There’s nothing better than a scented candle. So chic, so sweet and so…toxic? Certain types of waxes commonly used in scented candles are filling our homes with toxic and carcinogenic fumes. Which is a real problem considering 81% of us regularly use air care” products such as candles in our homes.
Back in January, Michael Gove, then Environment Security, waged a war on scented candles as part of his Clean Air Act, urging manufactures to reduce emissions in an attempt to reduce indoor air pollution. Alongside wood and coal burning stoves, and indoor non-compliant fire places, candles are a major source of indoor pollution that can cause a worsening of health conditions such as asthma and lung cancer.
But don’t worry – not all candles contain carcinogens and harmful chemicals. GLAMOUR caught up with Nicola Elliott, clean candle advocate and founder of Neom, to discover exactly what you should look out for when choosing your next home scent.
What types of candles are bad for you?
According to Nicola, the main offender when it comes to harmful candles is paraffin wax; “Paraffin is derived from petroleum which is one of the biggest environmental contributors of carbon dioxide. It contains up to 11 Carcinogen compounds that are toxic air contaminants and therefore damaging to our environment and our health!”
Why do brands use paraffin if it’s so bad?
“Cost is definitely a factor for brands, as paraffin is much cheaper than other types. Also, using a toxic wax enables a stronger smelling fragrance – but at the same time, you’ll get a smoky, sooty flame and an uneven burn.”
Are there any safe candle waxes?
Luckily, there are plenty of non-toxic alternatives to choose from so you don’t have to give up on candles all together. “Vegetable, soy, beeswax and coconut waxes are much more eco-friendly alternatives to paraffin,” says Nicola. “These are completely healthy and toxin free; they’re free of petrochemical content, all renewable, sustainable and biodegradable and free from pesticides and herbicides. They’re smokeless and soot free and result in a longer burning candle which burns right to the edge and all the way down to the bottom so you don’t get wax wastage.” Sounds pretty great to us.
What about the perfume and essential oils? Are those ok?
Wax aside, there’s also the issue of the ingredients within the wax – and unfortunately, it’s not exactly straight forward. “The majority of chemicals found in synthetic fragrance are derived from petroleum and natural gas, and considering 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed by the blood stream, you’d really want to avoid anything that’s not 100% natural.”
According to Nicola, using natural essential oils rather than synthetic creates candles that not only smell amazing but that deliver true therapeutic benefits too, as essential oils are used in alternative medicine and aromacology.
Ok, so how do I know if a candle is safe?
As with any beauty product – you should always check, the label! “Always check the ingredients listing on the back of the pack; you should be looking for unscented or scented wax (scented with essential oils),” advises Nicola. “Look out for vegetable, soy, beeswax or coconut waxes and avoid any that contain paraffin.” Noted.