Why are Soy Candles Better?
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Do you ever wonder why you’re buying soy candles? Or you’ve been so die hard
pro-soy for years that you can’t remember why you began in the first place. Or, maybe you’re
just starting to kick the habit of purchasing Yankee Candles or Bath and Body Works after someone told you they’re not too good for you. We’ve been making candles from pure soy wax for years, and we started doing so because of this reason.
We were stunned to learn that big companies with great reputations aren’t really out there to sell you healthy products
We did some research and found out all the ways mysterious ingredients and unhealthy materials find their way into candles purchased from big retailers. What we found was down right gross. As a disclaimer, not all candles out there from big companies are terrible; with some knowledgeable shopping habits and a quick check of the labeling you can tell that you’re purchasing a healthier candle based on some of the advice below.
Plain and simple, soy wax is an all-natural, renewable, plant-based material that produces a cooler temperature flame and thus makes candles that burn at least 2 times longer than those with other waxes while also producing less soot and smoke. It’s also a renewable resource that actually makes the soil healthier by adding nutrients and fixing nitrogen for other crops to use. And, because it’s not a byproduct of petroleum, like paraffin wax, it doesn’t pollute the air with petrochemicals and is the top choice for people with emphysema and asthma.
Why do soy candles burn longer?
Soy candles burn longer, because soy wax has a lower melting point and is consumed by the wick at a lower temperature. It’s also less inherently flammable than paraffin wax, so the flame tries a bit harder to burn the soy wax, which feeds the flame at that lower temperature and creates a candle that burns 2-3 times longer than the same size candle made from paraffin.
The first thing we look for when buying candles is ‘100% pure soy wax’ displayed somewhere on the product labeling. This lets us know we’re getting a pure, uncut soy candle without any gross additives that may help it perform or look pretty, but are also going to burn off into the air we breathe. There really isn’t any legislation for candle labeling requirements, which is silly because we do consume it in some manner. So trusting your candle supplier is really important when you’re picking up something to bring into your home.
How is soy wax made?
Soy wax is a vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. Soybeans are harvested, cleaned, cracked, de-hulled and then flaked. Soybean oil is then extracted from the flakes and hydrogenated. Hydrogenation converts some of the fatty acids in the oil from unsaturated to saturated. This process dramatically alters the melting point of the oil, making it a solid at room temperature. The leftover bean husks are commonly used as animal feed.
Why is soy ‘cleaner’ than paraffin wax candles?
Paraffin wax, because it’s a petrochemical and because it burns hotter and quicker than soy, emits more smoke and soot into the air of your home as the wick briskly burns away the materials of the candle. As a byproduct of the petroleum industry, you can imagine that paraffin wax isn’t ideal for bringing into your home and burning as a part of a healthy living environment.
People with house pets (especially birds) and children should avoid paraffin candles for this reason. But also because those candles are more likely to include harsh additives, carcinogens and phthalates that can harm their smaller and/or developing respiratory systems.
What are other ‘Clean’ characteristics to look for in a candle?
What we look for in a candle includes more than just what type of wax the company uses. We’re also concerned about big retailers that mass-produce candles with even more questionable materials. Materials which are included for uniformity of their product, whether, it’s the shelf life, appearance, burn quality, fragrance throw, ability to ship without melting, or profit margin.
For instance, hidden in some cheaper or mass produced candles are wicks that include heavy metals like lead or zinc! As you can imagine, lead and zinc are both air-polluters when burned in your home. Inhaled lead enters your respiratory system and passes into your blood stream, which carries it around to all your other systems. Because of this inhaling lead can cause a wide array of health problems. Lead exposure for long periods of time or in large amounts can severely affect the physical and mental development of children younger than 6 years.
Additives can be included to help the sides and tops of candles look prettier and more uniform or to help the dyes retain their structure through a long shelf life. UV-inhibitors can be added to maintain the coloring or stabilize the ingredients in the fragrances when exposed to sunlight. All of these ingredients should be scrutinized for their possible links to phthalates, parabens and other toxic or harsh chemicals and carcinogens. It is better to avoid these when shopping for a candle. We shop for candles that say ‘additive free’
Fragrance blends can include anything from carrier oils to phthalates and parabens. Phthalates help stabilize some synthetic fragrances and keep them emulsified. It’s also used in the production of plastics to promote bending and malleability where the product need not be rigid. The permanent and definitive repercussions on our health are somewhat inconclusive for all types of phthalates. However, one phthalate, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), is an endocrine disruptor and can cause cancer.
Parabens are a preservative agent added to the formulas of lots of body care products to promote shelf life and stabilize the product for sale. An overload of parabens in our bodies can be linked to a wide range of heath concerns. They can disrupt hormone function and are linked to increased risk of breast cancers and reproductive toxicity. Parabens can be listed on labeling as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben. However, since candles don’t have rigorous labeling restrictions, look for any product that boasts ‘paraben free.’
Essential oil candles are great too! However, some essential oils can aggravate your respiratory system and also shouldn’t have prolonged skin contact. We like to shop for blends of oils instead so we’re not exposing ourselves to one pure ingredient, like Cinnamon for instance.
Are there other types of candles that are good too?
There are actually quite a few natural alternatives out there to paraffin wax that aren’t soy wax. They can be blends of different waxes to produce a unique set of characteristics from both ingredients.
Palm Wax—Made from palm oil, is processed without chemicals and can hold its shape outside of a container for use in pillar and taper candles. Be sure to research whether the company is using wax that is grow sustainably and isn’t contributing to converting rainforest into crop land.
Vegetable Wax—Included in this category would be wax made from one or more of the following, rapeseed oil, palm kernel oil, and Soy. Varying amounts of each can bring forth desired characteristics of any ingredient. Rapeseed wax (sometimes known as Canola Wax) provides great fragrance retention, scent throw and extended burn time.
Coconut Wax—Made from hydrogenating and refining coconut oil and is mixed with other natural oils like soy to raise it’s melting point. Coconut wax is considered sustainable. It’s only con is that it’s pretty expensive stuff.
Beeswax-- Made from a byproduct of honeybees. Beeswax burns a long time and holds its shape well, but has a hard time holding and throwing scents when burned. It’s not ideal for scented candles or for vegans.
We like Soy Wax best because we know that ours is sustainably grown instead of wild-harvested from potentially questionable regions and by possibly unsustainable means. Also since ours in grown in the US (as is most of the worlds soy) it hassles distances to travel to us and thus has an even smaller carbon footprint from an ecological standpoint.
What are some labeling terms I should avoid?
Since the candle industry doesn't have labeling guidelines and restrictions, there are some tricky labeling tactics used to convey a healthier sustainable candle that either bend the truth or are purely creative marketing.
Avoid anything with Trademark, Registered Trademark, Copyright Symbols or asterisks after any claim or boast. It might be a stretch of the truth or it could be a slogan. Either way, we steer clear of anyone trying to capture a claim all to themselves.
Green-washing or Health-washing is as big a problem now as it was when Sustainability, Global Warming and Eco-Friendly started to become more popular topics of conversation. Green-washing is a term used to describe a company's change in aesthetics to appeal to an audience as and eco-friendly product without changing the ingredients to fit that message. Whether it's making a product look and feel like a natural product by adding brown and green labeling, or a leaf in the logo, or the words 'green' or 'eco' to their names or attributes, these claims should be able to be backed up by facts and good-practices if they are truly eco-friendly or health conscious products. In candles we are wary of the terms all natural, perfume, parfum and pure unless they also say phthalate-free, paraben-free or chemical-free somewhere else on the label or they can back up those claims in other ways or elsewhere.