Wax play is perhaps one of the better-known BDSM activities outside of the kink community, in that many people who would consider themselves vanilla have at least heard of it. But it’s also widely misunderstood and, as a result, many people either shy away from trying it or end up trying it in an unsafe way.
But what is wax play and how can you explore it safely if it appeals to you? We’ve put together this guide to help you get started safely.
What is Wax Play and Why Are People Into It?
In short, wax play involves dripping melted candle wax onto your own or your partner’s body for kinky or sexy purposes. It falls under the umbrella of “temperature play” (using heat and cold to create sensations) and “sensation play”.
People enjoy wax play for lots of different reasons. Some people do it as a form of pain play, while others find the sensation very erotic and sensual. For some people, it is a form of artistry and the aesthetics are a big part of the appeal.
As always, the more interesting question is “why are YOU interested in wax play?” You’ll have a more exciting and fulfilling experience if you can identify what it is about this type of kink that appeals to you specifically.
Does Wax Play Hurt?
As with many BDSM activities, it can but it doesn’t have to.
Wax play can vary enormously in how painful it is and even in whether it hurts at all. So if you don’t consider yourself a sadist or masochist, don’t stop reading just yet. You can do wax play without pain being involved at all.
The level of pain involved depends upon a number of factors, most importantly what type of candle you use (more on that in a minute) and the height from which it’s dropped onto the skin. The further away from the body the candle is, the longer it has to cool before it hits. Some areas of the body are also more sensitive than others and therefore more likely to cause pain.
Even if you do wax play as a sadistic or masochistic activity, it should not involve second- or third-degree burns. Any burn more serious than a reddening of the skin that lasts a few hours to a day is a problem and should be avoided.
Is Wax Play Safe?
Yes – with caveats.
Since wax play obviously involves lit candles, it’s vital to observe best practices in fire safety. Keep a fire extinguisher and plenty of water close by, never leave a burning candle unattended, and ensure that the flame is kept away from any soft furnishings or other flammable objects. It’s sensible to avoid using spray-on deodorants, hairspray, or other flammable products before a wax play scene. You should also be prepared in case of accidental burns. Keep a burn kit nearby, including a cool cloth and some appropriate dressings and bandages.
Start with less sensitive areas when you are first experimenting with wax play. Large or fleshy areas such as the back or butt are usually good choices. It’s okay to do wax play on the breasts or genitals as long as you’re careful, but you should never do it on or near the face.
If you’re the Top, it can be a good idea to try the wax on yourself first to gauge its temperature. Simply drip a little bit on your arm. Start with the candle further away from the body than you think you need, whether you’re using it on yourself or a partner, and move gradually closer if you want to.
Finally, always make sure you establish a safeword before you play and check in with your partner regularly to make sure you’re both okay and having a good time.
And if something does go wrong? Seek medical attention immediately and be honest about what you were doing. Your healthcare provider has seen it all before and can only help you to the best of their ability if you’re honest with them.
If you want to learn more about doing wax play safely, consider attending a workshop at your local BDSM dungeon, feminist sex shop, or kinky conference.
What Type of Candles Should You Choose?
One of the most important parts of doing wax play in a safe and enjoyable way is choosing the right type of candles to use. Please, please don’t just grab that scented Yankee Candle and try to do wax play with it!
Different types of wax have very different melting points. The most common types of wax you’ll encounter for wax play are paraffin and soy. Paraffin has a higher melting point, so is a better choice for those with more experience or who are looking to incorporate a level of pain into their play. Soy melts at a lower temperature, making it safer for beginners and ideal for those looking for a sensual experience with little or no pain.
With the exception of coloured play candles, you should always avoid candles with colourings, dyes, scents, or glitter added. These additives can significantly alter the melting point and can also contain harmful chemicals which are damaging to your skin.
If in doubt, it’s always best to choose candles designed specifically for wax play. These will be made of a suitable material, and any dyes or scents added will be skin-safe. You can buy wax play candles from reputable adult retailers or from specialists at a BDSM store or fetish market. You might also see wax play candles marketed as “massage candles” in mainstream adult stores. These are broadly the same thing, though may have additional ingredients added with massage in mind.
One last word of warning: never, ever use beeswax candles for wax play. These burn much hotter than other types of candles and can cause serious injuries if you get the wax on your skin.
What About Clean-Up?
Aside from the safety aspect, the biggest question curious kinksters have about wax play is the mess. And yes, it can get messy! You can mitigate a lot of this issue by laying down a large plastic sheet before you begin (I use disposable plastic shower curtains which can be picked up for around £1 each). This will catch any stray drips and also contain the dried wax when you’re finished with your scene. Another option is to use a fabric cloth or old bedsheet. Simply shake the loose wax into the bin, wash your drop sheet, and it’s ready to reuse next time you play.
You’ll need to scrape off the wax when you’re done playing. You can also incorporate this as part of the scene, if you wish. I find the easiest implements to use are either a blunt knife (the kind you eat your meal with, not the kind you chop vegetables with!) or the long edge of a plastic credit card. Removing wax is significantly more painful on areas with body hair, so you might want to either have the bottom shave first, or stick to less hairy areas of the body.
I recommend removing as much of the wax as possible before the bottom gets into the bath or shower, and then using something to catch any stray wax before it goes down the drain. Ask me about that time I nearly destroyed my ex’s shower after a wax play scene!
Soy wax can leave a sticky residue on the skin after you play, so factor in plenty of washing-off time to your total scene time.
How Else Can You Heat Things Up with Wax Play?
Wax play can be fun and rewarding to do on its own. You can also incorporate it with other types of play or kink for additional fun if you want to.
Not sure what to do? Here are a few ideas to get you started, which you can adapt to suit your interests and dynamic:
- Use different colour candles to draw pretty patterns, symbols, or pictures on your partner. Pride flags, symbols that are relevant to your relationship, abstract patterns, and even words are popular choices. Take pictures of your handiwork before you clean up if you’re both into that.
- Add a blindfold or ear plugs to bring an element of sensory deprivation into your scene. If you do this, always have another form of check-in established (for example, two squeezes of your hand means everything is okay, while one squeeze means there’s a problem.)
- Combine wax play with ice play for double the temperature-based fun. The contrasting sensations can be intense in a very enjoyable way.
- Incorporate shaving your partner’s body in preparation for wax play into your scene.
- Try removing some of the wax using a whip or flogger when you’re finished.
Have you tried wax play? Do you have any sexy or unusual ideas to share with our readers? Drop them in the comments if so.
Amy Norton (she/they) is a sex writer, blogger, and pleasure product afficionado who has been running her site, Coffee & Kink, since 2016. She is a polyamorous, queer femme and lives in the UK with her nesting partner, cat, and frankly ridiculous collection of vibrators.