Paraffin vs. Soy vs. Beeswax: Which Wax Is Best For Your Candles?

Our sense of smell is arguably the most underrated and under-appreciated of our senses. A simple whiff of a pleasant, comforting scent, however, can quickly put us into a better mood and mindset. It’s no wonder that more and more people are drawn to candles. They’re easily accessible and come in all sorts of variants for any lifestyle and budget.

With so many options available, which one is the best for you? Here, we break down the three most common candle wax materials, paraffin, soy, and beeswax, and show you which choice is the smartest one.

Paraffin is probably the most common material for mass market candles simply for its price. Only recently there has been a lot of research done uncovering that with its low price comes a lot of downsides to your health and environment.

Paraffin comes from the sludge the bottom of crude oil barrels. While it inherently contains a lot of toxins, it's further bleached to get its initial white color and treated with chemicals like benzene and toluene, which are known carcinogens. Paraffin candles are further treated with artificial colors and fragrances. As the final byproduct of petroleum, paraffin is a non-renewable resource that releases pollutants into the area. Paraffin candles are known to contain seven documented toxins, two of which are tagged as carcinogenic. While it is cheap to acquire, paraffin candles can be difficult to clean when melted and can stain black soot on ceilings, walls, drapery, and furniture. These cosmetic and health issues should be reason enough to hold on to your hard-earned cash and find a candle option that isn’t slowly poisoning your home.

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Soy wax candles come from hydrogenated soybean oil, the same source as tofu. Which in theory makes it a more sustainable resource great for those wanting to live the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle. However, the major concern is that soy wax doesn’t stand on its own. Most soy candles still contain paraffin, even candles tagged as 100% soy wax still need to be treated with a small amount of paraffin. Another issue is that at present, 90% of soy is genetically modified, and even 100% soybean oil blends are mixed with vegetable oils like coconut or other waxes. While there are candles that to advertise themselves as paraffin/soy blends those who would prefer truly all-natural options should stay wary. While soy is definitely a better option than paraffin it still has a lot of downsides.

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Beeswax is the oldest material used for candles. Beeswax candles have even been found in the pyramids of ancient Egypt! Beeswax is an all-natural, non-toxic substance secreted by bees after they visit flowers and consume honey. Beeswax is used to make bee honeycombs, and when they are harvested, make for great candles. Beeswax creates a strong connection to the earth, harkening to the beauty and productivity of nature. No bees are harmed in the harvesting of beeswax, making it a cruelty-free, vegan/vegetarian-friendly option.

Beeswax also has the lowest toxicity for candle materials, releasing no toxic byproducts or heavy soot into the air. Instead of adding pollutants, beeswax candles neutralize them. Beeswax candles release negative ions when burned, eliminating dust, mold, and unpleasant odors. This is particularly helpful for those with allergies, asthma, and hay fever. On its own, beeswax has a lot of natural relaxation properties. Its mildly sweet honey scent complements any fragrance blended into it. It’s a dripless material by nature, meaning there will be no wastage or mess, making it easier and safer to burn. The light it produces is also the purest and brightest, the closest to natural sunlight for a candle, making it a great light source for minimal eye strain.

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

It takes 33 million flower visits to create a pound of beeswax, so there is a premium price point to the material, but ultimately has more benefits for the discerning customer. That is why Embla candles are handmade with only 100% pure beeswax to ensure the highest quality possible. Using 3D technology and old world manufacturing techniques, Embla brings candles in never seen before shapes just a few clicks. And to give back to our hardworking bees 10% of each Embla candle sold goes towards the Planet Bee Foundation in San Francisco, which teaches children how to save and preserve the bees.

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