There are many reasons candles are so popular. From air freshening to creating a great atmosphere to their ability to promote and enhance wellness, such as lavender for relaxation. Retail candle sales exceed $3bn each year. And while many of us are happy to select any wax candle off the shelf, some people have personal and moral commitments that impact their choices. The rise in veganism and people with a clear objective to minimize their contact with and consumption of animal products also affects the candle industry. Albeit, the vegan candle industry is booming!
There are approximately 19.7m vegans in America, and many won’t consider any product which uses any animal derivatives. Not all candles can claim to be 100% vegan, and many are far from it. It is important to look at the credentials behind a company and the ingredients within the candle itself before determining whether it is truly vegan. There are many clearly labeled vegan candle products and others that may be vegan but are not properly identified. Anyone committed to their vegan lifestyle cannot risk purchasing an unlabelled scented candle as there is always a chance of animal derivatives being included.
Let’s look closely at what exactly makes the average candle being vegan and non-vegan. What alternatives are on the market for plant-focused consumers?
What are candles made of?
Candles are made from a wide range of different substances. Handmade candles that individuals sell on marketplaces and their websites need close monitoring too. Candle ingredients often include natural fats, tallow which is rendered fat from cows or sheep, or wax, including beeswax taken from beehives. The basic requirement of a candle ingredient is that it is flammable, stable, and solid at room temperature. It also needs to be able to melt to liquid form when heated.
The wick of the candle is usually no problem for vegans. It is usually made from cotton, which has been braided into a solid shape. Cotton plants are obviously vegan, so this should not pose a problem. However, it is always important to check as some candlemakers may opt for different wicks, although this is rare.
The main body of the candle is the main problem for vegans looking to avoid any animal derived products or ingredients. Tallow candles are not commonplace anymore, but there are still makers out there who opt for this traditional ingredient for their candles.
Animal derived ingredients you don’t want in your vegan candle:
The fat used in the candle’s main body is where issues lie. If not tallow or animal fats, many candles are now made from beeswax instead. You may wonder why beeswax is a problem for any vegan candle. Bees do not necessarily die in beeswax production, but the issues lie in the fact that we exploit bee colonies for their products. Many vegans believe humankind should not profit or benefit from the work of any other species, and taking the beeswax is an example of this. There are also examples of bee farms around the world, where queen bees are subjected to unbelievable cruelty, so honeycomb and therefore beeswax can be harvested.
Aside from the main ingredients of the conventional candles, there are additional products that may not be suitable for vegan customers. Candle makers use most of these products in finalizing the product, such as to help with hardening, extending shelf life, or adding color and scent.
One important ingredient for vegans to look out for in a vegan candle is stearic acid. It enhances the opacity and improves the consistency of candles. Stearic acid is simply a saturated fatty acid that comes from either animals or plants. Unfortunately, most packaging will not state the source of stearic acid (whether plants or animals). So if the label says so, it is best to avoid it if you’re a vegan.
Other synthetic products within candles, such as limonene, are completely vegan, but they do have the potential to impact the environment negatively. Limonene can sometimes degrade into formaldehyde, even before it is burned. So as most vegan consumers also care about their environmental impact, this is a further ingredient to look out for and potentially avoid.
Surprising vegan candle elements that aren’t vegan!
Some elements of a candle the average consumer wouldn’t even consider for their vegan credentials. However, committed vegans have learned the hard way the importance of checking every element of a product for its vegan properties. Even some vegan-labeled candles have fallen short regarding additional ingredients used in their production and packaging.
Labeling is a clear area where you may find the vegan credentials of a candle fall short. The glue in sticker tape and even some sticky labels is sometimes derived from animal sources. A product that labels itself as vegan should also ensure its labeling meets this claim. Similarly, the ink used in labeling may also need to be considered. The making of some inks uses a wide range of animal products, from animal bone to char and glycerin to animal gelatin and shellac. That’s a lot of ingredients to try and avoid, but there are plenty of vegan inks on the market, as vegetable-based inks are not a new discovery and can easily be used for labeling.
It may seem like a bit of a minefield for vegans looking to enjoy a simple home accessory. However, there are plenty of well-designed and thoughtfully crafted vegan candle options on the market too. You may be surprised to hear how many different variations there are and how you can still enjoy many fantastic aromas and styles of candle.
Vegan Candle Options:
The demand for vegan candles has created a wide range of options. There are plenty of vegan-friendly candles on the market. Their makers are committed to ensuring their customers can be assured of the animal-free nature of their products. Many of the vegan candle choices on the market come from specialized candlemakers. However, some of the bigger companies have also recognized the demand, and you will find vegan candles available in a wide range of places. Let’s look more closely at the main vegan candle products available and also touch upon those extras which also ensure a vegan product.
Paraffin Wax Candles
Not the most environmentally friendly choice, paraffin wax candles are, on the face of things, a vegan friendly choice. Paraffin wax is derived from paraffin, which comes from crude oil. Crude oil is 100% vegan friendly. However, paraffin wax often needs additives to make it suitable for candles. And the most commonly used additive in paraffin candles is stearic acid. There are alternatives, but vegans may find this core ingredient in many paraffin candles, meaning they are not able to choose a vegan candle from this range.
Paraffin wax also has environmental implications, and people have reported that exposure to burned paraffin wax can irritate the eyes and throat.
Soy Wax Candles
Vegetable wax such as soy wax has become the number one choice for vegan candle makers, as well as those with an environmental conscience. Soy wax comes directly from soybeans, one of the most renowned and revered products in a vegan’s larder. Soy wax candle is natural, biodegradable, and burn much more cleanly than paraffin wax. It is still important to check any labels as soy candle could still be finished with stearic acid or similar products, but it is less likely.
Another significant benefit of opting for soy wax is that it is 100% paraben-free. Parabens are preservatives that some countries have banned due to their potentially hazardous nature. Burning candle with parabens for an extended period has been found to trigger a range of reactions from allergies to irritation. And the FDA continues to investigate its links to breast cancer. With this in mind, it is always good to avoid products that cannot claim to be paraben-free. The best places to look for natural soy wax candles would be Yankee Candle or LuLu Candles.
Vegan Candle Additives
Most candles sold as vegan or vegan friendly will be made of 100% natural ingredients. Core elements such as the wax should be sourced from a vegan product, and additional elements such as wicks are usually 100% vegan as simply made from cotton or wood. The essential oils used in a vegan candle could be either natural or synthetic but still satisfy the necessary criteria to be classified as vegan.
Fragrance oils are man-made and synthetic, with plenty created without any animal products. Pure essential oils are 100% natural and distilled from plants and other natural sources. If you can’t find vegan candles on the market to suit your taste, there is always the option to make your own and create the fragrance and ambiance you desire.
Five Quick Steps to your Own Vegan Candle
Vegan candle making avoids the need to rely upon others, and you can be 100% sure your creation contains no animal products. To make your own soy wax vegan, pillar candles, or container candles in a small batch, you will need:
- 100 Soy wax flakes (approximately 2 cups, depending on the size of your container)
- Glass bowl
- Essential oils or fragrance oils of your choosing, lavender, for example
- Wooden wick or cotton candle wick
- Glass jar or another candle container
Products such as soy wax flakes and fragrance oils, as well as candle wicks of both kinds, should be available in your local craft store.
To create your candle, follow these simple steps:
1. Melt the wax
Play your soy wax flakes into the glass bowl. Fill your saucepan between a third and a half-full, depending on the size of your bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan and heat the wax. Stir occasionally until it is soft and can be easily poured. You can alternatively melt the wax in a microwave, but the risk of burning or overheating is higher, so be careful.
2. Add your fragrance
Let the wax cool down slightly, but not enough, so it begins to set. Add 5-10 drops of your chosen fragrance or essential oil into the melted wax. You could mix different fragrances if you have a preference for lavender-chamomile and lemon-bergamot. These are just two popular combinations you could easily combine. We’ve also got some further recommendations of great smelling oils to use in your vegan candle.
3. Position the wick
Spoon a small amount of the fragranced wax into the center of the candle jar or container. Dangle or place the wick into the container until it meets the wax. Be sure you have enough wick at the top of the container to hang over the edge. In the case of wooden wicks, make sure they reach easily over the lip of the container. There are candle putty and wick holders available in craft stores, making this process a little easier.
4. Pour in the wax
Once you have your wick secured in place and are holding it centrally, you can pour in the rest of your soy candle wax. Slowly pour in the wax so it levels out equally. Be sure to leave a little space at the top of the container.
5. Harden overnight
Once hand poured, you can leave your candle to harden overnight. In the morning, you can trim down your wick to size, and the candle is ready to use.
There are many recognizable brands now aware of the size of the vegan market. This means you can find plenty of high-quality vegan-friendly candles to choose from. And that too, in a vast range of aromas and styles to suit your taste.
Vegan Candles to suit all tastes.
If you cannot find the right scented candle for your needs on the market, there is no shame in going DIY. It has the added benefit of guaranteeing you know exactly what ingredients have gone into your vegan candle. Also, you can tailor the fragrance exactly to your personal preferences.
In the 21st century, there is no reason our candles should be harmful to animals or incorporate any animal products at all. More and more companies recognize the demand for vegan products and are expanding their candle ranges to incorporate this. Some companies are even committing to only providing cruelty-free and animal-friendly products, setting a precedent for other companies out there.