Everything You Need to Know About Paraffin Manicures (and How to Do One at Home)

paraffin manicure

You’ve probably noticed “paraffin manicure” on your nail salon’s menu, and you’ve also probably wondered what the heck paraffin was. If that sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve broken down everything you need to know about this softening, smoothing treatment, including tips on how to do one yourself at home.

What is a paraffin manicure?

It’s a manicure that includes paraffin wax—a colorless, odorless wax derived from beeswax and petroleum. The nail technician dips your hands into the heated wax (or uses a brush to paint the wax onto the skin) until they’re covered in several layers. Once your hands are waxified, a plastic glove is placed over them and wrapped in hot towels to boost the treatment’s benefits. The wax is often mixed with essential oils like lavender, tea tree, peppermint or aloe vera to double the benefits in the process and give it a soothing scent.

Once cooled, the technician works to peel the wax away and provide the standard manicure (including cleaning, shaping and buffing the nails before applying nail polish). They also play close attention to trimming the cuticles and massaging your hands with rich lotion to lock in the extra hydration and softness.

What are the benefits of getting one?

Paraffin manicures are great for healing dry and cracked hands, making them silky and smooth again. Once the wax hardens around your hands, it opens up your pores to release any dirt or toxins, while also removing any dead skin cells.

As mentioned above, paraffin wax is petroleum-based, so you can find this ingredient in everyday products like Vaseline, baby oil and other ointments (which makes sense since all of these items keeps moisture in and helps soften the skin). Paraffin wax helps add moisture to the skin while developing a barrier to retain your natural oils.

The treatment also has thermotherapy benefits like increased blood flow, relaxed muscles and reduced stiffness in joints, so it’s recommended for people who suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia and other joint mobility issues. The wax helps relieve pain and boost skin elasticity (aka mobility and movement).

Is paraffin wax safe?

It's a completely natural ingredient, but it’s not recommended for people with hypertension, diabetes or varicose veins—you could experience numbness, unusual sensations or poor circulation if you are diabetic. Also, skip the treatment if you have super-sensitive skin and are prone to heat rash. As always, it’s best to talk to your doctor to decide if paraffin wax is right for you.

How much does a paraffin treatment cost?

It depends on the nail salon or spa, but the average cost is $20 to $40 on top of the cost of your regular manicure.

So how do I do a paraffin manicure at home?

To get started, all you need is paraffin wax, a microwave-safe bowl, essential oils, plastic gloves and a towel.

  1. Heat the wax (mixing in 12 to 15 drops of essential oils to enhance the scent and benefits) in a microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals (mixing in between each one) until it’s liquified. There’s also the option of using a double boiler, ¾ cup of water and a cup of mineral oil as well. (Or look into the Revlon Paraffin Bath to recreate the nail salon scene at home and let the machine do the work for you.)

  2. While you’re waiting for the wax to cool to a comfortable temperature, wash your hands well with soap, rinse, dry completely and rub on a lot of lotion—it will all absorb while it’s encased in the wax.

  3. Once the wax is ready, check to make sure it’s not too hot and then dip in one hand up to your wrist, taking it out and dipping it back in until your hand is completely covered in five to seven layers (wait a few seconds between dips for the layers to dry a little). Too avoid too much mess, try doing one hand at a time over a surface that won’t be damaged by wax.

  4. Put on the plastic glove and wrap your hand tightly in a towel to keep the wax warm. Leave the wax on for 15 to 20 minutes, then peel it off (the wax should come off in large sections) and massage more lotion onto your hand. (No need to wash your hands again.) The whole process should take about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on if you do both hands at the same time and how long it takes for the wax to cool). For best results, do this every two weeks.

Is there anything else I need to know?

To get the most out of the treatment, avoid wiggling your fingers (since it’ll crack the coating) and don’t apply polish until you fully clean the residue from the surface of your nails (especially gel polish—if there’s any paraffin wax stuck or too much oil or lotion, it won’t stick).

8 New Nail Art Trends to Try This Fall

about face matte fluid eye paint review chelsea candelario
Chelsea Candelario

Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...
read full bio