Our sense of smell is an amazing thing because aromas can have such an effect on our emotions. A smell can remind you of something and put you in a good or a bad mood as a result. An aroma can help you to relax, can wake you up or put a smile on your face.
Sensing a smell results from chemicals in the air around you stimulating your nervous system. Therefore, we are talking here about Surroundings which is one of the aspects of Evenstar 5 Star Wellbeing. The human smelling sense can detect more than 10K different aromas!
Fragrance, Health & Wellbeing
Fragrances are a very important sensory stimulant, which can affect our wellbeing on all levels – spiritual, emotional, mental and also physical (remember the last time an unpleasant smell made you feel physically sick?) As a Wellbeing Practitioner who works with Essential Oils every day I rely on the effect of aroma to help improve outcomes for my clients both in their sessions with me and when they go back to their everyday lives.
Indeed it is the appeal of a fragrance being impactful on our environment and our wellbeing that has created a multi-billion dollar global candle industry. With all the retailers reminding us that Christmas is just around the corner I thought it was a good time to talk about the potential hazards of fragranced candles and what to use instead.
You can buy them everywhere these days, from the supermarket to the farmers market, scented candles are prolific! The two most common waxes used in candles are paraffin and soy. Paraffin is a waste product of the petroleum industry so it is extremely cheap to produce and is the major type of wax used in candle production, including in standard household candles, birthday candles and tealight candles.
Soy wax is made from soy bean oil and we are typically made to believe that this is a ‘natural’ plant-based product so it must be good for us. The first problem with soy is that many soy crops are genetically modified. The second problem is that ‘natural’ soy bean oil does not actually smell very pleasant at all. Therefore to use this oil in candles it needs to be refined and chemically bleached to make it lighter in colour and less smelly. The process of making any oil into a solid, such as a wax, is called hydrogenation and the substance used in this process is usually nickel, a heavy metal. What does this mean? It means that your ‘natural’ soy candle has been manufactured using chemical bleach and heavy metal – doesn’t sound so natural to me!
Making Candles Smell Good
Then we get on to the way that candles are fragranced. Most candles are made with ‘fragrance oils’ that in most cases have little, if any, natural component – they are chemical reproductions of real world scents or combinations of these, and their ingredients are often kept as trade secrets. The same is true for fragrances used in personal care products, and yes, in perfumes. Many manufacturers are now responding to science that is increasingly showing that many of the ‘secret’ components of synthetic fragrances are known or potential carcinogens. It was only in 2012 that Johnson & Johnson announced that its emblematic baby shampoo had contained at least 2 carcinogens, including formaldehyde, for the past 60 years.
Essential Oil Fragranced Candles
Some candles are manufactured with essential oils. These will almost certainly be the more expensive ones because pure essential oils are expensive to manufacture. Essential oils are amazing and yes, completely natural. The problem is that they should not be burned. It is totally fine to use them aromatically in a diffuser or an oil burner, where they are not in direct contact with a flame. However, when essential oils are mixed into the wax of a candle, they – along with the wax – get burned. When essential oils are burned they produce carcinogens from the polycylic hydrocarbon family, as well as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
What should you use instead?
The purpose of this article is to make you alert and not alarmed! You don’t know what you don’t know and stressing about how many carcinogens you’ve exposed yourself and your children too because you love the smell of patchouli in the morning will almost certainly do you more harm than what the candles have done. So, take a deep breath, blow out that candle and know that there are other options.
Obviously if you want beautiful scents to enhance your wellbeing I would always recommend pure essential oils. But if you want to get the additional mood-enhancing benefits of using candles you can swap over to beeswax candles.
Not only are beeswax candles completely natural but they also have other advantages, including:
– they produce negative ions to counter all the positive ions in modern buildings from lights, electricity and other technology, therefore actually santising the air as they burn
– the light they produce is the same frequency as the sun
– they don’t produce soot like other candles (which gets breathed in and contributes to the health risks of soy or paraffin candles)
Beeswax candles are more expensive than the other less healthy options, but I believe it’s really a case of paying now or paying later. Many health concerns, including cancer, can be prevented by making good choices whilst you are well. In addition, mass produced candles are most often manufactured in ways that are not good for the planet whereas pure beeswax candles are produced ethically and sustainably by people who care about bees. You can also help by planting a bee friendly garden and buying local honey! Two of my favourite beeswax candle companies are Queen B and Northern Light – why not start your Christmas shopping super early!