Confession: I am a total candle fiend. From the gorgeous choices at Diptyque (my personal go-to) to the beauty world's new obsession, Boy Smells (try the 'Kush' candle and tell me it isn't one of the best things you've ever smelt!), I am hooked. But there has always been a fair bit of talk about whether burning candles can actually be harmful for you. With this in mind, I looked into whether there's any truth to this claim, and I also sourced the best non-toxic candles that are all-natural and smell amazing.
First up, it's worth addressing the claim that burning candles can be harmful to people and/or the environment. The Telegraph reports that paraffin wax, which many candles are made from, can be harmful to us when burned. Paraffin wax is made from petroleum waste, and therefore can create "toxic benzene and toleuene chemicals, both of which are known carcinogens," writes the newspaper. They also write that "breathing them in is as bad for your health as second-hand smoke." They say that the scents and dyes used in candles may result in asthma attacks and allergies.
These are pretty bold claims, but are they backed up by science? A theory discussed on the NHS website (but is apparently yet to be published in a journal) perhaps adds some clout to the theory that candles are bad for us. Scientists found that the smoke produced by certain candles can be linked to illnesses as serious as cancer. Burning candles made from paraffin wax is apparently an "unrecognised source of exposure to indoor air pollution," the NHS website quotes from the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Many of these claims, however, remain unproven due to lack of research. So it's worth bearing that in mind.
But if you're at all concerned, there are a number of candles that are made from natural wax and are therefore 'non toxic'. They avoid paraffin wax, and many also opt for cotton wicks for a safer, cleaner burn. Take a look at my choice of the best ones:
Goop's candles are expensive but — in my opinion — worth it. They are made from Soy bean and all have special cotton wicks, which require a little extra trimming. Not only do they look super chic, they burn for up to 65 hours, and smell rich, mysterious, and luxurious.
Aromatherapy Associates' candle promises 'inner peace', and the fact that it is made from soy wax and contains frankincense and cardamom helps fulfil this promise. It's definitely on the higher end of the price spectrum, but this is the perfect candle to light at the end of a stressful day and unwind with.
Another Goop one, because this really seems to be their area of expertise. The Uma Pure Calm Wellness Candle may seem pricey, but when you smell the Ayurvedic essential oils of chamomile, lavender, vetiver, rose, and geranium, you'll realise it's totally worth your pennies. Uma's candle is made from soy wax, and contains essential oils and no nasties.