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A Holiday Favorite: Scented Candles {But Is It Safe?}

safety of candles, holiday candles

A Holiday Favorite: Scented Candles {But Is It Safe?}

Some of the most common holiday gifts that are given are scented candles – hey, I’ve given it before too. Obviously before I knew this stuff. You might think candles are super harmless and just give beautiful light + yummy smells (which yes they do) + this makes it really hard for people to step away from them because why not have your house smell like a freakin’ snickerdoodle cookie or even like a Christmas tree during Christmas or like the sandy shores of the beach from your last vacation?

Scented candles promote unhealthy indoor pollution levels unfortunately. The ingredients in candles can emit fragrances that can interfere with hormones and chemicals that can increase your risk of certain cancers, respiratory issues like asthma, etc.

Listen, I’m not here to fear-monger and tell you all the things that are bad in this world. BUT, my health is so much more important to me than a good smelling house.

Most candles are made with paraffin wax (which is usually based of of petroleum) and synthetic fragrances, which you can learn about the dangers of the label “fragrances” in one of our past blogs. Fragrances is a very broad term that can be used and filled with crappy ingredients that can disrupt our hormones, like phthalates + parabens. It’s a very questionable term and I will turn away products that have that ingredient.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are common pollutants that come from candles that are known to have carcinogenic properties,

Some PAHs are well known as carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens and therefore pose a serious threat to the health and the well-being of humans. The most significant health effect to be expected from inhalation exposure to PAHs is an excess risk of lung cancer

A study that was done in the Journal of Hazardous Materials in 2015 showed that candles indoor contribute to indoor pollution by releasing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from synthetic fragrances and even chemicals, such as formaldehyde. This study showed that chemicals were being emitted even BEFORE they were lit + during burning. We all know formaldehyde is labeled as carcinogenic, but what about volatile organic compounds? The EPA states on how VOCs from synthetic fragrances effect our health by,

Eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

Inside our home can be MORE polluted than the outside due to off gassing of new furniture, cleaning products, air fresheners, and add on candles on top of that. Some things we can’t totally prevent, like furniture off gassing and floors off gassing (if you’re in a new house). But, our goal is to not create compound effect right?

If you are a total lover of candles, hope is not lost though!


How can you still use scented candles?

When you are searching for a good candle, look for candles that are made from beeswax or coconut wax + have a cotton (or hemp) wick. You can find a lot of different companies online or even just check out Amazon as well.

You can also boil some fresh cinnamon sticks and orange peels and various other spices over the stove to fill your house with delicious aromas. Doing this avoids synthetic fragrances + yucky soot that is burned from the petroleum based candles and wicks.

So, you don’t have to completely give up candles – feel free to burn those beeswax candles away next to your bubble bath + glass of wine. But, I do recommend just walking right on past the normal scented candles for a gift or for your home. Even though it seems like such a little thing, every thing that you do for your health matters and adds up.

Avatar for Lahana Vigliano
Lahana Vigliano

Lahana Vigliano is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and CEO of Nuvitru Wellness. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition Science and Masters Degree in Nutrition Science and Functional Medicine. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition. Lahana and her team help support women who struggle with weight loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and many other lingering issues that leaves women not feeling their best. She uses food as medicine, as well as herbs and supplements when needed, to support her clients. She looks at the whole body holistically making sure women are understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and their environment impact their health. Connect with her on Facebook + Instagram (@nuvitruwellness).