Why Does Healthy and Sustainable Candle Wax Matter?

by Travis Gerhart
Why Does Healthy and Sustainable Candle Wax Matter?

Candles are almost entirely made of wax, which is the fuel that allows them to burn and contributes to an essential portion of the experience of enjoying a candle. When I was working to develop our essential oil aromatherapy candle blends, I decided to learn as much as I could about the available candle waxes out there.

The most crucial elements of the search were to find the healthiest types of wax to use that was also sustainable and renewable to produce. The goal was to create the healthiest form of candles possible while being kind to the environment.

We make our candles with coconut wax, but before discussing why we chose this wax, let's look at the most common types of wax available to candle makers. Our reasons for choosing coconut wax will be discussed later on. Ultimately, and to summarize, coconut wax is the renewable, sustainable, health-promoting winner of the candle wax world. 

Precisely what is candle wax, and what does it do?

Science textbooks tell us that wax is a flammable, carbon-containing solid that becomes liquid when heated. Essentially, wax is the fuel for the candle flame. When a candle's flame melts the wax around it, the molten wax is drawn up into the wick by capillary action. It is then vaporized and combusted, producing light and heat, water, and carbon dioxide.

Many plants and animals produce waxes naturally for their own health and protection. There are numerous natural materials available to us that can be used to make wax.

JOIN THE SUPERVITAL

Get all the latest news and updates by subscribing to The Supervital Journal by Best Health Co! Join today and receive 25% OFF your first order 🍄

History and traditional use of various candle waxes.

The earliest wax candles are thought to have been created by the Egyptians around 5,000 BC, who coated papyrus reeds in honey beeswax. Since then, in addition to beeswax, other waxes have become famous for candle making, such as paraffin wax (derived directly from petroleum), palm wax (derived from palm oil), and soy wax (derived from soybean oil). More on these in a bit.

Modern candles use these waxes instead of others, primarily because they are low-cost and easy to extract. Their scent-throw properties, pleasant aesthetics, and effective burning also contribute to their mass-scale use. 

Hand dipped beeswax candles hang curing

An example of hand dipped beeswax candles hang curing to preserve their shape.

There are three major concerns when discussing paraffin wax, soy wax, and palm wax: sustainability of palm oil production, chemicals used during the growing of soybeans, and the well-known crude oil-byproduct of petrochemicals and petroleum, also referred to as paraffin.

When researching and sourcing candle wax, my goal was to find a healthy candle wax to burn. This candle wax should also possess air-cleansing properties, superior performance, and is regenerative and sustainable to produce, which supports kindness to the environment. Soy wax, palm wax, and paraffin wax fell short of that goal.

Next, let's dive deeper into some of the most common waxes used today. 

PARAFFIN WAX

Paraffin wax (petroleum wax) is a low-cost by-product of the crude oil purification process. It is derived through a dewaxing process that oil undergoes. Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and propane are the principal solvents used to dewax crude oils.

Once this process is complete, paraffin wax is derived and processed further for use in many household products. Today, petroleum-based paraffin wax can be found in many household items, including wax paper, candles, cosmetics, plastics, and electrical insulators, among other commercial goods.

The Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil

Paraffin candle wax is not revered for its health-promoting qualities, obviously. It possesses intense burning and scent throwing properties. As a by-product of the oil industry, it is the very definition of unsustainable. Paraffin is also a notoriously fast-burning candle. This results in a candle that looks quite large on a store shelf. A giant candle at the same or cheaper price is good value, right?

Well, not exactly; its exceptionally fast-burning qualities hardly make purchasing a paraffin wax candle a good value or even a value at all. What it does promote is churn and burn by larger mass-production candle companies. 

Since paraffin wax is derived from crude oil, is it healthy to burn?

This is a question that definitely needs to be asked. One study in 2009 by South Carolina State University found that burning paraffin wax candles gave off harmful fumes, such as toluene and benzene. These chemicals have been linked to the incidence of asthma and lung cancer. [1]

In the same research, wax candles of vegetable origin did not give off the same chemicals when burned. Additionally, frequent lighting of multiple paraffin candles in an unventilated space was mentioned to irritate the skin and respiratory tract. 

Since petroleum-based products aren't health-promoting, paraffin wax was never considered for our aromatherapy candle blends. I still felt it was important to discuss this information and understand what is available in the industry. 

PALM WAX

The candle industry initially hailed palm wax as the holy grail. Palm wax was once considered a sustainable alternative to paraffin with a pleasing aesthetic, a feathered effect, and good burning quality. However, according to a 2009 investigation by the Economist, deforestation practices are rampant and endangering many wildlife species as demand for palm wax skyrockets despite the creation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). [2] Despite this organization's involvement, it's almost impossible to source palm oil products that are genuinely sustainable. An investigation by the New York Times [3] and a Greenpeace report from 2018 [4] paint a deplorable picture of the situation.

Deforestation associated with palm oil production

Aerial view of the deforestation devastation associated with palm oil production.

This is obviously unfortunate as palm oil has the potential to be a sustainable crop. Today, however, most palm oil is grown and harvested using unsustainable and destructive practices, causing havoc on local ecosystems, communities, and the climate. Nonetheless, this is not related to palm oil's intrinsic qualities, which are actually higher than most other oil sources in many ways. It has to do with poorly managed industries and supply chains. It is perfectly possible and desirable to have a fair-trade and organic palm oil supply. The industry isn't set up yet to support local farmers, encourage biodiversity, and enrich the earth for future generations. 

SOY WAX

Soy wax is made by the complete hydrogenation of soybean oil. It is typically softer than paraffin wax and with a lower melting temperature in most combinations. [5]

It has a crumbly texture, burns slowly, and struggles with scent throw. All of this contributes to soy wax being less than ideal for burning. In addition, soybean oil is a cheap wax since it is a by-product of the large soybean industry, led by agricultural giant Monsanto (now Bayer). Many environmental groups have raised concerns about the soy industry's deforestation (mainly in South America).

Genetically modified soybean field being sprayed

Herbicide being applied to a soybean field early in the growing season.

In addition, here in the United States, 94% of soy agriculture is categorized by the USDA as biotech herbicide-resistant genetically modified. [6] This results in the ease of using herbicides and pesticides to control the aggregation of competitors (weeds and insects), leading to improved growing conditions, increased yields, and production stabilization. As you can imagine, using herbicides and pesticides creates a soil environment that lends itself to depletion rather than the enrichment of the earth. Which would not support renewable and sustainable practices.

I discovered that it is impossible to source soy wax verified as 100% non-GMO, despite claims made by the labels of some candle manufacturers. Furthermore, Monsanto's history regarding corporate practices and its reputation regarding the treatment of family farmers, as detailed in a 2008 documentary, led to more reasons that soy wax was removed as an option. [7-8]

BEESWAX

Beeswax is produced by honeybee hives, making it one of the more sustainable options. It has a characteristic honey-like scent and a golden color. Because of this, it is beautiful as standalone candle wax but challenging to incorporate into scented candles. Bleached white beeswax is available. However, it presents a problem with "scent trapping," resulting in scented candles with minimal scent throw. In addition, beeswax costs 3-4 times as much as other waxes due to its low yield and expenses associated with maintaining bee colonies.

A beekeeper separates the wax from the honeycomb frame.

A beekeeper separates the wax from the frame exposing the honey-filled combs below.

Based on working with beeswax and beeswax blends, it became evident that beeswax specializes in standalone candle wax. It falls very short when working with essential oils for aromatherapy purposes. The scent trapping capacity is too great to make this a sustainable option for continued use and expectation of the candle's performance. 

COCONUT WAX

What makes coconut wax an ideal candle wax? 

Coconut wax is highly sustainable and renewable. Producing coconut wax starts with cold-pressing the oil out of the coconut meat. The coconut oil then undergoes hydrogenation. The fully-hydrogenated oil is further refined, filtered, and cleaned, giving you 100% natural, odorless, and fully biodegradable wax. By refining and hydrogenating the coconut oil, the coconut scent is removed, and the melting point of the coconut oil is raised significantly. 

Abundant young coconut bundles on tree in the sun

Abundant young coconut bundles awaiting maturity and harvesting.

Coconut wax is a renewable and high-yield crop, which means that fewer coconuts are required to produce a significant amount of product. This makes it one of the most eco-friendly waxes available. Additionally, coconut trees live between 60 and 80 years, making them a 'three-generation tree' by providing support to a farmer, their children, and grandchildren. 

Coconut wax naturally creates a slow and even burn.

Coconut wax burns slower than most other candle waxes on the market today. This means you can enjoy your favorite nature-inspired essential oil aromatherapy candles for longer. An even burn will ensure you enjoy the candle's full potential instead of being left with half of the product stuck to the vessel's sides! 

Coconut wax offers a superior scent throw.

Scent throw refers to the scent given off by a candle. There are two types: cold throw and hot throw. Cold throw is the scent given off when the candle is unlit and is usually the first scent you notice about a candle. Hot throw is the scent given off when the candle is lit, and the wax is melted across the top of the candle. The scent given off during hot throw will fill your space as heat and vapor rise from the candle. Essential oils blend seamlessly with coconut wax, meaning it throws the scent beautifully. 

Producing coconut wax is not associated with deforestation.

Unlike the palm oil industry, popularity growth leads to mass production in the coconut industry. However, the locals still have the opportunity to make a living.

Farmers grow coconut trees on their own land, using no pesticides and herbicides. They harvest the coconuts by hand without relying on large farming equipment.

Burning coconut wax is a smokeless and soot-free experience.

Have you ever noticed a blackening mark near a regularly lit candle on the wall? The reason is that paraffin candles, due to the toxic ingredients, emit small soot particles into your home and create a soot mark on your walls!

As coconut wax is non-toxic, it burns cleaner than any other wax. It produces no soot particles, so you won't be worried about carcinogens being released into your home or getting the walls dirty.

Coconut wax is a non-GMO product.

The coconut is one of the few remaining fruits and vegetables untouched by genetic modification. As a result, there are no additives in coconut wax production. Not even pesticides are used when farming coconuts. This is because of their rugged exteriors, which naturally deter insects and wildlife.

In addition, our candles are paraben-free and phthalate-free. Both compounds are found in a wide variety of consumer products. They do not have a reputation for health promotion and occur primarily in the most processed goods we put on our bodies. 

PARABENS AND PHTHALATES

What are Parabens, and where are they found?

Parabens are preservatives used in many processed and manufactured products. These products include face and skin cleansers, moisturizers, makeup, sunscreens, deodorants, shaving gels, toothpaste, hair-care products, shaving creams, cosmetics, foods, drugs, etc. They're used to prevent mold and bacteria from growing in or on the product, protecting us from infection. They usually go by different names, which seem to end in paraben, such as ethylparaben and propylparaben.

What are Phthalates, and why should I avoid them?

Phthalates are used in nail polishes, perfume, hair sprays, soap, shampoo, skin moisturizers, cleaning products, etc. Additionally, phthalates have been found in dairy products, meats, fish, oils & fats, baked goods, infant formula, processed foods, and fast foods.

Additionally, they cause birth defects and fertility problems while mimicking hormones and disrupting their natural process, raising concerns about higher cancer risk, similar to parabens. [9] Many people associate inhaling phthalate fragrances with triggering headaches and migraines. 

What do Parabens and Phthalates do? 

Parabens have been around since the 1950s. In 2004, a study published by Dr. Philippa Darbre found traces of parabens in the breast tumors of 19 of the 20 participants. [10] The study did not show that parabens cause cancer or are linked to it, but it showed that parabens can make their way into our skin from products through direct absorption.

Further studies have been conducted to determine if parabens are linked to cancer and just how dangerous they can be.

There have been many investigations from large organizations, such as BreastCancer.org. These organizations note that parabens are easily absorbed through the skin and act as weak estrogens, potentially contributing to hormonally-driven breast cancers.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), U.S. regulation of chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics is falling behind the rest of the world.

Almost 40 nations have enacted regulations governing the safety and content of cosmetics and personal care products. These countries range from industrialized nations like the United Kingdom and Germany to developing nations like Cambodia and Vietnam. More than 1,400 chemicals have been restricted or banned in some nations. Despite this, only nine chemicals have been restricted or banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety reasons. [11]

It is concerning that such results exist and the discrepancy between developed nations regarding the safety of these substances. It underscores the importance of being individually involved in our own health. It indicates that relying on government regulation to keep us safe is likely a bad idea. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our products are free of parabens, phthalates, GMOs, soy, and other toxins. Our candles are infused with essential oils for aromatherapy. In artificial fragrances, phthalates promote the scent's lingering after application. Phthalates can cause the scent to linger for days, months, or even years, depending on the concentration. Yikes!

Phthalates are why some candles have an "In Your Face" strength to them. A candle infused with essential oils is a powerful yet delicate way of enhancing the environment around you. They most assuredly do not pack the "artificial fragrance punch" that many candle companies boast.

Our nature-inspired essential oil aromatherapy candles are made using high-quality essential oils. We feel their quality is evident in the finished product, and we hope you will wholeheartedly agree. 

THRIVE & BESUPERVITAL®

We are huge fans of optimizing what we interact with daily: physical, mental, and emotional in the pursuit of Supervital Active Longevity. We control what we apply to our body, what we consume, and our well-being approach. Our strategy for life can set us up to exceed our goals or exponentially get in the way of where we are going and what we are trying to accomplish. Follow along with us in The Supervital for more. Thrive & Besupervital®​

Travis Gerhart, DC, RYT-500

Travis Gerhart, DC, RYT-500

Founder of Best Health Co & The Supervital Journal. Topics focus on the mind, body, & soul aspects of Supervital Active Longevity. Dr. Gerhart enjoys studying the latest developments in biochemistry, phytochemistry, epigenetics, & aging.
@traviswgerhart • @besthealthco

*Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for individual medical advice.

THE SUPERVITAL

RECENT ARTICLES

Renew and Recharge with CHAGA

Jun 29, 2022 - by Travis Gerhart

Chaga is often referred to as "The King of Mushrooms" and is a potent natural adaptogen that supports healthy cellular aging, regeneration, and metabolic balance.* Additionally, Chaga promotes natural and healthy inflammation response and immune function while giving a boost of support to our naturally occurring enzymatic antioxidant pathways.*

Read More

Why Does Healthy and Sustainable Candle Wax Matter?

Jun 02, 2022 - by Travis Gerhart

Candles are almost entirely made of wax, which is the fuel that allows them to burn and contributes to an essential portion of the experience of enjoying a candle. When I was working to develop our essential oil aromatherapy candle blends, I decided to learn as much as I could about the available candle waxes out there.The most crucial elements of the search were to find the healthiest types of wax to use that was also sustainable and renewable to produce. The goal was to create the healthiest form of candles possible while being kind to the environment.

Read More

Pacific: A Meditative Aromatherapy Candle Blend

May 25, 2022 - by Travis Gerhart

There are few things as peaceful, calm, and tranquil as sitting in the sand and experiencing the activity of the Pacific all around you. Best Health Co created the PACIFIC candle to embody the deep and reflective elements of the Pacific.

Read More

JOIN THE SUPERVITAL

Get all the latest news and updates by subscribing to The Supervital Journal by Best Health Co! Join today and receive 25% OFF your first order 🍄

Search