Identifying a Clean Candle: Part 3- Dyes and Fragrances

This blog post is part 3 in a series.  Click here to read part 1 and here to read part 2.

Candle additives such as dyes and fragrances are non-essential ingredients in a candle, but they are the things that attract people to purchase a candle.  This area of ingredients is where a manufacturers’ claim of purity can be questionable as most of these additives are synthetic (chemicals) and may contain toxins.

In the beginning, Way Out Wax started out making brightly colored, psychedelic, tie-dyed “kaleidoscope” candles (pictured above) almost 20 years ago.  But, soon after the company began, the owner became increasingly aware that the brightly colored candle his company was producing were not consistent with the healthy, environmentally friendly lifestyles of those who created them.  Check out the full story of Way Out Wax’s history here.

Ever since that farewell to chemical dyes at Way Out Wax, we’ve been searching for and testing candle dyes that claim to be “all-natural” to no avail.  Bekro, the largest candle color supplier has even been quoted as saying that unfortunately, all-natural candle dyes just don’t exist.

Although there are natural, organic and plant derived dyes used in soaps and cosmetics, these are all water-soluble and candle dyes need to be oil-soluble.  Candle dyes are usually aniline dyes (chemical) with very scary MSDS (Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet).  Therefore, we choose not to use them in our candles as we choose health over aesthetics.  We know that everything that is put into a candle is eventually dissipated into the air and inhaled by you, your pets, and your loved ones.  If a brightly colored candle claims to have its color derived from an “all-natural” or “eco-friendly” dye, we encourage you to ask the manufacturer for more information about the origins and contents of that dye.

That being said, some of our candles are not the pure white of the wax and take on the subtle color of the essential oil that they contain.  If you look at the below picture, you’ll see that our patchouli votives have a brownish tinge. This coloring is from the patchouli essential oil, which is brown, although the color can vary a bit from batch to batch.  Other essential oils we use, such as orange, which is pressed from the orange peel, can also give the candle slight variations in color.

Speaking of essential oils, when it comes to candle scents, be aware of the distinct difference between a “fragrance oil” vs. an “essential oil.”  Essential oils are extracted directly from parts of a plant and have therapeutic properties.  Fragrance oils may be made of synthetic chemicals mixed with some form of natural oils or may be completely synthetic.  Again, this is something we would strongly encourage you to question the candle maker about.

In this 2001 study, the EPA reported that synthetic fragrances were shown to cause “possible mutagenic and genotoxic effects.”  Synthetic fragrances have also been shown to contain hormone disruptors which are linked to abnormal cell reproduction and may result in tumor growth.  These chemically-derived fragrances can also trigger allergy-like symptoms and respiratory distress for thousands of people with fragrance sensitivities.  According to this study from the University of West Georgia,  over 30% of the U.S. population reported adverse effects (such as headaches, sneezing, runny nose, etc.) from exposure to synthetically scented products.

True aromatherapy products will use only pure botanical therapeutic grade essential oils.  Aura Cacia is a reputable supplier of these oils and by visiting their web site you can learn about many of the scents that are available as essential oils.  Candles with scents such as “pumpkin spice,” “sugar cookie,”  and “ocean waves” will all be created using synthetic fragrances, as there are no botanical or essential oils of those scents in nature.

Although it is much more costly, we choose to only use essential oils to scent our candles.  Visit this page to learn why we feel so strongly about this and check out this blog post to learn why we don’t offer some of the most popular candle scents: vanilla, jasmine and rose.

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If walls had ears…

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They’d have heard their fair share of music and laughter from our crew over the last 16 years!

Today we shut the door to the old factory on Harrel Street for the last time.

Moving often brings a nostalgic, bittersweet mix of emotions and a decade and a half in one space is a long time.   While we are so excited for all that the future holds, we feel it is important to stop and reflect.

A constantly evolving (and sometimes revolving) set of folks have spent months or years at Harrel Street and, together, we became part of a funky and fragrant mythology.   Over the years, we’ve employed glass blowers, carpenters, crafters, painters, storytellers, skydivers, comedians, inventors and many damn fine candlemakers.  Not always, but sometimes (more often than the national average!), there is just the right mix of music, world views, life experiences and timing to produce a sort of alchemical environment.  I am honored to say that we experienced this phenomenon in multiple manifestations.   You know who you are!

So, today, we are thinking back on all the fine folks that have been along for the ride.   With a pitcher of hot wax in hand, we’ve probed the mysteries of the universe and all grown up a little along the way.  It is with a grateful heart that we think of all you Waxers, both past and present!  Please know that today we sang a song and danced a dance in your honor.

Hey diddle diddle
to the people in the middle
we got HOT WAX
and it’s cookin’ on the griddle
Got the guitar strummin’
the drummer drummin’
the people all hummin’
and the vibe was lovin’
on and on and on
’til the breakadawn

(- Michael Franti)

It’s official.  We’ve packed up our aromatic carnival and headed north. Come visit us at our lovely new digs.  We’ve got lots of memories to create!