Liquid paraffin oil is a form of oil that has been obtained from several sources, including whales, coal and crude oil. In the modern era, the process of distilling crude oil yields this hydrocarbon-rich substance as a byproduct. It has many practical uses for medicine, industry, cosmetics and science.
Liquid paraffin oil is used by physical therapists to warm up a body part such as the hand. When the hand is submerged into a tub of paraffin, the tissues inside the hand are warmed up to prepare the patient for a more effective therapy session. Paraffin is also used as a skin treatment. The body is wrapped in hot oil and brushed dry using a Japanese brushing method. After the dead skin is removed, a hydrating wax nourishes the new layer of skin.
Liquid paraffin is used to preserve unstable substances. When a substance is suspended in an oil base, ingredients are protected against breaking down. The consumer should be aware that the chemical suspension containing oil can break down over time. Therefore, it is important to read product labels to identify expiration dates.
As in centuries past, liquid paraffin oil is commonly burned in lamps and lanterns. Campers, survivalists, eco-conscious humans and self-contained communities like the Amish may rely solely on paraffin oil to provide light, heat and fuel for machinery instead of electricity. Some forms of paraffin oil are highly flammable, so consumers must use caution if burning paraffin oil in the home.
Paraffin oil, along with mineral oil and other ingredients, is used as a heating source in laboratories. Known as an oil bath, the paraffin oil mixed with other liquids, including water, ethylene glycol, silicone oil, bath salts and sand must be handled under a fume hood using personal protective equipment.
Lubricant or Base
Paraffin oil is frequently used in industry as a lubricant. For example, industrial bakeries may use paraffin oil to grease tin or aluminum pans for baking bread other foods. The oily quality of paraffin also makes it a popular ingredient for cosmetics products, including foundation, lip balms and lipsticks. The oily base containing paraffin ensures that a cosmetic product will not wipe away or rub off easily.
Paraffin oil may be used as a chemical ingredient in medicines, including topical creams, moisturizers, salves, balms and laxatives. When paraffin oil is used in laxatives, it is not absorbed by the body in the intestinal tract, so it excreted as human waste.