With more people adopting an ingredient-forward approach to their beauty routines, non-toxic candles have emerged as a new breed of fragrance for those embracing all-natural options. These candles are exactly what they sound like: Clean alternatives to conventional candle formulations.
If you’re wondering what exactly separates the two, keep scrolling—because we reached out to the creators of some of the buzziest non-toxic candle brands to help you understand the difference. Below, everything you need to know about what goes into making a clean candle.
What are the concerns around traditional candle formulations?
One of the first (and biggest) issues with conventional candles has to do with the type of wax used. Many older, mass-produced options use paraffin wax—a byproduct of petroleum—as the base. Burning these candles “can emit toxins and carcinogens into the air, which can cause a variety of health problems,” Tamara Mayne, founder of Brooklyn Candle Studio tells Glamour. Paraffin wax is smokier and produces more soot, which can turn your walls black in addition to polluting the air you breathe. (No thanks!)
Next up, watch out for the wicks. Mayne says that lead cores, which are typically used to hold the wick in place, have long been banned in the U.S., but some foreign-made candles may still contain them. (Lead poisoning is known to cause serious health problems, including high blood pressure, kidney damage, and miscarriage.)
Boy Smells cofounder Matthew Herman also tells Glamour that “there’s also a lot of grey space surrounding the fragrance component of candle formulations, as regulations do not require companies to list components of a fragrance.” So you know that pumpkin chai-scented candle you love so much? Well, it may contain nitro-musks or phthalates that can cause issues like hormone disruptions or birth defects, Mayne explains. (That said, don’t fret too much about your guilty pleasure—just be sure to trim blackened wicks before lighting them, and keep windows open to air out your space.)
So what exactly is a “clean” candle?
Jumping off what you know now, a “clean” candle is meant to be paraffin-, phthalate-, and lead-free. This means that your candle should be made from natural or all-natural blended wax (think coconut, soy, apricot, vegetable, or beeswax); should contain high-quality, phthalate-free fragrances or essentials oils; and use cotton or wood wicks for a cleaner and less smoky burn.
From artisanal fragrances to status scents, check out all the non-toxic candles you can feel good about buying, below.
Brooklyn Candle Studio
Serving peak wanderlust, Brooklyn Candle Studio’s candles are thoughtfully designed and hand-poured with domestically-grown soy wax. Founder Tamara Mayne works directly with fragrance houses to ensure each one of her dreamy scents is certified phthalate-free and nitro-musk-free, and the brand uses custom cotton wicks to ensure a clean, long-lasting burn.
Developed and designed in Los Angeles, Boy Smells’ all-natural coconut and beeswax candles are unmistakable in both aesthetic and scent. Each candle is hand-poured (and hand-labeled) into a glossy, reusable glass tumbler, rolling together high-quality natural oils and fragrances to bring you cult-favorites like Cinderose and Hinoke Fantôme.
For earthy, complex fragrances conceived by a master perfumer, try Keap. This Brooklyn-based candle company uses natural coconut wax for a complete burn—and you can send in cleaned vessels to give them a second life. Subscribe to receive seasonal candles on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, or shop a curated selection of nature-inspired scents (hi, Wild Figs) below.
Born out of a need for luxury non-toxic fragrance options, Ellis Brooklyn began as the brainchild of The New York Times columnist Bee Shapiro in 2015, when she was pregnant with her first daughter, Ellis. (See what she did there?) Her small-batch, artisanal creations are all paraben- and phthalate-free, and the elegant, natural formulas are blended in upstate New York.
Housed in sleek matte glass—chic!—Amass layers natural botanicals into a soy wax base for evocative blends perfect for moments of ritual and self-care. Its candles are also vegan and cruelty-free.
For vibey candles with fragrance blends that lean into ayurveda, mysticism, and herbology, check out Heretic. The brand uses soy as its base, along with 100% natural unbleached cotton wicks.
P.F. Candle Co.
Strike a match and revel in the warm glow of P.F. Candle Co’s West Coast-inspired scents. Each soy wax candle from this LA-based fragrance company is paraben- and phthalate-free, and the apothecary-style amber jars clean easily to repurpose afterward.