When you go down the candle aisle in a big box store the variety can be overwhelming. There's a candle of seemingly every scent and color. People usually pick one in a cute jar that smells nice, put it in their cart, and go on about their way.
What most people aren't considering is what that candle is made of.
Most candles in big box stores are made with paraffin wax. Every now and then you'll see a soy candle but more often than not the label will say something along the lines of "soy wax blend”. Blended with what?
It's usually a blend of paraffin and soy.
What is paraffin wax?
Paraffin is a byproduct of petroleum.
That’s right, crude oil.
Why is paraffin wax bad?
A study done in 2009 by South Carolina State University revealed that, when burned, paraffin releases harmful fumes like toluene and benzene into the air. These chemicals are linked to asthma and lung cancer.
What’s more is that in the same study, soy candles did not show emissions of any toxic chemicals into the air.
Because of paraffin’s harmful chemical emissions, many companies are attempting to portray that they don't use paraffin wax by blending it with soy and calling it a “soy wax blend”. However, because paraffin is still present in the candle, those carcinogens are still being released into the air.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Wait, does that mean my Bath and Body Works candles are harmful to my health?!”
In fact, Bath and Body works says on their website that they use paraffin wax along with soy and vegetable wax, but that their candles are not considered soy candles.
That’s bad new for people who’s allergies are triggered by candles.
So why do some companies still use paraffin wax?
Think of it like this: fast food isn’t the best thing to put in our bodies. Even though it may give us heart disease, it’s quick, cheap, tastes good, and satisfies our hunger for the time being.
Big box stores like paraffin candles for similar reasons. Paraffin has a long shelf life, holds color well, and satisfies the consumer’s desire for strong fragrance.
Just like fast food, paraffin wax sounds good until you find out what’s actually in it.
How can I tell if a candle is made with paraffin?
If the label on the candle does not specify what wax is used then chances are it’s a paraffin candle. Because of paraffin’s toxic reputation, most companies aren’t exactly jumping at the chance to tell you that their candles are made of toxins.
I mean, that’s just bad marketing!
Another way to tell if a candle is made with paraffin wax is if it’s any color other than the white, creamy color soy candles naturally have. Although, this isn’t always a surefire way as soy candles can be dyed. However, soy candles are usually kept their natural color as the dye can have toxic properties as well.
Benefits of Soy Candles
Soy candles are often considered the best candles for allergies and asthma.
Soy wax earned it’s allergy-friendly reputation by being a natural product made from soybeans, a vegan, renewable, and biodegradable resource. Because of their all-natural properties, soy-based candles do not emit toxins and carcinogens into the air unlike paraffin wax.
Soy candles have a longer burn time
On a molecular level, soy wax is more dense compared to paraffin wax which means it takes longer to burn through. Because of this, soy candles tend to last longer which means you get more bang for your buck.
For example, a 16oz soy candle will last about 70 hours when cared for properly. A paraffin candle of the same size will last only 45 hours.
Most soy wax is made in the USA
In 2020, the USDA predicted 84 million acres of soy bean crops.
That’s a lot of beans.
I can’t speak for other candle companies, but I can tell you that every Hardeman Candle is made with 100% all natural soy wax that is made from US-grown soy beans.
Non-toxic candle fragrance
Even the best smelling candles that are soy-based can still be toxic if they are not made with clean fragrance oil.
Lots of people say that they can’t burn candles because the fragrance bothers them too much, gives them a headache, or makes their allergies flare up.
That’s not normal.
When a candle is made with clean fragrance, you shouldn’t experience any of these symptoms unless, of course, you are allergic to something specific in the candle.
What makes candle fragrance clean?
Clean fragrance means that the fragrance oil is phthalate-free, toxin-free, and is derived from natural sources.
Phthalate Free Candles
One of the most important candle qualities that allergy-sufferers must pay attention to is whether or the candle they’re looking at is phthalate-free.
Phthalates are sneaky little chemicals that, when consumed, can trigger various allergic reactions especially in candles. If you’ve ever had watery or itchy eyes, a runny nose, or itched around a candle, you were likely exposed to some form of a phthalate.
Look for candles that have “phthalate-free” listed somewhere on the product listing. Similar to companies who use paraffin wax, if it’s in the candle they likely won’t tell you because it’s not something they want to advertise.