I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a fragrance girl, through and through. This is typically in regard to perfume, but I also love setting the ambiance in my home with scented candles. There’s nothing quite like the soft flicker of candlelight and a delightful fragrance to make a space feel cozy and welcoming, and I’ll light one up most nights, no matter the season.
That being said, I’m aware of the pitfalls of conventional candles. Perhaps you’ve heard about them too. But if you haven’t, let me break it down for you: Many candles contain some pretty nasty ingredients that disperse into the air when burned. This includes phthalates, benzene, and toluene – all of which can wreak havoc on your hormones and respiratory system.
The Ugly Side of Conventional Candles
The FDA doesn’t require ingredients on candle labels, so mainstream candle companies don’t typically list them. That makes it difficult (or downright impossible) for consumers to know exactly what’s in the candle they’re purchasing. Similar to perfume and cosmetics, candle companies can get away with vague labeling because their formulas are protected as trade secrets.
Sadly, unless all of the ingredients are listed on the label, you can pretty much assume the candle you're considering buying has at least some harmful ingredients in it. For instance, most candles are scented with synthetic fragrance oils, which may contain phthalates and other hormone disruptors. And then there’s the wax: Oftentimes, candles are made with paraffin wax, which is made of petroleum. When paraffin wax candles are burned, they release chemicals like toluene and benzene into the air, which can have adverse effects on your lungs. Lungs are a detox pathway in the body, so it’s important to keep them clean and healthy in order to function properly.
What To Look For Instead
If you want to unwind by the light of a candle without breathing in junk, look for cleaner burning waxes. This includes coconut wax and soy wax. These waxes are nature-made and don’t contain the pollutants or carcinogens that are in typical paraffin wax, so they’re less likely to trigger allergies and health issues. Beeswax is another popular option – it actually purifies the air when it’s burning, and has been proven to last longer than other waxes. Many candle companies use a blend of these waxes to create a candle that burns evenly and for a long time.
As far as fragrances, look for candles that are scented with essential oils or with phthalate-free fragrance. Phthalates are among the nastiest offenders in the synthetic fragrance world – they’ve been linked to a variety of health issues in terms of endocrine disruption, pregnancy, and child development.
Unless a candle’s label or website indicates otherwise, you can pretty much assume that your average candle contains these worrisome ingredients. Play it safe and stick with candles that use only natural waxes and fragrances.
If you’re a candle lover like me, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are plenty of healthier options in the candle world. Here are 11 of our favorite clean-burning candle brands, so you strike a match and set the ambiance in your home – without stressing out about what nasty chemicals you’re breathing in.
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Orchid + Ash
Orchid + Ash is an apothecary and fragrance line that focuses on home and personal fragrances. Their candles are made from an all-natural coconut wax blend, and the fragrances they use to scent the candles are ISO 9235 certified, meaning they are derived directly from plants as essential oils and isolates.
If you’re looking for the perfect cozy scent that will have you longing for a night in with your favorite blanket and mocktail, try Golden. It’s my current favorite – I’m burning it as I type this – and it has the perfect blend of fig and pear, paired with spices, and a rich and comforting tonka bean base.
Brooklyn Candle Studio
Beauty and simplicity combine with captivating scents in Brooklyn Candle Studio’s home fragrance line. The brand uses 100% soy wax from American-grown soybeans for their candles and scent their products with premium, phthalate- and petroleum-free fragrance oils infused with essential oils.
For an earthy, woodsy smell, try their Catskills candle. If you’re more of a floral girl, Tuileries might be right up your alley.
Co-founded by two sisters who began their company after experiencing autoimmune issues linked to hormone-disrupting ingredients, Urthy Scents is committed to clean. They use a blend of coconut and vegetable waxes for their candles, and their fragrance oils are phthalate-free. My favorite part is the crackling wooden wick – the crackling sound while burning is perfect for cozy nights in. For a year-round scent that’s both sensual and carefree, try Warm Sands.
Primally Pure candles feature a blend of beeswax and coconut wax for a burn that’s long-lasting and non-toxic. They’re scented with 100% essential oils, most of which are organic or wildcrafted.
To fill your home with the aroma of a southern California summer, try their Cool Citrus Breeze candle. It includes notes of bergamot, sweet marjoram, spearmint, and neroli for a bright and herby fragrance.
Slow North is an Austin, TX-based lifestyle company that promotes slow living and practicing presence through their stress-relief products and homewares. Their candles are made from soybean wax and 100% essential oil for fragrance.
To create a dreamy, spa-like atmosphere in your home, try Midnight Garden, featuring a blend of lavender, rosemary, and geranium. Rosemary + Lemon is another herbaceous favorite.
Hazel Candle Co.
If you’re tired of heavily scented candles that smell anything but natural, try Hazel Candle Co. Their fragrance blends are inspired by nature, and will leave your home lightly scented and refreshed. They’re also hand-poured, and their wax is made of 100% US-grown soybeans.
Hazel Candle Co.’s Morning Brew candle gives your home the welcoming ambiance of your favorite coffee shop, and the Rain Water candle features a clean, earthy fragrance.
Applewood Candle Co.
Allison, the creator of Applewood Candle Co., was inspired to create a line of clean candles when her sweet pup was experiencing health issues from conventional home fragrances. (Which makes you wonder, if our pets are experiencing adverse effects of these toxic fragrances, what are they doing to our bodies?) Through trial and error, Allison created a line of clean-burning candles that are safe for pets and humans alike. The candles are made of a blend of coconut and soy wax for a clean burning experience.
Sea Salt + Teakwood was my home’s signature scent all summer long, and their Shea Butter + Sandalwood is the perfect blend of coziness and luxury.
Fontana Candle Company
Fontana Candle Company’s candles are MADE SAFE certified, meaning they adhere to strict guidelines prohibiting over 6,500 harmful ingredients. They use a blend of beeswax and coconut oil for a long, clean burn, and their products are scented with essential oils.
For an uplifting aromatic experience, try their Wildflower Citrus candle. And you can never go wrong with classic Pure Vanilla.
Maison Louis Marie
Bring a piece of France to your living room with candles from Maison Louis Marie. With a rich family history of botanicals, the brand focuses on creating beautiful and timeless fragrance blends for home and body. Their candles feature pure soybean wax and are scented without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
Most of their candles are also formulated as perfumes, so you can fill your home with your very own signature scent. Très chic. Try No. 05 Kandilli if you’re looking for a powdery floral, or No. 12 Bousval for a delightful blend of citrus and woodsy notes.
Cayla Gray promises only clean and safe ingredients in their fine fragrances and body care, and they extend that commitment to their candle line. Their wax is made of 100% US-grown soybeans, and they use USA-made fragrance oils that are free of phthalates and parabens.
For a soft floral scent that fills your home with sweet spring vibes, try their Petals candle, which features notes of jasmine, bergamot, and sandalwood.
Cayla Gray Petals, $38
Founded by a mother-daughter duo who each have their own health issues, Meaningful Mantras creates clean-burning candles with aroma-associated mantras on every label. They hand-make their own wax daily to ensure it’s free of paraffin, petrochemicals, and other harmful ingredients often found in mainstream candles. To scent their products, they use 100% essential oils, meaning no synthetic fragrance woes.
For a warm and soothing aroma, try You Are Calm – a blend of ginger and vanilla. If you’re looking to refresh your space, their blend of Valencia orange and grapefruit called You Are Enough might be more your speed.
With the variety of clean-burning candles on the market, rest easy knowing you can still unwind with the glow of a flickering flame – without the nasty side effects.
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