What girl doesn’t love candles? We all have at least one saved somewhere in our home—they add a nice decorative touch to any room (and make for a great Instagram picture), are a great way to make your home smell nice, and they’re the perfect mood setter—whether it’s girls’ Netflix night in or a romantic dinner at home.
But did you know that not all candles are the same? The next time you light a candle, take a look at the label and see what kind of candle you’re lighting. Depending on what ingredients it contains, you may be giving your health a boost—or creating a toxic environment. While there are many conflicting studies on air quality and emissions from burning different types of wax candles, I rather be safe than sorry when it comes to creating a healthy environment and protecting the air quality in my home!
Made from vegetable oil (soybeans), soy candles are natural and they burn cooler than paraffin, which lessens the risk of serious burns from melted wax. They also do not increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and they don’t require chemicals to create their scent. As a result, they burn cleaner and don’t produce black soot like paraffin candles do.
Another perk? They burn 50-percent longer (talk about a money saver!) and they burn evenly, so you’ll never have to deal with that messy, excess wax on the sides of the jar. Compared to regular candles, soy wax candle makers claim that soy candles are much healthier for the environment (they are biodegradable), they emit negative ions, and their scent is stronger than their paraffin counterparts thanks to the lower melting point of soy wax. A larger amount of the liquid wax pool forms around the candlewick, from where the essential oils evaporate leaving behind a lovely scent that lingers longer.
Created via a natural process, coconut wax consists of coconut oil blended with other natural waxes. It burns clean and slowly, and makes a powerful scent. The downside is that it is more expensive, but at least you know you’re not harming your health or bringing toxins into your home (that we know of, at least!). In addition, the natural fragrances mixed like lavender that are mixed in with the coconut oil wax can have various therapeutic benefits, from inducing relaxation and improving one’s sleep to decreasing headaches and improving one’s emotions.
These are what the majority of candles are made from. Paraffin candles are derived from petroleum and while they are very low cost, they are made from a non-renewable source. According to the American Lung Association, paraffin candles release petro-carbon soot that contains 11 toxins, including toluene and benzene—both of which are known carcinogens. This toxic soot stains walls, furniture and is circulated through air ducts. A 2009 study by South Carolina State University even showed that burning paraffin candles indoors creates unhealthy airborne chemicals.
PALM WAX + BEESWAX
Other types of candles you’ve likely seen or have heard about include palm wax (made from palm oil) and beeswax (produced by honey bees). Palm oil burns clean and is biodegradable, but palm oil plantations have resulted in deforestation at the expense of endangered species. Beeswax candles are also all natural, give off the faint smell of honey, and they are hypoallergenic—meaning that they are ideal for those with allergies and sensitivities. The downside is that they tend to be pricier than the other waxes, and if you don’t check the label to make sure it says 100-percent pure beeswax, it may be combined with other waxes to reduce manufacturing costs.
Quick Tip: Next time you’re candle shopping, be sure to check the label. If it doesn’t say 100-percent soy or coconut, then it most likely contains a wax blend of paraffin and others. In fact, many candles (even ones that claim they contain only soy or coconut wax) are not regulated, which means that even though they can contain as little as 25-percent soy or coconut wax, they will claim to be 100-percent. Also, when purchasing soy candles, keep in mind that 91-percent of the soy grown in the United States is genetically modified, so make sure that your candle includes a USDA-certified organic label.
Don’t forget to check the wick! Some studies showed that burning candles containing lead-core wicks can result in indoor air concentrations of lead above EPA-recommended threshold. So to be on the safe side, shop for candles that are made with cotton or non-metal wicks!
I’m currently obsessed with soy candles from Trader Joe’s and Sur La Table. I love the smell of balsam and cedar on a cold winter day! Do you have a favorite go-to candle? Let me know in the comments below!