While candles not only encourage and set the mood for having sex, some are even used by partners during sex. The act of intentional candle dripping for sexual reasons is called wax play, and while it’s often associated with BDSM, it’s not always categorized as such.
If you’ve ever seen those “massage candles” advertised in sex shops and online, you might think those are candles used for BDSM wax play. Not so, explains Carol Queen, PhD, resident sexologist at Good Vibrations.
In reality, since massage candles have a lower melting point, they turn into body oil upon contact. For this reason, they’re categorized as ~sensual~.
Massage Candles For Sensual or Softer Play
If you’re into harder BDSM and are looking for wax play that leaves actual wax on your body, you’ll want to stay away from massage candles and lean into more BDSM-focused options. “Hot wax can be a frightening and high-sensation element in play, and BDSM often eroticizes that kind of experience,” explains Queen. “It pairs especially well with bondage.”
If you’re looking to try out wax play (the non-massage candle kind), here are some pointers from experts:
1. Set up a safe area to play in—far away from anything flammable.
“Fire is wily,” says sexologist Megan Stubbs. “Whenever we’re talking about anything with an open flame, it’s important to have the right kind of environment. Don’t have lots of easily flammable things like tissues, drapes, or hair products nearby.” Also, deadass buy a fire extinguisher and have one nearby.
You should also keep an eye out for lingerie thrown around in the heat of the moment, bed sheets, and curtains, says Mistress Couple, a professional dominatrix and author of The Ultimate Guide to Bondage: Creating Intimacy through the Art of Restraint.
2. Make sure you’re using special, body-safe wax candles.
There are some candles like the Doc Johnson Japanese Drip candles, which Stubbs recommends, that are designed with this kind of wax play in mind.
Body-Safe Candle Ingredients:
Soy: These are the safest candles to use since they cool the most quickly on contact, says Smith. Plus, they’re less likely to cause skin irritation.
Paraffin: These burn at a hotter point than soy candles, so try one if you’re into more intense (read: painful) wax play.
Candle Ingredients to Avoid:
Beeswax: Stay away from these (beeswax will burn the skin!), or any candle that does not have its ingredients listed, says Smith.
Any colorings or dyes: These can change the melting point of a candle and possibly result in a burn you weren’t anticipating, explains Couple.
Everything You Need for BDSM Wax Play
3. If you’re using a candle with a glass container, use an electric candle warmer or make sure to blow out the flame first.
If you don’t, the flame might make contact with the glass when you tip the candle to pour it, causing the glass to heat up quickly and burn you, or even shatter, according to Smith. Definitely not what you want here.
4. Prep your surroundings for cleanup ahead of time.
Wax is a bitch to clean up, so doing some pre-play prepping might save you a headache later on. Put down a plastic sheet or use puppy pads, per Smith. It’s also not a bad idea to lay down an old sheet you don’t care about over your bedspread as an extra precaution, adds Queen.
5. …And prep your body for cleanup.
Once wax cools and hardens, it can be super painful to remove from any areas with body hair. Sure, you can shave ahead of time, but another option recommended by all our experts is to prep you or your partner’s skin with oil. Baby oil will make wax removal much easier. Plus, it’s a nice opportunity for a sexy warm-up massage, says Couple. When it does come time to slather on some oil, stay away from the face, any open wounds, genitals, and hair, if possible, adds Smith. Back or torso is a good starting off point.
6. Let the candle burn for around 20–30 minutes, and then test the wax on yourself first.
It’s important that you test the wax on yourself before trying it on a partner so you can physically empathize with the sensation your partner will be experiencing, says Couple. That said, your pain tolerance might be way higher than your partner’s, so communication is always a must as well.
7. Control any splashback by changing the height at which you pour.
Check in with your partner and see if they want less heat (move the candle further away, this way the wax has more time to cool before contact) or more (move the candle closer).
“Avoid getting closer than six inches away from the skin unless you’re okay with the risk of burns,” says Couple. “The real danger of pouring is when a piece of wax that’s on fire or very hot falls onto the skin and burns it. This can happen from any height, so it’s important to go slowly, be vigilant, and use the correct materials.”
8. Experiment with the timing of your pours.
“For some, the slow drip…drip…drip… of the candles provides a sense of anticipation. For others, its like nails on a chalkboard.” says Couple. “Some folks might want to let the candle sit and melt for a while so that the pour produces more of a splashing sensation. Just be careful about the temperature of the wax. A nice way to control wax temperature but increase volume of melted wax is to put candles inside glass jars in a water bath in a crock pot.” This way, you have more wax to play with, but you aren’t torching them at high temps to get there.
9. Play with shapes and patterns.
You can also drizzle the wax over your partner’s back to create different sensations and patterns, says Smith. Don’t feel limited to just dumping wax on them, either—you can also bust out a paintbrush or use your fingers to get more creative.
10. Once the wax has cooled, play with the hardened wax, too.
Just because the wax is now on your partner’s body doesn’t mean that’s game over. Running ice cubes over the still-warm wax, or tapping on hardened wax, can open up even more pleasure, says Couple.
11. Don’t skimp on the aftercare!
Whenever something like BDSM is involved, you have to make sure there’s also an element of aftercare (positive things like cuddling, words of affirmation, reassurance, water, hugs) that needs to be worked into things, explains Couple. “Wax play in particular should end with a massage of aloe vera or sunburn cream, to help soothe sensitive skin, and who knows, maybe lead into the next part of your sexual encounter…”
12. Once you’re done-done, use a plastic card or comb to remove hardened wax.
Assuming you stayed away from any hair (or your pre-applied baby oil helped loosen the hardened wax off), you can also use a plastic card (like a credit card, but not actually your credit card, please) or comb to remove any residual wax, says Smith.
Want to get the hottest sex positions, the wildest confessions, and the steamiest secrets right to your inbox? Sign up for our sex newsletter ASAP