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May 2018

Paraffin Prosthesis

Author Affiliations
  • 1The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine, Galveston
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(5):521. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.0122

To remedy the inevitable changes that accompany the aging body, fillers have been used since the early 19th century in efforts to enhance appearance. With goals of rejuvenating and restructuring both real and perceived bodily imperfections, the development of fillers was not without its share of blunders. The story of fillers begins with the discovery of paraffin in 1830 by a German chemist named Baron Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach. He was able to create the material through the dry distillation of beechwood tar.1 Noting that the substance was extremely unreactive, he thought paraffin could be used as a lubricant or perhaps as a replacement for beeswax in candles. The name paraffin comes from the Latin words parum and affinis, meaning barely and affinity, respectively. In the years to follow, paraffin would take the medical community by storm.

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