Have you ever wondered why there is such a debate over essential oils versus candle fragrances when making candles, and whether it really matters which one you use? This is a debate where people certainly hold strong feelings. At the heart of the matter seems to be whether it is really important to you to use 100% natural products when making candles. For many of us the daily application of skin care products which contain chemicals is nothing new. Take a look at our basic make up items like foundation, eyeliner and lipstick, never mind moisturizers and of course sunscreen. The ingredient lists for these reads like a college level chemistry text. However there are also many people who strongly believe that the chemicals we apply to our skin provide a potential long term risk to our health.
Before we decide on which side of the fence we sit it is best to be informed.
What are fragrance oils?
A fragrance oil is a combination of chemicals and natural products designed to evoke a scent. Often this scent is reminiscent of:
– a naturally occurring scent e.g. coconut, pine trees, ginger
– a bakery scent e.g. blueberry muffins, 7 layer carrot cake,
– a concept e.g. mown grass, sea spray, falling leaves.
Visit any online candle supply store and the list of candle fragrances will overwhelm you. There is literally a fragrance for everything you could imagine. When making candles at home you can choose fruity scents, bakery scents, floral scents, spicy scents and perfume imitations.
Some candle fragrances contain essential oils while others are entirely synthetic. Not all candle fragrances are created equal. Candle fragrances are listed as lotion/body safe and soap safe. If a fragrance is lotion/body safe then it is suitable for absorption into the skin, these fragrances could be used in massage candles. If a fragrance is only soap safe it would require washing off the skin. If a fragrance does not have a body safe or soap safe indication it can be used when making candles at home but should not be used in a massage candle. In addition to this, fragrances are rated by a dilution percentage, e.g. a fragrance may be 5% skin safe, while another may be 20% skin safe. It is really important to know these ratings if you are using a fragrance in a massage candle, but if simply making a fragrant candle the dilution percentage is not as important.
The use of candle fragrances will provide you with a broad range of possible candle scents that is simply not achievable with essential oils. You could spend hours trying to blend oils and never come up with the perfect bakery scent sold as a candle fragrance.
A quick look at candle making forums and you will soon see many people are opposed to the use of chemicals in their house and they therefore prefer to use essential oils. These are 100% natural oils that are obtained from plants, they are the reason plants smell and taste. When you eat an orange it is the orange oil that you smell as you peel it, when you smell the relaxing scent of lavender it is the lavender oil that is causing the aroma. Essential oils are extracted from plants’ leaves, stems, berries, bark, roots, seeds cones etc. The processes used to extract the oils include: distillation, cold pressing, expression and solvent extraction. For people who seek 100% natural processes, oils extracted through cold pressing and distillation are often preferred.
What are the differences as they relate to making candles?
Cost – This is an important consideration when making candles at home. Essential oils are a lot more expensive than candle fragrances. The difference in price can be more than $10 for equivalent amounts.
Safety – When making candles at home it is important to be aware of the hazards of essential oils. There are some that are dangerous to use in candles. 100% natural does not necessarily mean 100% safe for candles. Essential oils are powerful organic oils. Some fragrances are known irritants, some should be avoided at all costs if pregnant and some are even listed as known carcinogens.
Throw – When making candles at home the ‘throw’ of a scent is hugely important. There are some oils which have an excellent throw e.g. lemongrass and orange; however, in general candle fragrances have a better throw than essential oils.
So which is better when making candles?
I use both extensively. There are some fragrances that I use as essential oils and I do like the 100% natural aspect, but there are candle fragrances that I absolutely adore and I know I could never achieve by using essential oils. Regardless of which one you use please ensure you are aware of its ingredients and its potential side effects.