After having a long day at work, it’s time to unwind and relax. Lighting a candle can be a simple way to de-stress and create the perfect ambiance for self-care, but did you know that they can come with a host of unwanted side effects? Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yes – candles can be toxic (…gasp)! Luckily there are lower-tox options available, as long as you know what to look for. Soy vs. beeswax – what’s healthier? What are the healthiest candle brands?
Keep reading to learn more! We’ll burn the myths to the ground (yes… get ready for some candle puns too).
Note: This article contains affiliate links, meaning In On Around will make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me maintain the site. As always, I value full transparency & only work with brands I love and trust.
What Ingredients Are Commonly In Candles?
The candle market is a major home care industry with over $3.14 billion in annual sales (and that’s just in the United States)!  There’s an abundance of candle brands available, however, they’re not all created equal.
In fact, most candles are made with cheap paraffin wax with a host of nasty chemicals that you breathe in – yikes. Paraffin is made from a petroleum by-product, also known as petrol.
These ingredients are commonly found in conventional candles:
- Common in wax:
- Synthetic fragrance
- Phthalates (endocrine disruptors)
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Carcinogens, like toluene, benzene, alkenes, formaldehyde…
- Artificial dye
- Common in wicks:
- Lead (banned in USA in 2003, but used in other countries and may be imported)
- Processed wood
- Bleached cotton
How Can Candles Impact Your Health?
Companies are legally allowed to mask thousands of chemicals under one term: fragrance. Whenever fragrance is listed on a label, you don’t know what you’re really buying. Chemicals in fragrance have been linked to a host of issues, such as developmental disorders, weight gain, fertility problems, and menstrual health issues.
9/10 candle owners use them to make a room feel “cozy.” 
To learn even more about fragrance, check out: Safe Fragrance 101 – What Is Natural Fragrance?
Candles can have a major impact on your health, whether you want to admit it or not. They can contain known carcinogens, volatile organic compounds, allergens, and more.
While candles can help promote a sense of relaxation, you could be exposing yourself to potentially harmful vapors, especially if you’re prone to allergies. It’s a no from me!
Are Candles Safe For Babies?
No, candles are not safe for babies. It’s best to avoid all fragranced products around babies and young children, especially in their nurseries. Newborn lungs are extremely fragile – they’re still developing.
Using unnecessary fragranced chemicals around them will only do more harm than good. Not to mention the health risk of getting an accidental burn!
It’s best to avoid using all candles around children (and pets).
Deceptive Candle Marketing
Unfortunately, there is a lot of deceptive marketing in the candle industry (as with most of the personal care & home care industries). Greenwashing, or making the product seem “healthy” and “good” for the environment, is rampant. It’s a marketing plot to sell more products.
These companies have a lot of tricks up their sleeve to try to make a buck. If you see these terms, know that they are likely put on the label for sales.
Don’t fall for these traps:
- “Made with essential oils” – this does not mean the product is 100% essential oil based
- Brands can oftentimes mix synthetic fragrance and essential oils, while marketing the product to seem “healthier”
- “Fine fragrance”
- “Wax blend”
- “Clean fragrance”
- “Hand poured”
- “Pure” – regulations only require “pure” candle companies to contain 51% of the material 
- “Naturally sourced”
- “Natural fragrance’
- “Proprietary blend”
- “Soy wax candle”
- “America’s best loved candle”
- “Cruelty free”
- “Natural cotton wick” – this does not mean it’s unbleached
These terms, frankly, mean nothing. They’re all used for marketing and don’t reflect whether the candle is actually “clean” or safe for everyday use.
Most fragrance from candles pollutes indoor air.
Are Bath & Body Works Candles Safe?
Many candles on the market can be toxic to the body, Bath & Body Works included! According to the safety data sheets found directly on the Bath & Body Works website, some of their products can:
- Damage fertility
- Harm unborn children
- Damage organs
- Cause skin and eye irritation
- Lead to allergic reactions
- Respiratory issues, like asthma
It blows my mind that companies are knowingly selling products that damage the well-being of their customers (and their customer’s unborn children). This also includes wall plug-ins.
This should be illegal! Many other popular candle brands can lead to health issues, including Yankee Candle, Homesick, Mrs. Meyer’s, Capri Blue, Homesick, and many, many more.
It makes absolutely no *scents*.
Indoor air pollution is 2-5x worse than outdoor air pollution.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Soy Vs. Beeswax Vs. Coconut
So, what’s the best type of wax? Luckily, each of the below waxes (in their true pure form) gives off a fairly clean burn. Make sure that these waxes are not mixed with paraffin.
These are the safest candle wax options:
- Usually smells a bit stronger
Note: while GMO-free soy wax sounds great, there are no certified GMO-free soy waxes available (that I could find). A lot of candle companies tout “GMO-free” as a form of greenwashing.
- Usually more expensive than paraffin, but burns about 55% longer 
- More sustainable than soy
- Even and slow burn
- Vegan option
- Usually rare to find candles that are 100% coconut wax, since it melts when warm and pure. Usually, it’s mixed with other waxes. Keep this in mind if you see “100% coconut wax” marketed anywhere – it’s likely mixed with soy as well.
What’s The Healthiest Type Of Candle?
When candles burn, they linger in the air (unlike if they were being burned outside where they’re dispersed into the atmosphere). For this reason, it’s always best to look for the following:
- Fragrance-free or 100% essential oils only (gives off a subtle smell/aroma) – these should be 100% phthalate-free. If the brand does not specify 100% essential oils, they likely use a synthetic fragrance blend.
- Paraffin-free wax (opt for 100% soy, 100% beeswax, or a mixture of these with coconut wax)
- Wicks: 100% unbleached cotton, 100% unprocessed wood, or 100% hemp – oftentimes with a cellulose core
- Undyed wax (nothing synthetically colored)
- Organic, although this is rare to find
Candles are never “non-toxic,” however there are “low-toxic” options available.
10 Candle Best Practice Tips
Follow these ten tips for candle safety:
- Many companies blend waxes – be sure the product is 100% soy, coconut or beeswax (NOT mixed with paraffin)
- Look for brands that fully disclose the ingredient list
- Avoid burning candles or diffusing essential oils for long periods of time – use only in moderation.
- If a candle smells too strong to be natural, it’s probably not actually natural! There are many out there that are too good to be true and use synthetic ingredients.
- If the inside of the wick is metal, skip it.
- When in doubt, ask the brand how they manufacture their products! If they say “natural wick,” ask if its been bleached.
- Trim wicks to 1/8 inch to reduce the amount of soot created
- Instead of blowing out a candle, use a candle tweezer to gently dip it into the melted wax (this reduces the amount of soot created)
- Never burn a candle in a flammable environment
- Never ever leave a burning candle unattended & keep them far away from any children or pets.
Ingredient transparency is key.
Which Candles Are Safe For Your Health?
Despite the thousands of nasty candles sold in stores, there are many low-tox candles still available on the market!
Here are three high-quality brands you will love:
- Fontana Candles (15% off code: inonaround15) – they’re now also available on Amazon!
- Made from beeswax + coconut wax, 100% pure essential oils, untreated wood wick (which crackles as it burns)
- Offer a wide variety of candle scents – everything from french press coffee, lavender, lemon orange, to wildflower citrus & more!
- Stonelight Candle [Added to this list August 2023 – check them out!]
- This is a Long Island company that exclusively uses essential oils and 100% soy-coconut wax
- They’re handmade and is free of any additives. They use pure unbleached cotton wicks coasted with soy wax. No fragrance oils or dyes of any kind!
- I’ve spoken with the Stonelight Candle founder many times and she cares deeply about the wellbeing of her customers
- The essential oil scents smell delicious – plus she offers unscented options
- Follain Candles – These have been discontinued from the Credo site (as of October 2023)
- Made from soy oil, coconut oil, and essential oils with a 100% unbleached cotton wick (without a metal core)
- Two main scents:
- No 1. – Lavender, Bergamot, Sandalwood, Vanilla
- No 2. – White Tea, Lavender, Fig Leaf, Basil
This is not an exclusive list. There are many more great brands out there – use the information in this post to make an informed choice before purchasing.
Other Fragrance Methods
If you still want to fill your house with a lovely smell, you don’t need to solely rely on candles. My favorite method: create a potpourri with cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and other herbs (like rosemary)! Simmer it on the stove – your home will fill with the delicious smell. It’s so easy.
In moderation, these can also be good options:
- Room sprays, like Fontana Home Sprays (15% off code: inonaround15) or Grow Fragrance
- Airome’s essential oil plug-in diffuser or Asakuki diffuser
Specific essential oils, potpourri, and candles can be dangerous to pets too – use caution. Use extra caution with eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, and more. Inhaling these fumes (even if they’re more natural) can potentially hurt your pet.
Using a high-quality air filter is by far the best way to reduce indoor smells. You can read more about air quality & purifiers here: Are Ozone Air Purifiers Safe? Best Air Filter Buying Guide
Essential oils are not essential – they can also pollute the air.
In Summary – Non-Toxic Candles
While candles can look pretty & create a nice ambiance, it’s important to opt for safer low-tox options when possible. Opting for brands that are high-quality, transparent, and sustainable is best! Look for paraffin-free wax with 100% essential oil blends and unbleached cotton wicks.
Don’t be fooled by deceptive marketing and *candle* with care!
Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the below FAQs to learn more about soy vs. beeswax non-toxic candles!
What Ingredients Are Commonly In Candles?
Candles commonly incorporate potentially harmful paraffin wax, synthetic fragrance, phthalates, carcinogens, artificial dyes, bleached cotton, and more.
What Is The Most Common Candle Wax?
Most candles are made with cheap toxic paraffin wax with a host of nasty chemicals that you breathe in. Paraffin is made from a petroleum by-product, also known as petrol.
Are Candles Safe For Babies?
No, candles are not safe for babies. It’s best to avoid all fragranced products around babies and young children, especially in their nurseries. Newborn lungs are extremely fragile since they’re still developing.
What's The Healthiest Type Of Candle?
The healthiest candles are made with 100% soy, coconut, or beeswax, with 100% essential oils that are free of any synthetic fragrance. These candles should use unbleached cotton wicks or unprocessed wood.
Do you regularly use candles?
Which do you prefer – soy vs. beeswax? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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Want to read more? Check out my other articles here!
Information on Soy vs. Beeswax candles: Plateful Health, Armatage, Pathways, Healthline, This Organic Girl, The Filtery, Green America, EPA, Over Fifty And Fit, NY Times, Scents And Aroma, Dr Oz Show, Candle Science
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