Being in the all-natural and even organic industry, I get asked very frequently about candles. Questions come from all sides too! Some are skeptical of essential oil diffusers, some are anti-candles, and some are right in the middle. However, many of the questions all center around one thing: are candles actually dangerous? What is the problem with them? Are there candles out there that actually are safe? In this post today, I'm going to address some surprising truths and myths about different kinds of candles and give a couple reasons why you might want to start looking into beeswax candles again! Enjoy!
What KINDS OF CANDLES ARE OUT THERE?
Before we get into whether or not candles are dangerous, let's start by talking about the different kinds of candles available to us!
According to Home Zen Spa¹, there are currently six different kinds of candles on the market (this is minus all the different shapes you can mold them into, like pillars and tapers!):
Palm Wax Candles
Liquid Wax Candles
So let's dive into each of them really quickly, just to give you a little background on the differences between each kind.
PARAFFIN CANDLES - Paraffin candles are the most common kind of candles available on the market today. Often times they are marketed as soy candles, and to make them cheaper, they are blended with paraffin wax. This kind of candle contains dangerous ingredients like refined petroleum, artificial dyes, and fragrances of unknown origin. Paraffin and these types of ingredients are incredibly cheap to obtain by manufacturers and suppliers, thus having cheaper prices in the stores for larger candles.
SOY CANDLES - Soy candles are a more natural option than paraffin candles, but it is almost impossible to find truly 100% pure soy for making soy candles. In fact, many candle-making experts claim the only way to truly know if your soy is 100% pure is by purchasing soy beans from an organic farmer and refining the wax yourself! All soy candles need a small amount of paraffin in their compositions to burn; we will get to this later why this is such a dangerous thing to be aware about!
PALM WAX CANDLES - Palm wax candles were very popular for a while until recent years with an increase in environmentally sustainable practices. Because these candles were created from palm trees that only grew in remote and small areas of the world, with deforestation, the trees became endangered and many manufacturers refused to continue using this material.
BEESWAX CANDLES - Beeswax candles are made of natural beeswax created and produced by honeybees. This type of candle is the oldest type of candle ever produced, and they burn with a golden flame that doesn't release any toxins (more on this later!). They have a high melting point as well, thus allowing them to burn slower and longer.
BAYBERRY CANDLES - Bayberry candles use bayberry wax, an extremely rare and costly wax taken from the bayberry shrub. Because of this, most candles that use this type of wax are very expensive and they are very difficult to find. However, some manufacturers will use small amounts of this type of wax in holiday and Christmas candles because they release a fresh, wintery smell.
LIQUID WAX CANDLES - Liquid wax candles use paraffin oil and don't leave behind a ring of melted wax up against your glass candle jar. They can burn for lengthy periods of time, but they contain paraffin wax, which, as I've mentioned before, we will get to soon!
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES SURROUNDING SOME OF THESE CANDLE TYPES?
If you don't know much about candles and the dangers behind them, brace yourself to read some pretty shocking statistics and facts. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but when I first read some of these articles, I was blown away!
Because candles aren't considered a consumable product, candles are not heavily regulated by the FDA. Since this regulation is very flexible, many manufacturers can get away with adding toxic ingredients to their candles to make the pricing cheaper, thus increasing their profit margins at the expense of the consumer.
In 2014, an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences and confirmed some shocking news about many products we use in our houses today: an ingredient called styrene had been confirmed as a known human carcinogen².
This finding endorsed a paper released by the National Toxicology Program in 2011, finding that Styrene was in fact a human carcinogen.
In simple terms? Styrene causes cancer³.
And you know what products contain forms of Styrene?
Let's give a solid example from one of our most well-known brands on the market:
If you look at the ingredients list, it contains an ingredient called "Stearate". By doing some digging, according to ScienceDirect, Stearate is in fact a form of Styrene⁴.
So what does this mean? It means that those coveted candles you love oh-so-much contain ingredients that are actively known as human carcinogens.
So how is this possible, you may ask?
Like I mentioned before, candles are not strictly regulated by the FDA. Meaning, candle companies can often times put whatever ingredients they want into their candles and get away with it!
So let's move on to one of the bulk topics of this post: paraffin wax.
WHAT IS PARAFFIN WAX, AND WHY IS IT DANGEROUS?
Paraffin wax is a cheap and affordable wax made from refined petroleum¹. According to Candle Science, paraffin wax is "a petroleum by-product created when crude oil is refined into gasoline. It is a white, odorless solid that is formed into 10 pound slabs. Paraffin is the most commonly used wax for candle making"⁵.
According to the BBC, "South Carolina State University experts analyzed the fumes released by burning candles in lab tests. They found paraffin wax candles gave off harmful fumes linked to lung cancer and asthma..."⁶.
There was even a report done by Stanford University that compiled multiple different sitings of paraffin wax giving off harmful toxic chemicals such as toluene and benzene, both clinically proven to cause cancer⁷.
To bring it back to center, there are many studies out there that have proven that paraffin wax can cause cancer. So here's the question: why are we still using candles that contain paraffin?
According to Armatage Candle Company, finding a "true" pure soy wax is incredibly difficult. Soy wax can only be as pure as the manufacturing process used to create soy wax, since soy wax is not easily extracted from soybeans⁸. Because of this and the chemical process used to make soy wax, in order to keep costs down, manufacturers often "cut" their soy wax with palm wax and/or paraffin. This increases their profit margin, but they can still market it as "natural and pure" soy wax because these phrases, yet again, are not regulated by the FDA.
Not only can paraffin wax be dangerous to your health, but it can also be dangerous to your home! According to Pathways ARTS, "Over time, repeatedly burning paraffin candles leaves black soot stains on walls, ceilings, furniture, and drapery"⁹. Therefore, not only are you damaging your lungs, but soot is staying in your home as well!
SO WHY BEESWAX CANDLES?
Beeswax candles are different in the sense that they don't need to be extracted from plants or other products. Beeswax is created and produced by honeybees, making it an all-natural product from the start.
The main difference with beeswax candles is because they are an all-natural material, they don't actually create smoke when they burn! With most candles, they release a type of smoke due to their chemical makeup. However, because of the chemical makeup of beeswax, if you are using a pure and USDA Certified Organic beeswax for your candles, they will not release the same kind of smoke!
According to eBeeHoney, "when beeswax candles burn, they clean the air like a great, natural air purifier. Just like lightening, beeswax produces negative ions when burned. These negative ions attach to positive ions (like dust, pollen, mold, odor, toxins) floating in the air and in this process cleans the air"¹⁰.
This was by far one of the most shocking things I learned as I was studying the history and research behind candle-making. Not only had I been led astray by false information about all candles being bad, I was missing out on an awesome opportunity to help purify the air in my home with more all-natural alternatives!
SO WHY BRING THIS UP?
After spending much time with our marketing team in discussion and researching multiple options, we are more than thrilled to announce that we are going to be adding beeswax candles to our shop!
For the longest time I've been wanting to make candles of my own, and now that we've finally found an all-natural solution that can actually be good for your health, we are ready to dive in!
Our candles are going to be made with 100% pure USA-sourced Beeswax from AnythingBees, USDA Certified Organic Coconut Oil from vivanaturals Organic, and 100% pure Essential Oils that we have been trusting for years for our families and for this business! We will also be using 100% Organic Hemp wicks to help our candles burn brighter and slower, while keeping our options biodegradable and sustainable!
Friends, maybe this is just me, but I'd much rather pay a little bit more money for a candle that smells amazing, doesn't have any chemicals in it, and actually helps purify the air than have products in my home that cause cancer. We are so incredibly thankful to have found this opportunity for our business, and we can't wait to launch our entire collection soon!
Stay safe y'all,
Paul. (2019, July 2). Best Wicks FOR Beeswax Candle. My Home Zen Spa. https://my-home-zen-spa.com/candles/best-wicks-for-beeswax-candle/.
Sigurdson (EWG), T. (2021, September 9). Expert panel confirms that fragrance ingredient can cause cancer. Environmental Working Group. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/expert-panel-confirms-fragrance-ingredient-can-cause-cancer.
NTP (National Toxicology Program). 2016. Report on Carcinogens, Fourteenth Edition.; Research Triangle Park, NC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/roc14
Baysal, B. M. (1989). Stearates - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/stearates
Paraffin Wax for Candles - IGI Paraffin Candle Wax. (2004). CandleScience - Candle and Soap Making Supplies. https://www.candlescience.com/wax/paraffin-wax
BBC NEWS | Health | Candle use linked to cancer risk. (2009). BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8211543.stm
Lee, M. (2017). Candles Causing Cancer. Stanford University. http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2016/ph240/lee-m2/
Fischer, K. (2021, May 1). A Comprehensive Guide to Soy Wax. Armatage Candle Company. https://armatagecandlecompany.com/blog/guide-to-soy-wax/
The Truth About Beeswax Candles. (2015, December 19). Pathways ARTS. https://pathwaysmv.org/the-truth-about-beeswax-candles-2/
eBeeHoney. (n.d.). Beeswax Information. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://www.ebeehoney.com/beeswax_information.html#:%7E:text=When%20beeswax%20candles%20burn%2C%20they,this%20process%20cleans%20the%20air.