Paraffin is a popular substance in the industry, and it can be found in candles, cosmetics, and shoe polish. But paraffin is not harmless to health and also problematic for the environment. Find out more in this article.
What paraffin is and how you can recognize it
Paraffin is a chemical composition of saturated hydrocarbons. It is obtained mainly as a waste product in the petroleum industry. Paraffin is:
- slightly waxy;
- odorless and tasteless;
- water repellent;
Because of these and several other properties, inexpensive paraffin is a popular material for the processing industry.
You can find paraffin and its chemical variants, among others, in:
- Medical products;
- Cleaning agents.
Since there are still no precise research results on paraffin, the substance is not currently classified as harmful to health by the Federal Office for Consumer Protection. Nevertheless, it has already come in for sharp criticism, and it is considered particularly problematic that petroleum is used in its production.
Paraffin from cosmetics also ends up in wastewater during daily use. Since they are not biodegradable, they remain in the water cycle. Therefore, environmental protection is another reason to avoid paraffin products.
If you want to know whether a product contains paraffin, you should look at its various designations. Depending on its chemical composition, the substance also appears under the following names in the list of ingredients:
- Paraffinum liquidum;
- Petroleum or petrolatum;
- Microcrystalline Wax (Vaseline);
- Mineral wax or mineral oil;
Many cosmetic institutes and nail studios offer paraffin baths today, which are supposed to give you supple skin. The short-term effect cannot be denied. A warm paraffin bath loosens the muscles and immediately makes your skin soft and smooth.
However, a paraffin bath can have the opposite effect in the long run. It is warned that the water-insoluble paraffin compounds merely lie on the skin without being absorbed into it. Your skin cannot absorb the paraffin compounds, and the pores become clogged.
The skin’s protective mantle is clogged, and regeneration processes are prevented. Regular use of paraffin cosmetics and paraffin baths can cause your skin to become even drier and more brittle and wrinkles to form.
Of course, this benefits the industry: the more paraffin products you use, the drier and more dependent your skin becomes on the substance. You have to reapply the cream constantly – a vicious circle develops.
Paraffin oil in numerous products
The same risks apply to paraffin oil. This serves as the basis for the paraffin components in cosmetics, medical and household products, and some foods.
According to the product comparison portal codecheck.info, paraffin can not only dry out and age your skin in the long term but even worse: random samples have repeatedly shown the presence of so-called MOSH or MOAH compounds in paraffin products.
These are formed as unintended impurities during the extraction of paraffin. Tests have shown that these impurities are deposited in the body’s fat cells, lymph glands, liver, and heart. Inflammations and cancer can result (see the European Food Safety Authority).
Paraffin wax for candles
Paraffin wax is a common ingredient in commercial candles and tea lights. A U.S. South Carolina State University study concluded that burning candles containing paraffin wax produces toxic gases. The heat generated by a candle flame is not sufficient to completely burn off the substances contained in the paraffin wax.
A residue of gases of health concern – including alkenes, alkanes, ketones, benzene, and toluene – passes directly into the room air and is inhaled by humans. Frequent paraffin candles in closed rooms (for example, in the bedroom or bathroom) can develop allergies, eczema, respiratory diseases, and even lung cancer.
Even if paraffin baths and creams containing paraffin do good for a short time – you do your body a more excellent favor if you use plant-based products. Especially for the cold winter months, products based on rich vegetable oils or waxes are suitable. These include:
- Jojoba oil;
- Evening primrose oil;
- Avocado oil.
These are soothing and nourishing and preserve valuable vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals. If you are prone to allergies and have had good experiences with creams containing paraffin, try switching to natural products containing almond oil. Almond oil has a similarly low allergy potential and additionally nourishes your skin.
Of course, you don’t have to do without a candlelight in your home: There are also excellent alternatives to conventional paraffin candles.
Good alternatives are candles made of beeswax or soy. Beeswax candles even have the advantage of burning brighter and warmer than paraffin and filling your rooms with a pleasant scent.
However, ensure that the candles are produced sustainably and that the beeswax does not come from industrial production.
Carole Brooks has been making candles for many years. She loves to create candles of all different types and for all different purposes. Here she shares her experience and knowledge. Carole is a graduate of Texas A&M University.