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As with so many items you may wonder about when you ditch animal products, the answer to the question “Are candles vegan?” is…it depends. Some are, some aren’t, but that’s not really helpful when you’re shopping.
So today we’re going to look at what makes candles vegan and what doesn’t, as well as how to choose a cruelty-free product and a few other things you should look out for when buying candles.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Non-vegan ingredients you should avoid
There are two main culprits you need to look out for when shopping for candles: animal fats and beeswax. Both are obvious when explicitly stated, but they can sometimes masquerade under different names, especially animal fats.
The alternative names for animal fat you may encounter include tallow and stearic acid. Tallow is straightforward rendered animal fat that is commonly made from mutton or beef, and stearic acid gets its name from the Greek word for the same product (στέαρ or stéar translates to tallow).
Further confusion can result from the fact that stearic acid can be produced by both animal fats and, wait for it, coconuts! Unless clearly stated, however, it’s safe to assume that if stearic acid is present it has come from animal fat, as this is far cheaper than the coconut version thanks to it being a by-product of the meat industry, which results in it being produced by the ton.
Many premium candles will be made from beeswax and should also be avoided. Beeswax will already be known to many vegans as a no-no, but if you don’t know why, check out my post: Is Beeswax Vegan? for more details.
Look out for alternative names such as: cera alba, apis mellifica, apis mel, and cera flava. Most manufacturers, however, will explicitly state beeswax rather than use these other monikers as the product is commonly associated with quality…despite being a by-product of animal cruelty.
Vegan-friendly candle ingredients
Luckily, for those of us who love a candle or seven around the home, there are vegan alternatives available.
The two best options are vegetable and soy wax candles, although there are other materials used to make candles that could be deemed vegan; the most common of which would be paraffin.
The problem with paraffin is the link to toxicity. When burnt, paraffin candles release toluene and benzene, two known carcinogens. If you stop and consider the fact that paraffin is petroleum derived waste product it’s easy to make the link, but how many of us do that when we’re picking up a cute candle at the store?
The second hand smoke from a paraffin candle can heavily pollute a room (especially one that isn’t well ventilated) and the resulting toxins are regularly compared to those emitted from a diesel engine…yuk! It’s particularly important for those who suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma to avoid paraffin candles, but even if you don’t it’s still not wise to breathe in such toxins on a regular basis.
So, the best advice for both the welfare of animals, and that of you and your family, is to opt for vegetable or soy based candles.
Other things to look out for when buying candles
Right, so now we know that natural candles made from soya or vegetable fats get the thumbs up, what else is there to consider?
There are two main things: the material used to make the wick, and the fragrances used to make the candle scented.
Thankfully, the sale of lead-core wicks were banned some time ago, but it’s still wise to specifically look for cotton wick candles and to buy only from reputable chandlers.
Similarly, scented candles can be cause for concern. Synthetic fragrances included in many scented candles can release industrial chemicals such as formaldehyde into our environment…and they do not necessarily have to be lit to do so.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can be released from unlit candles as well as those being burnt. This means that even a candle purchased for decorative purposes could be polluting the air you breathe inside your home.
In short, when it comes to buying scented candles, always look for those that have been made using only 100% pure essential oils. Avoid synthetic fragrances at all costs.
The problem distinguishing between unsafe and safe candles for vegans
While all of the above information is good to know, telling the difference between non-vegan and vegan candles can be a struggle.
Why? Well, the main reason is that, unlike food, manufacturers are not required by law to list the ingredients used within their products, so consumers are often left in the dark.
Therefore, the only safe way to determine whether or not a candle is vegan and cruelty-free is if it is explicitly stated on the packaging. If in doubt, the best policy is to assume that the candle isn’t vegan and move on to a manufacturer that goes out of their way to promote their product as being free from animal products and testing.
Soy candles vs beeswax
As the two contenders for the “best candle” crown, beeswax and soy candles are often compared, so how do they stack up against each other?
Well, they’re actually pretty similar in many regards. Both soya based and beeswax candles are natural products that burn cleanly and have the added bonus of being biodegradable. The obvious difference that is especially important for us vegans is the fact that soy candles are vegetable based, so therefore their impact on animal welfare is minimal compared to beeswax.
On the whole, soy based candles are cheaper than those made from beeswax, although the price is increasing dramatically, thanks largely to regulations passed by the FDA to eliminate both hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated from the food industry. The knock-on effect of this is increased prices for soy wax, which is naturally being passed on to consumers.
Another key difference, and it’s a good one for soy candle fans, is the fact that candles made from soy tend to have a greater ‘scent throw’ than their beeswax counterparts. This is mainly due to the fact that beeswax has a scent all of its own, and it’s often strong enough to mask any essential oils added to the candle making process.
Vegan candle brands
I often get asked questions such as, “Are Yankee Candles vegan?”, or “Do you have a list of vegan candle brands?”, but as you can see from the different things you need to keep in mind above, being vegan often isn’t enough.
Yes, Yankee Candles are vegan, but they use paraffin wax in most of their products. Many other vegan candle brands use synthetic fragrances, so you should use your discretion when purchasing any product rather than relying other sources.
Add to that the fact that a manufacturer can change their production process tomorrow and you can see where problems can arise.
With that little disclaimer out of the way, here are a few vegan candle brands and other chandlers who make vegan products you might want to take a look at:
- Linnea’s Lights
- Le Labo
- Birthed By Earth
- Soy VegePure
- Wonderful Scents
- La Jolie Muse
Below are just some of the vegan candles I like…I hope you will, too 😊