Dir. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, 1996 | Photo via Cinespia
Candles are timeless. Even if you’re not a candle addict, you probably can’t resist their lure. Nearly every household across all cultures embraces them. Whether it’s for decor purposes or that they are a status symbol, candles have us all smitten! Aesthetics aside, scented candles have been used since antiquity. Their heady aroma has been setting the mood for centuries past. Danes even have a name for it. Hygge!
Yet there’s no shortage of fluff circulating the internet claiming that there, in fact, isn’t a direct link between the scents we inhale and our health. Make no mistake that a lot of these so called “studies” are outdated and flawed. So what are the facts?
Actress Sanrda Bullock in Practical Magic, 1998 | Photo via http://kidmaniacs-citade1.proboards.com/thread/64/practical-magic-shout-out-kidman
Long-term exposure to scents that make us feel positive emotions like happy, alert, relaxed or giddily nostalgic influence our health in a good way overtime. They are proven olfactory wellness-boosters possessing the ability to improve our overall life quality!
A research conducted back in the early 90’s found that pleasant scents helped participants perform better and tackle challenging tasks with greater ease. We also seem to turn into anagram geniuses when in a pleasant smelling room. Evidently, combining the “pleasant” with “calming” remedies irritability and hyper-vigilance. All facts! Italian Actress Isabella Albonico in 1959 | Photo by Yale Joel via https://pleasurephoto.wordpress.com
We may not see, touch, feel or taste it, yet it’s the single most powerful sensation we encounter from the moment we are born. We know the role pheromones may play in mate selection. And that if we lose our capacity to smell stuff, we also wave goodbye to tasting the things that once had us salivating. Similarly, our overall mood, behavior and judgement is constantly swayed by olfaction, also known as our sense of smell.
Without our awareness, we are conditioned each and every day by the scents surrounding us – familiar and new. They act as invisible time capsules and key decision makers following us everywhere we go! We liken them to memories, people, places and emotions. Even dreams!
Not to keep harping on this, but here’s another research backing that we boost wellness and live happier, healthier lives by introducing scents that elicit positive biological responses in us.
By and large, scented candles are the single most elegant way we can reap the benefits of aromatherapy. Only caveat is that not all scented candles are the same. Quality assurance often gets knocked down the pecking order with mass production and false advertisement reigning supreme in the candle industry. But fret not! There is always a solution! In this case it’s carefully choosing the candles you buy.
Without further ado, here are four things you must avoid and look for when picking out a scented candle.
- SAY NO: Say no to paraffin wax, period. No ifs and, or buts. You absolutely want to avoid it at all costs. “Paraffin is a petroleum waste product and has to be deodorized and chemically bleached before it can be made in to wax.” Not only do paraffin candles emit petro-soot (gross black stuff that float up to taint your walls and ceilings), they excrete toxic chemicals found in paint, lacquer and varnish removers, putting everyone in the household at a risk for cancer and other invasive health problems. Exacerbated asthma symptoms, allergies and respiratory issues are some of the lesser dangers. So unless you’re in the market of risking your health, and ultimately life, please heed this warning and eschew. Soy wax, classic beeswax and coconut wax are definitely the way to go. Don’t opt for the cheaper option because it’s easy. Quality is, after all, everything.
- IF IT DOESN’T SMELL LIKE OLFACTORY LUXURY, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG PART I: “The quality of intention we are putting into our fragrances, and the attention we are putting into their making, is a craft,” Fabrice Penot, founder of French niche luxury perfume house Le Labo told The New York Times. “It has a tremendous impact in the power of emotion we are able to deliver.” Keywords: quality, intention, craft, impact, power of emotion. All things missing from candles made with synthetic fragrance oils. More alarmingly, synthetic fragrance oils release carcinogenic chemicals that not only cause cancer but a slew of other health problems. You’ll also notice that the scent throw is anything but strong. And if by chance strong, certainly not palatable. So thinking you’ll achieve aromatherapy benefits on the cheap from candles made with these no-good chemicals is a grave mistake! Mainstream candle companies cut corners and save big on product development costs this way. And what you essentially get is not just an epitaph reading “RIP [Your Name]’s Health,” but also a window into the mockery made of a sacred art form which has been treasured and perfected over centuries. On that note, “Angel’s Wings” anyone? How about “Christmas on the Beach?” Cringe-worthy is a gross understatement! And I’m sure you agree. Chandlers (fancy term for candle-makers) across Eastern and Western societies have long aspired for perfection when manning their scented candle making skills. From inventors of the “incense clock,” one of the first recorded scented candles. They were infused with aromatic incenses and used to tell time in 6th century China and India (!). To the manufacturers stepping to the high demands of refined scented candles during the Age of Enlightenment. The legacy is lost at the heels of greedy modern day manufacturing practices. By refraining from indulging candles made with synthetic fragrances you not only tip your connoisseur hat to the our predecessors, but also get your money’s worth!!!
- IF IT DOESN’T SMELL LIKE OLFACTORY LUXURY, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG PART II: Sadly, synthetic fragrance isn’t the only killer of aromatherapy. Low scent to wax ratio can easily damper the quality of a candle by diluting its throw. Even when a candle company is using quality oils to scent their products, if they are stingy with the percentage, the candle loses its value and effectiveness. The reason is simple: it doesn’t deliver what it promises. My advice is that you vet the company of your choosing, even when it’s a mom and pop Etsy shop, and learn more about their candle-making process and journey to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Sometimes “hand poured” and “pure oils” does translate to a product worth its salt. So, research away and don’t settle for less!
- BURNTIME IS KING: Last but not least, a trusted candle company, despite how small, will always include the burn time of their products. This attests to the product having been tested whilst providing you with facts that can’t be tampered with. Longer burn times really are indicative of a high quality candle.
Next time you’re in the candle aisle, shopping for your poison, you’re well equipped to ensure that it’s poison-free. And you’re all set to plunge into the lap of luxury that is high-quality scented candles.
We learned that swearing by candles made with soy, beeswax or their worthy cousin coconut wax is a must. That aromatherapy benefits are almost entirely contingent on the quality of the fragrance oils used to scent a candle. By that token, the oils can’t be used sparingly either. So when in doubt, inquire about scent to wax ratio. Last, a candle’s burn time says a lot about its quality, too.
All things considered, higher price points on well crafted candles is indisputable. Especially due to their huge wellness component. Now go out there. And get your Hygge on, the right way!
Stay tuned for my next post on the benefits of many high-quality fragrance oils used in luxury perfumes (and candles)!