is where the candy thermometer comes in. Wax melts at around 275° F but that’s a little too hot to be comfortable for applying to skin. Ideal paraffin dip temperature is 120° F, give or take.

Once the ideal temperature has been reached, dip a clean hand into the warm wax, remove it (the wax should harden pretty quick in the average air-conditioned home) and re-dip, building up 5-7 layers of wax. Slip the waxed hand into a plastic bag and wrap with a towel (one warm from the dryer is even better). This locks in the heat and helps it penetrate–wax that cools too quickly will not have the same softening effect on your skin. Let your hand rest for 20 minutes.

When you’re ready to wax-off, remove the towel and start scrunching your hand around in the bag, using your other hand to help remove the hardened wax and keep the flakes of wax contained. Marvel at how soft your skin is and do the other hand. Doing both at the same time is nice but you’d need to be awfully skilled with your toes or have a buddy helping you to put on the plastic bags and towels. One at a time is the usual. After all, this is a relaxing activity–don’t rush it!

Now, if this is a personal-use paraffin bath, it’s totally okay to reuse the wax. Just put the dried wax back into the pot at the end of your at-home spa session and it’ll be ready to remelt for next time. There will be some sediment or residue, of course, so ditch the wax if it starts to look murky or icky. If you’re hosting a spa day for your girlfriends, though, it’s best to go ahead and ditch the wax. Paraffin blocks are pretty cheap and there is such a thing as too much togetherness.

2 thoughts on “Wax On, Wax Off

    1. Scraps says:

      That sounds so much better than font of useless trivia 😉

      But seriously, do you remember the scene from Donald in Mathmagic Land where he’s trying to remember something and his mind is full of filing cabinets? That’s kind of how I think of my memory. I’m constantly shoving info into the drawers, it’s just a matter of finding the right one at the right time and using it!

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