Most conventional candles are made up of not that much more than paraffin wax and synthetic fragrances, meaning – a whole lot of fake substances that fill the air we breathe.
Candles are a key part of setting the stage for some relaxing self-care, right? If you’re burning the right ones, totally. If not, your candles could be adding more toxins to the air you’re breathing. We should all resolve to not skimp on cheap candles in 2019 – and here’s why.
Most conventional candles are made up of not much more than paraffin wax and synthetic fragrances and colours, meaning – a whole lot of fake substances that fill the air that we, our kids, and pets, breathe. A 2009 study by South Carolina State University found that burning paraffin wax candles gives off harmful fumes (alkans, alkenes and toluene), which are linked to some serious diseases in humans. Specifically, according to the study, cancer, common allergies and asthma.
What else should you avoid when buying candles?
Paraffin wax. Opt for some of the cleaner-burning vegetable-based options listed below.
Lead wicks. Adding lead-based wire to cotton wicks as a stiffening agent was common practice in candle manufacturing in the US until 1947, (which meant those candles were sources of airborne heavy metals). A 1999 University of Michigan study later found that some 30% of candles in the US still released lead into the air, in amounts higher than is considered safe by the Envrionmental Protection Agency. Be safe and look for cotton wicks. Not all companies follow the rules.
Synthetic fragrances / dyes. The synthetic fragrances and dyes in candles can contain anywhere from 3000-5000 different chemicals, many of which haven’t been tested to ensure they’re safe for humans. We’re talking formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, and more – which can result in headaches, dizziness, allergy symptoms, asthma attacks, and more. Look for essential oils or scent-free candles. And, do you really need pastel colors?
If you already smoke, you’ll want to take extra precaution to make sure the air quality you’re breathing on the daily is clean and clear. Your candle stash is an easy place to start on that. Start by looking for vegetable-based candles (like soy), which are derived from natural materials that aren’t toxic for humans, and also renewable and biodegradable. Often, the brands that take the care to create a base with a healthier material will also use healthier materials for their scents, colours, and wicks.
Here are some better alternatives to paraffin candles, and a few brands we like.
Soy. Apart from the fact that soybean-based wax burns cleaner than paraffin, it also burns up to 30% slower, due to it’s denser consistency and cooler burning temperature. A slower burn time means a more evenly-distributed scent, rather than an agro wave of it. Soy wax and essential oils = a much more pleasant burning experience.
Try P.F. Candle Co.’s cannabis soy candle ($39.00 / 14 OZ) Handmade with 100% natural soy wax, phthalate-free fragrance blends, and a cotton wick, P.F. Candle Co’s soy candles are a big step up from your run-of-the-mill paraffin cheapie. This 14-oz bad boy will burn for 40 – 50 hours.
Beeswax. If you don’t mind making a bit more of an investment in your candles, beeswax is worth it. These candles burn longer than soy (up to 5 times longer – a 100% pure beeswax tealight will burn for 4 – 5 hours), and they have a smokeless flame with brighter light and heat. Beeswax candles are also said to help clean the air by emitting negatively charged ions, which burn away the positively charged ions in the environment – dust, odours, pollutants. If you have allergies or sensitivities, take note!
Try Wonderworks’ beeswax candles ($1.25 – $42.95) These beeswax candles are made by a family-run business of ethical beekeepers in Lanark, Ontario. Get them in any size, from tea lights to tapers to pillars.
Coconut wax. Often mixed with soybean oil in candles, coconut wax is another renewable material that trumps paraffin for its clean burn. It’s made from cold-pressed coconut meat, just like coconut oil, then goes through a hydrogenation process. Coconut oil, like beeswax, emits off a natural, subtly sweet scent, where straight soy candles don’t have any scent without additional fragrances.
Try Hollow Tree Driftwood’s coconut wax candle ($42.00) Made in small batches in BC with premium coconut wax and cotton wicks, these candles are made to conjure the vibe Pacific West coast forests. This one has scents of cedar, pine and amber.