Why ordinary candles are dangerous and how to choose safe ones


The Business of Fashion reports that candle sales are on the rise. British retailer Cult Beauty recorded a 61% increase in 12 months. Prestige Candles in the US have increased sales by a third in the last two years. Luxury brands such as Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton offer candles as a “more accessible entry point” for customers. Candles have suddenly become an attribute of comfort and tranquility. Cheryl Wischhower writes for The Business of Fashion: “Often, consumers buy candles to use as part of their home beauty or wellness rituals. Ads often feature beauticians showing off face masks with a flickering candle nearby.”

All of these candles can be very cute, but they also have a dark side. The fact is that most candles are made from paraffin, which is the final product in the oil refining chain. When burned, it releases toluene and benzene, known carcinogens. These are the same chemicals found in diesel exhaust.

University of South Carolina researchers compared non-scented, undyed candles that were made from paraffin and natural wax. They concluded that “the plant-based candles did not produce any potentially harmful pollutants, the paraffin candles released unwanted chemicals into the air.” Chemistry professor Ruhulla Massoudi said: “For a person who lights candles every day for years or just uses them frequently, inhaling these dangerous pollutants in the air can contribute to the development of health risks such as cancer, general allergies or asthma.” .

Candle scent is also dangerous. 80-90% of fragrance ingredients are “synthesized from petroleum and some from acetone, phenol, toluene, benzyl acetate and limonene,” according to a University of Maryland study.

In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency published a report stating that burning candles are a source of particulate matter and “may lead to indoor air lead concentrations above EPA-recommended thresholds.” The lead comes from metal core wicks, which are used by some manufacturers because the metal holds the wick upright.

Luckily, if you don’t have candles that are more than 10 years old, they probably don’t have a leaded wick. But if you think you still have these candles, give your candle a little test. If you have a candle that has not yet been lit, rub the tip of the wick on a piece of paper. If it leaves a gray pencil mark, the wick contains a lead core. If the candle has already been lit, then simply disassemble part of the wick into fragments, see if there is a metal rod there.

How to choose the right candle

There are safe candles made from natural waxes and natural essential oils. Here is a quick guide explaining what a 100% natural candle includes.

In a nutshell, a natural candle should include only 3 ingredients: 

  1. vegetable wax

  2. essential oils 

  3. cotton or wood wick

Natural wax is of the following types: soy wax, rapeseed wax, coconut wax, beeswax. Aroma oils or essential oils? Essential! Scented oils are much cheaper than natural essential oils, which is why they are widely used in candles. Scented oils also offer a lot more variety in terms of smell, while essential oils have a limit because not every plant in the world can be used to produce oils. But remember that only essential oils make a candle 100% natural.

The most popular wax for making natural candles is soy. It has many benefits. A candle made from soy wax emits less soot when burned. Soy candles can accumulate black soot, but the amount is much less than that of paraffin candles. Because soy candles burn more slowly, the scent is released gradually and doesn’t hit you with a wave of strong scent. Soy candles are completely non-toxic. A soy candle burns longer than a paraffin candle. Yes, soy candles are more expensive, but last longer. Soy wax is also biodegradable, making it environmentally friendly.

As you can see, choosing a natural candle is not difficult. Today, many brands offer natural candles that will give only comfort and pleasant emotions.

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