For the record, the candle was invented in the 14th century and was originally made of beeswax. The nobility and clergy lit themselves with beeswax candles while the people lit themselves with candles made of tallow (a residual product obtained by melting the fat of animal species such as sheep and ox) for cost reasons. Today, most candles are made partly or totally with paraffin. Today, there are more and more natural ecological candles made with animal wax (especially beeswax) or vegetable waxes (mainly soya, or even rapeseed).
In our time, the candle is the emblem of the Hygge trend and the slow life par excellence. It is perfumed, coloured, takes various and varied forms… It enlightens us, it relaxes us, it creates a subdued atmosphere, it even celebrates our birthdays. We can’t imagine having to do without it.
However, the Ademe has submitted a complete report attesting that a candle that is consumed, whatever the nature of its wax, emits VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as benzene or formaldehyde. Combustion itself is toxic. These fumes have a negative impact on our airways and increase the risk of cancer. However, there are some candles that are more ecological and healthier than others.
Polluting and harmful candles
The vast majority of candles are made of paraffin, which is a petroleum derivative. It is mainly used because it is less expensive than other waxes. However, the petrochemical nature of this wax makes it more polluting when it melts.
You will also find candles made with palm wax made from palm oil. Certainly this wax is 100% natural. However, it is the most widely used oil in the world (food, cosmetics, cleaning products, paints, etc.) because it is the cheapest. Its massive exploitation deforested entire territories and destroyed biodiversity. The consumption of products made up of them should therefore be banned.
The wick is most often made of cotton. I invite you to read my article dedicated to an ecological cotton decoration to better understand what is probably behind the wick of your candle.
Most scented candles are scented with a synthetic fragrance.
Coloured candles are coloured with dyes (in powder or liquid form, they emit many VOCs) and additives (stearin, a component of tallow; or Vybar™ which is none other than a Polymer).
More ecological and healthy natural alternatives
The vegetable soy wax candle
The most common, it is naturally white. Soy wax is hydrogenated soybean oil and is therefore entirely natural. However, soya is mainly grown in China and the United States, its carbon footprint remains significant. In any case, it should be chosen without GMOs.
The vegetable rape wax candle
It is more difficult to work for the craftsman, but it has the advantage that rapeseed is mainly grown in Europe.
The beeswax candle
It is more expensive but it could not be more natural since it is made by bees. It is naturally dark yellow. However, it sometimes comes from China. Beyond the carbon footprint, consideration of animal welfare is not a priority for them.
However, beware of products labelled “vegetable beeswax-based”, which are often mixed with cheaper paraffin.
A local wooden wick is preferable. Unlike a textile wick, it will bring a crackling sound to the corner of the fire as it burns. An unbleached cotton wick guaranteed lead-free or made of linen or hemp is also an interesting solution.
A scented candle, yes, but only if it is with essential oils or fragrances guaranteed to be CMR-free (chemical agents with carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic effects).
In fact, I have even heard that chemists strongly advise against using essential oils in candles.
They are rare, but some craftsmen use vegetable dye to colour the wax. This is an ecological and healthy solution.
I hope I didn’t disgust you. Remember that it is preferable to limit your candle consumption in general, to consume natural ecological candles in natural waxes. It is more than advisable to open your windows during and after use.