Paraffin wax, a type of alkane hydrocarbon, has many uses in a variety of products, including candles, food, adhesives, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. This white, tasteless, odorless, wax also is an effective lubricant. Paraffin wax is insoluble in water and has a melting point between 115° Fahrenheit (46° Celsius) and 154° F (68° C), which makes it useful in a variety ways.
In cosmetics, the wax is an ingredient that softens skin and makes products creamy and shiny. Many lipstick, creams and lotions contain paraffin. It is so well known for making skin soft and smooth that many stores sell paraffin wax baths for hands, elbows and feet. A few basketball players coat their hands with the wax prior to games because soft hands allow them to catch and throw the ball better. The wax also covers pills and tablets to give them a polished, easy-to-swallow finish, and it helps to delay the release of the medicine.
Paraffin wax is used in food as a preservative and stiffener, and it adds luster. Some cheeses are encased in the wax for protection against moisture and mildew. The wax also will extend the life and freshness of fruit, and it is a fundamental ingredient in gum. Many chocolatiers add this kind of wax to melted chocolate so, when the chocolate dries, it has a delicious sheen and is just soft enough that it is easy to bite and chew.
One useful property of this type of wax is that it is a thermoplastic material, meaning it is a solid at room temperature but, when it is applied to something while hot and liquid, it will stick to the surface. When the wax cools, it creates a strong joint. This property has been developed for use with high-speed machinery in packaging, furniture, shoe manufacturing and cigarette manufacturing.
The biggest sector that utilizes paraffin wax is the candle industry. The refined paraffin wax used for candles is safe and complies with strict United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The high melting point of paraffin wax allows the wick to burn at a slow pace, only burning down as the wax gradually melts.
Rubbing a bar of the wax on the bottom of your skis or snowboard will help to ensure a fast run down a snow-covered mountain. It also will help protect the equipment from the resulting moisture. Wax on the bottom of a surfboard also protects the board from the salty water.