Beauty Trends

Is Candle Smoke Really Toxic? A Deep Dive Into the “Clean” Candle Industry’s Claims

Consider a candle wardrobe. Rather than letting the same candle burn throughout the day, light a new one every few hours to keep a steady burning pace.

Newer brands like Grow Fragrance say their 100 percent soy wax candles are better than what’s already out there. The distinction of being entirely made from soy is key, said founder Daniel Swimm, who believes plant-based options to be superior to paraffin alternatives.

“I don’t think that paraffin wax is inherently unhealthy,” Swimm says. “I do think it’s inherently unsustainable.” Paraffin wax comes from crude oil, a finite resource that’s pumped from the ground. Soybean crops regrow every year.

Grow Fragrance’s soy wax comes from soybean farmers in Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina, and the $34 candles are sold in reusable concrete vessels that are made in South Carolina (refills are $22, or $40 for two). Swimm also owns CandleScience, a manufacturing company that develops and supplies natural fragrance for home scents. CandleScience’s business increased by 150 percent last year.

How to Pick the Best Candle For You

Ultimately, the type of candle you make or buy depends on what matters most to you.

If scent takes precedence, paraffin candles “throw,” or circulate, fragrance better, lit or unlit, than soy, according to LaVanier. For those who use scent for its mood-altering benefits, the stronger fragrance from paraffin candles could be more calming. If you’re looking for plant-based options or to support American agriculture, then a soy candle is the way to go.

The sustainability debate is more nuanced. Some consumers prioritize natural and plant-based fragrance in their candles above all else. Others believe synthetic, or manmade, materials to be better for the environment than the sourcing of natural ingredients, and will gravitate towards synthetic fragrance in their beauty products.

Matthew Malin, co-founder of Malin + Goetz, says his customers are seeking ambiance, whether that’s from a perfumed environment, the glass or vessel a candle comes in, or the color of the wax.

“Primarily, they’re buying based on fragrance and to deliver fragrance is really [dependent on] the formulation of the wax,” Malin says. Malin + Goetz’s candles are a (mostly) paraffin and soy wax blend, and bestselling Dark Rum and Cannabis are made with synthetic fragrance. Both sold out multiple times last year.

“People see the world very much in black and white and they think everything natural is amazing and everything synthetic is nefarious and odious,” added Andrew Goetz, co-founder of Malin + Goetz. “Yes, we want to do things that are as environmentally responsible as possible, but the purpose of a candle is that it smells really, really good.”


More stuff to sniff out:

The Weird World of Olfactory Training

14 Black-Owned Candle Brands That’ll Light Up Your Life

How Perfumers Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Create Scent


Looking for more home decor ideas? Take some cues from Charlotte Tilbury’s enormous bathroom:

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