It’s candle season! Time to fill our homes with the scents of everything pumpkin spice, cinnamon stick, and caramel apple cider. But before you light those wicks it’s important to know what’s in your candle.
Candles used to be an essential part of everyday life. Especially as we move into the fall and winter, the daylight hours in the northern hemisphere get shorter and shorter candles and oil lamps provided light beyond the sunset. They helped make the evenings productive.
Candle making, for the most part, used to be done by women in preparation for the dark evenings. They would make a good supply of candles from tallow or beeswax to last the winter.
With the invention of the electric lamp, the need for candles changed from one of necessity to something more for decor and pleasure as they are used today. With the paraffin candle gaining popularity, companies could offer a low priced candle that reminisced of those old-fashioned days from our heritage.
What is Paraffin Wax?
Paraffin wax is a by-product of petroleum refinery. Like all petroleum-based products, it starts as crude oil. After several other petroleum-based products have been extracted off, the wax is left as a by-product of the refining process. The wax is then treated with benzene and or toluene (known carcinogens) to bleach the wax.
Why could it be bad for you?
It is thought that the chemicals in the paraffin, along with the benzene and toluene can have an adverse effect on health. Paraffin has a high smoke rate which emits particles into the air that can settle in the lungs.
Artificial Fragrance and Scents
While the science behind the dangers of paraffin wax and artificial fragrances has not been settled, (The National Candle Association claims that tests have been performed for years ensuring the safety of burning paraffin candles) others claim that these fragrances can trigger allergies, asthma, lung irritations and even go so far as to say they can cause damage to the brain and central nervous system.
Why Beeswax is better
Beeswax, when burned, has a very low smoke emission. It has a light honey scent that occurs naturally as the bees create it. The only process that comes in creating a beeswax candle is in the melting and pouring steps. There are no chemicals used to refine 100% beeswax.
Not only do beeswax candles not contribute to air pollution, they have also been found to actually clean the air. Beeswax releases negative ions into the air when burned. These ions bind with pollutants and remove them from the air.
What about fragrance?
Thankfully, beeswax candles are often scented with natural fragrances like essential oils. These essential oils can also provide health benefits like air purification and aromatherapy.
What to look for when buying a beeswax candle
100% beeswax candles can be on the expensive side. But if you do a little research you can rest assured that your money is going toward a quality product.
Some of the expense comes from the fact that for every 5 pounds of honey, bees produce 1 pound of wax.
-Look for 100% beeswax. Sometimes you’ll find a blend of beeswax and soy or coconut oil. These ingredients are safer than petroleum but should bring down the cost substantially from a 100% beeswax candle.
-Buy unscented or scented only with 100% essential oils. Make sure it says 100%, some companies will add a mix of essential oils with artificial fragrances.
-Natural wick material. Make sure the wick is metal free and made from a natural ingredient like cotton.
Make your own!
Beeswax candles are easy to make. You can make them into personalized shapes and add your own essential oils to fragrance them. Check out my post DIY Dipped Beeswax Candles for more information.