DATE: May 9, 2005
CONTACT: Tiffany Tubbs-Berry, tiffany.tubbs@ttu.edu

LUBBOCK – Could harmful germs be lurking in the paraffin wax used on hands and feet during a manicure or pedicure? Texas Tech University researchers say yes, and they have discovered a way to combat harmful bacteria with a new product called Safewax, by Avia Candle Co.

Dr. Mindy Brashears, director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence and associate professor of animal and food sciences at Texas Tech, discovered that certain natural bacteria, Salmonella and E.coli can survive in the paraffin wax after use.

Paraffin wax is commonly used for manicures and pedicures to aid in skin remoisturization. Brashears said beauty shops commonly use the same wax on multiple people for up to 30 days. She found that although the wax is heated up, the heat is not enough to kill bacteria.

“We tested the temperature when the wax melts and it just so happens that the temperature is just above body temperature, which is not a high enough level to kill the bacteria,” said Brashears. “When we added the bacteria to the hand dip it grew very well and very fast. It loved the environment.”

Pathogenic E.coli, Staph (Staphylococcus aureus) and other germs found on human hands and feet could pose minimal health risks such as diarrhea and stomach sickness if spread or ingested, explained Brashears.

“It is important that when you are using paraffin hand dips exposed to multiple human hands and feet on a daily basis to make sure that the environment you are introducing to them is clean,” she said.

Brashears and her team of researchers searched for a chemical that could kill the bacteria without compromising the effect of the paraffin wax. Triclosan, a common chemical used in dish and laundry soap, toothpaste and some plastics for children, such as high chairs and toys, was tested.

“We found that Triclosan was effective in killing the germs within the paraffin when applied to it,” said Brashears. “By the time the wax was melted, all the bacteria was gone. It has a long-term effectiveness over several days to continue to kill the bacteria.”

Avia Candle Company took Texas Tech’s research a bit further and created Safe Wax, a wax specifically for manicures and pedicures which contains Triclosan. Safewax comes in different scents as well as unscented.

“Bacteria can lurk in unexpected places and we were glad to help find a solution so that people’s beauty experience would not be compromised by bacteria,” said Brashears.


SOURCE: Dr. Mindy Brashears, director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence and assistant professor of animal and food sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2469 or mindy.brashears@ttu.edu