I was at a health food store with a friend the other day, cruising the aisles when he asked: “Hey Sarah, why do beeswax candles cost so much more than regular candles?” Well, I had to admit that he had me stumped there. I had heard that beeswax candles were better to burn than their paraffin counterparts, but I didn’t know why exactly. Oohhh so exciting – I couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of this one! With a little research I found some truly shocking information that was certainly blog-worthy…
Before I explain why beeswax candles are so superior, first let me give you the low-down on the downsides of the alternatives.
Most candles we buy are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin is a petroleum by-product, left over after producing many of the other common petroleum products such as gas, oils, pavement, etc. This material is then bleached with 100% strength bleach creating toxic dioxins, before being refined into ‘solid’ paraffin using various carcinogenic, solidifying chemicals.
Candle companies purchase paraffin wax and then add various other texturizing chemicals, artificial dyes for colour, and synthetic fragrances.
When synthetic fragrances are burned, they produce toxic fluoro-carbons and other polluting by-products. Inhaling these fluoro-carbons damages the receptors in our nasal passages that detect scent, and over an extending period of time diminishes the overall abilities of your olfactory senses by ‘wearing them out’. This is one of the reasons many people seem to require increasingly stronger-smelling candles (or synthetic air fresheners), etc., to experience any enjoyable aromas at all!
Last, but certainly not least, is the indirect cost of burning a fuel like paraffin in your home, which emits black soot that coats your walls, household furnishings and curtains, and least desirably, your lungs and skin. It is a proven fact that paraffin, with its associated synthetic scents and other additives, causes headaches, allergic reactions and difficulties with sinuses and lungs. Anyone with respiratory problems should not burn paraffin candles, nor should those that want to prevent said problems.
I hope this sheds some light (ha!) on the perils of paraffin to your health, home and environment. Now let me introduce you to beeswax and the incredible properties it has to offer.
Burning beeswax candles is better for you and the environment for so many reasons. First, burning beeswax produces negative ions, which benefit us and the air we breathe by attracting pollutants, in much the same way that a magnet attracts iron fillings. Negative ions attach to positively charged ions that hold onto dust, dander, molds and other air borne contaminants. Once attached, the positive ions are weighed down and this drops both the ions and the contaminants to the ground to be swept up or vacuumed away. Bottom line: burning beeswax will actually clean your air.
Beeswax candles are the best choice for the environment since the material used is 100% renewable, and in its native, raw state does not require bleaching or hydrogenation. The production of paraffin (a non-renewable resource), and even soy and palm waxes, involves chemical intervention to modify the raw material into a wax form and then into a candle. This means that beeswax is a better choice for the environment, since its processing is minimal, does not require chemicals, and the end product is completely biodegradable.
You can burn beeswax in an unventilated room without fear of pollution. In fact, many people report that burning a candle in the bedroom for 30 minutes or so before falling asleep produces a more restful sleep. Beeswax is hypo-allergenic, benefits those with environmental allergies, sensitivities, and even asthma. To keep your air as clean as possible, just remember to trim your wicks before each use, and extinguish the candle by submerging the wick in its own wax pool instead of blowing it out, as both these measures prevent smoke.
Lastly, the quality of the golden light given off by beeswax candles is unsurpassed by its paraffin counterparts. Because of the high melting point of the wax, beeswax burns stronger and brighter than paraffin, in addition to emitting the same spectrum of light as the sun — how amazing is that!
The Overall Cost
So to answer my friend’s question: while the initial cost may seem higher than paraffin candles, beeswax burns for much longer – two to five times the burn time of other candles. Beeswax has a much higher melting point than paraffin – in fact, the highest melting point of any wax, so it burns far more slowly. Costing only pennies an hour to burn, beeswax is much more economical than paraffin over time.
You can purchase beeswax candles at farmers markets, health food stores and of course online. The candles in this post are from The Beeswax Co., an American company committed to tradition and quality, they ship internationally, and I highly recommend them.
Wherever you choose to purchase your candles, beware of imitations! Look for 100% pure cappings beeswax, which is the wax that comes from the seal around each cell in the honeycomb. Some companies will cut their beeswax with paraffin, palm or soy waxes and still call them “beeswax” candles, so read the labels. Also, make sure the wick is made of a natural fiber (like cotton or hemp) and that it doesn’t contain a metal wire (which can sometimes contain lead), and that there aren’t any artificial scents or chemical colours added. Pure beeswax should smell like honey, and have a natural, golden hue.
Burn, baby. Burn!