Is Your Expensive Candle Addiction Making Your Home More Toxic Than Zen?

Rise And Shine _ Les bougies Brooklyn Candle Studio.jpeg

I love a bougie scented candle as much as the next person (OK, probably more) but, recently, those flickering friends which soothe the soul and look oh-so-good on the ‘gram have been highlighted as a health risk. I mean, who knew that sitting in a figgy fug of Diptyque’s finest offering (it’s a toss-up between Feu de Bois, Figuier and Baies if you’re feeling basic, btw) for hours with the doors closed was bad for you? Well, apparently it isn’t too great. Soot, wax and toxic chemicals emitted by our candles can actually end up making the soothing environment we like to create a health hazard. Not so zen now…

I don’t smoke. I don’t drink loads. I don’t eat MacDonalds. My scented candle addiction is one vice I’m not willing to give up. So, I did a little research (read: I googled it) to see what steps I can take to to avoid checking into CSA (Candle Sniffers Anonymous). Here’s what I learnt. 

Steer clear of paraffin wax.

A lot of candles on the market have essential oils but that does not mean they are all natural, which is why it is very important to know what you are buying. The big no-no is paraffin wax, which can emit potentially hazardous, carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals when burnt or melted.  Inhaling petrochemicals that are derived from paraffin wax can cause damage to the brain, lung and central nervous system, and can cause developmental difficulties. So, when we burn candles which are made from paraffin wax, we are releasing harmful toxins into our environment which we then breathe back in. A candle that is not made of natural wax (such as soy) can cause greater damage than inhaling second-hand smoke from smoking! 

A lot of the ‘big names’ are very shady about what wax they use, giving no info on it and instead focusing purely on the fragrance. And, with a little more googling, it’s not difficult to see why. Sadly, Glasshouse, Jo Malone and Diptyque all use paraffin wax. Sob. 

Think about fragrance

Synthetic fragrances found in many candles can disrupt the endocrine system, affecting hormonal health. A disrupted endocrine system can trigger weight gain and even disrupt your fertility. Essential oils on the other hand, are made from organic oils and there is no danger from these. Once inhaled, they remodulate and have only a therapeutic benefit to the nasal cavity. Good bets for essential oil candles are Neom and Aromatherapy Associates.


Even if your candle passes all the tests for no paraffin or synthetic fragrance, they will still produce soot – as evidenced by the black ring which often appears round the rim of the vessel. Even if it’s the deep, dark depths of winter and it’s freezing outside, make sure you burn your candle in a well-ventilated area. That means, preferably, a window should be cracked for some fresh air, and you shouldn’t keep the door to the room you’re in with the candle shut. Likewise, adding some greenery – although not directly correlated to candle use – is well known for its air-purifying qualities. Head to IKEA and stock up on plenty of leafy foliage to help create a cleaner, greener atmosphere in your home.