Wax Lips

Wax Lips

One of the great childhood pleasures of the twentieth century, wax lips have been altering the appearance of young tykes for over a hundred years. Found in candy aisles and Halloween trick or treat bags, these novelty items have yet to go completely out of style. And, to whom do we owe thanks for a century of fun facial accoutrements? Why, the petroleum industry, of course!

The story begins with kerosene, which was once used to illuminate most of the nation’s lamps. The manufacturing of kerosene creates a solid byproduct called paraffin wax. In the early 1900s, there was plenty of this stuff lying around and enterprising people were busy trying to find new uses for it. Over at Crayola, for example, they used it to manufacture children’s crayons. It could also be used to make phonograph records and candles. Some even marketed the substance as a cheap alternative to chewing gum.

Over at the American Candy Company, someone came up with the idea of making wax novelty candies. They created items such as horse teeth, vampire fangs, and the iconic pair of red, supple lips that look like a collagen experiment gone horribly wrong. Each of these items was made from a mold and included a flap of wax hidden on the underside that one could bite into, thereby affixing the colorful novelties to their face. The wax was often slightly flavored and sweetened, usually with either a hint of cherry or mint.

Despite the added flavoring, wax lips were never really intended to be actually eaten, just chewed. But place anything in a candy aisle or a trick or treat bag and it is likely to be consumed by a kid. Thankfully, food grade-paraffin wax is non-toxic and has been used for many years in everything from coating cheeses to those wonderful little wax bottles filled with sweet liquid. It is non-digestible, however, so eating too much could conceivably block up the internal plumbing. Thankfully, there have been no reported incidents of ill health as a result of eating wax lips or they would have been pulled from store shelves long ago.

Instead, they remain a popular novelty item to this day with millions of sets churned out every Halloween. The wax division of the American Candy Company was eventually sold to Concord Confections, and is now owned by the Tootsie Roll Company, which markets the wax lips under the name Wack-O-Wax. They still bring smiles to kids faces all over the world, which, come to thing of it, is a lot more than you can say about most petroleum byproducts.

If you held a particular fondness for these novelties in your youth, we hope you will take a moment and wax nostalgic with us in our comments section below, as we tip our hats to these facial candles, er, candies from yesteryear.

One Response to “Wax Lips”

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  1. Donna Matthews says:

    I just remembered how much my sons loved the orange wax harmonica type whistles that we would always get at Halloween. They had such a unique flavor and they would chew them one cylinder at a time to prolong the life of the noise maker. They are now in their late 40’s and still will chew parafin if they can find it. I could only find the mustaches this year.

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