Since 2020 (and even before) there has been a significant shift from the typical American "high speed production with low quality ingredients," to a slower, more intentional pace. Several items have joined the debate and a few are downright ridiculous but candles are a viable member to join. After all, you're breathing in what you burn — they can have long term health impacts so it is important to know what is in your candle!
If you are trying to choose the cleanest candle and understand the meaning behind all of society's buzzwords, I wrote an article just for that, here! If you're simply trying to demystify the wax debate, keep reading. Since I entered this industry a year ago, I have learned a lot and there is a shocking difference between what public media will tell you and reality.
Soy Vs Paraffin Wax - The Ultimate Dichotomy
There is currently a rampant internet debate comparing candles on the basis of soy vs paraffin wax. While some articles accurately explain the pros and cons, most leave out the truth about how each is created, so here is the process.
Short version: soy wax is derived from soy bean oil while paraffin is refined from crude oils, or oils extracted from underground created by plant and animal decay.
The long version is that soy wax is made from the process of solidifying refined soybean oil through hydrogenation (treating with a hydrogen solution that causes it to solidify), while paraffin wax contains enough animal/plant decay-derived hydrocarbons to solidify through simply refining. In other words, while only one of the two is vegan, soy wax undergoes a slightly more lengthy process before it becomes the wax chips you may be familiar with while paraffin wax takes little treatment to solidify after it has already been refined.
Comparing the two side by side, they are both considered natural oils. I know that seems surprising given both undergo a lengthy refining process but since little to nothing is added, they are both legally considered "natural." Because of such a strict refining process, they can both be considered non-toxic, safe for use on everything from mechanics to skin to drywall. Soy wax is present in some chapsticks and paraffin wax can be found as a waxy coating on most fruit. So if you want to reasonably pin either as "toxic," you have an empty argument. There are few days you are not exposed to at least one of these and the impact on your health is almost untraceable.
Soy wax, pinned as the one with a more "organic," refining process is actually processed more, with just under the national standard of hydrogen added to still be considered "natural." While the hydrogen has no negative effects, it essentially makes soy wax equally as processed as paraffin. We're basically talking about the difference between a green and red apple as long as both waxes fit the national standard for "natural," — and you'd be hard pressed to find a candle company that uses over processed wax.
While candle companies like to dishonestly make the claim of "organic," candles (which they can legally do because of loopholes in the law even though neither can truthfully be considered "organic"), it is true that most wax in candles will have little to no effect on your overall health.
For us candle makers, the only noticeable difference is paraffin wax is harder and takes longer to melt so most prefer to use soy for the sheer ease — every other reason is a marketing point which is another attractive reason to use this type of similar wax.
Carbon Releases When you Burn ANYTHING - A Sooty Scam Between the Two
While significant comparisons can still be drawn, here is the lie the internet wants to sell: paraffin creates a candle with toxic soot while soy wax does not. That is flamboyantly false.
Any time something is burned, carbon is released which shows up as a black film on most materials. That means, regardless of what you are burning whether it is a tissue or wood or a candle (soy or paraffin), you are going to see soot. The reason why some candles produce more soot than others and some seem to yield none at all has little to do with the wax — it all depends on the ratio between the size of the vessel, density of the wick, and composition of the fragrance oil.
Wax is last on that list which brings me to the jarring realization I came to when I started making these myself: WAX IS THE LEAST IMPORTANT PART OF WHAT IS IN YOUR CANDLES.
Though wax makes up the majority of your candle, you are burning the fragrance soaked wick — not the wax itself. The wax merely evaporates - it is a carrier for the fragrance oil. Yes, it matters that the wax in your candle fits the national standard to be considered "clean," but the composition of your wax has very little effect on the overall imprint it makes while burning.
The ratio of impact it has, especially compared to fragrance oil is ridiculously one sided, with fragrance controlling the majority of the effect you'll notice from your candle. You can read my article on fragrance here or click here to learn how to pick the overall clean candle.
Coconut, Apricot, & Beeswax
Now that we've debunked the myths between soy and paraffin wax, it is time to discuss what makes it such a false dichotomy!
When I got into candle making a year ago, I bought this business from a lady who had successfully developed a system for using soy wax effectively. I went on my merry way using her formulas and they have served me well for over a year. Whatever is said below, remember this: the formula matters more than the wax itself. Wax is not the end all be all solution to a crappy candle — bad quality candles come in nearly every wax form!
But as I learned more about the industry, I was surprised by just how many waxes there are considering that only two main tenants are discussed: soy and paraffin. In reality there are nearly a dozen different candle waxes you can use, and within each category is variety of different blends. With the truth about how it effects your candle in mind, let's discuss some of the pros and cons of each.
Coconut wax is considered a luxury wax, used primarily in expensive luxury candles. It is the most pricey just under bee wax and prized for it's silky texture. These pour easily and have an aesthetic appearance although some have been known to burn faster due to their soft texture. Lie debunked: most candle companies add a small amount of coconut wax to their candles so they can be considered "luxury," while in reality only a small portion of coconut wax is present. This is legal but, again, just a marketing point. The majority of coconut wax candles you see are more expensive for little reason other than the marketing point.
Beeswax is considered the most organic kind of wax for one simple reason: it exists with little to no refining. Bees naturally create wax that is already solid. The most you have to do is make sure it has been cleaned and condensed and sometimes insert a few additives to ensure that it is solid enough to burn. Although this makes it ideal for clean burns, it is expensive because of the tedious process of refining it and the appearance is not nearly as clean and aesthetic. It does not throw fragrance (disperse scent into the room) as well as any of it's alternatives do, and it is expensive. So the only reason for burning a purely beeswax candle at the end of the day is to have little smoke resulting from your candle... which only occurs when beeswax has been mega refined so it is for the most part not worth it. However, candle companies use the same tactic mixing beeswax with soy and pariffin and it can enhance other waxes for some really high quality blends! A tiny bit of bees wax can change the game and a little goes a long way. So if you see that on the label, know that your candle creators are trying to organically enhance the longevity and quality of your candle!
For the last one I'll discuss today, there is apricot wax which is derived from apricot oil present in many cosmetics. This is one of the cleanest but because of it's lack of density, it is rarely if ever used alone. It has a nice gentle smell which makes it another luxury wax, often added as an enhancer.
While many of the latter waxes are not used alone, it is important to note that they exist so the debate is not purely between soy and paraffin waxes. From a candle makers perspective, I'll be the first to tell you that candles rarely contain just one kind of wax — it is almost always a blend which is why when you read the label, you rarely know what you are getting. To really know, you can go on a candle makers website or talk to them personally. Most are more than willing to discuss their blend. And the ones that aren't are ones of which you want to be wary... The refining process can sometimes include unnecessary steps to enhance.
To read what wax blends (and other ingredients) I use, click here!
As a newbie in the industry myself, I try to debunk as many of the well spun lies of seasoned candle creators because they lack truth and purpose. The only purpose is to turn a sale and I am of the belief that upfront honesty creates what I am looking for: a relationship. I don't want my candles to be a mere sale that someone forgets about, I want my creations to become a part of your home and lifestyle — a signature scent that says "home."
In the end I hope this article will help you whether you are making your own candles or in the market to buy the best one for you!
To shop my candles, click the link below. Happy burning!