There’s nothing like a good candle, is there? And not just for when you want to get all hygge. Candles are an excellent tool for creating a certain kind of ambience and inducing relaxation. But how well do you know your candles? What kind of wax are they made of? Where are the scents derived from? You see, there are a plethora of options when it comes to how one constructs a candle and it’s a good idea to be in the know, as you’ll see below.
Most of the candles we see on the market – usually identified by their low price point – are made of paraffin wax. Yes, the same paraffin that I hashed out in my last post. It’s derived from petroleum and is essentially a waste product produced during the ‘cracking’ process. If it’s not in your skincare, it could be in your candles! And burning paraffin has been linked to cancer. The effects aren’t as dramatic or rapid as that of second-hand smoking, but research out of South Carolina State University found that inhaling the fumes given off when burning paraffin candles has been linked to both lung cancer and asthma. You might be one of the many that thankfully do not contract cancer, but if you suffer with any respiratory sensitivity, give your candles some thought.
Next up, the wicks. My guess is that you’ve never given a single thought to candle wicks and their construction. Am I right? I know I certainly hadn’t. But did you know that some candles – particularly those imported from China – contain lead to help keep the wick in place, like an anchor? There is evidence that toxic fumes are sometimes given off from the lead during burning.
Many of the candles we see on our shelves are scented – and foor good reason. There’s nothing so comforting as the scent of your favourite candle as it gently wafts towards you as you perch with a cup of tea. But maybe looking at the effects of synthetic fragrance will make you reconsider. Synthetic fragrance found in all of our cheap candles (because it’s cheaper to make than using essential oils) is a known irritant for a lot of people. This is why we see so many ‘fragrance-free’ products marketed towards those with sensitive skin. Synthetic fragrances contain pthalates, which are known endocrine disruptors. They can cause sperm damage and concentrate in fatty tissues and breast milk. Not great, right? And you might find if you have sensitive skin that you start to feel a little itchy or irritated if your body is not happy with the chemical concoction that you’re burning.
Aside from all the chemicals used in the fragrance, as paraffin candles burn they give off benzene and toluene. Both of these are toxic and also found in diesel fumes. Many made of artificial dyes will also give off these as the candle is burning. Suddenly the air doesn’t smell so sweet, does it?
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are many great candles on the market. They will cost you more, sure, but will provide the best experience. Plant-based candles such as those made of flax, soya and rapeseed can all offer great alternatives to toxic paraffin. Otherwise, there’s always beeswax. You’ll find that all of these burn much slower than paraffin candles, thus lasting much longer. They may come scented or unscented. For scented ones, look out for those containing natural fragrance derived from essential oils. Generally speaking, you find brands that use natural waxes tend to gravitate towards natural fragrance, but not always, so make sure you do your research.
Here are 5 of my favourite brands that stretch across all price points:
- Picklecombe House Sensual Aromatherapy Candle – I normally purchase these from Holland & Barrett. I’ve tried a few scents, but this is my favourite. A flaxseed candle that smells of ylang ylang and rose; what’s not to love?
- Root Lavender Vanilla – This votives pack a serious punch. They burn for ages due to their beeswax base, and throw out a great amount of natural fragrance. This one is super calming and I burn it when I’m working.
- Neom Real Luxury – This one is the ultimate for me. Burn while bathing and feel like a total goddess. It’s a blend of lavender, jasmine and Brazilian rosewood…I know right (swoon)?! Neom use seriously high quantities of essential oils in their candles to give you the most heavenly treat money can buy.
- Bee Fayre Honey Lily – These candles are ridiculously long-burning and smell incredible. Vegan-friendly and made of plant-wax, a portion of every purchase goes to protecting bees. I love the whole range, but this scent is really comforting to me. Burn while curled up with a good book and your favourite cup of tea.
- Pacifica Island Vanilla – This scent also comes in eau de toilette style, but burnt in candle form it is ridiculously divine. Burn it all day, every day I say!
What are your favourite natural candles? Please share them with me as I’m always on the hunt for new ones!