Cringeworthy Secrets of the Candle Industry and a
Non-Toxic Alternative

Photo By: Castorly Stock

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Ready for a fun little thought nugget today? Did you know in 2015 there were over 80,000 new chemicals released to the market? The amount tested for safety: O-N-E percent!(1) Chemicals going to market in the US is basically like the Autobahn. While a legal ruling in 2016 required the EPA to start working through this backlog, the requirement was to test a mere twenty chemicals at a time. With a rate of approximately 2,000 new chemicals entering the market each year, this could take a while. Possibly centuries(2). How is this even legal? And while I’m not meant to understand a lot of things, I do wonder how these manufacturers live with themselves. And also: I thought this was a review about candles and gifts and stuff. We’ll get back there, I promise.

I am infatuated with burning candles. Obviously, you also have some sort of affinity for them, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. Personally, I love the way they look; love the way they smell; I love the ambiance they give to a room. As a kid, I would collect candles in my room because my dad wouldn’t let me burn them. Everyone I knew would gift me candles for special occasions and I would display them proudly throughout, opening the lid and occasionally taking a deep inhale. Eventually, I moved into an apartment and I was able to actually light the candles I purchased, and it was just as special as I had always envisioned it would be; however, soon thereafter I had a revelation that stopped my candle-burning days in their tracks. At least for a while. Here’s the deal. While my dad was wrong that I’d burn the house down, he was right about one thing: most candles are a toxic heap of waste.

There are only a few different, basic parts that go into making a candle, and every material used in the candle-making process has the ability to wreak havoc on your body if only you select the wrong ingredient. Pick the wrong wax – carcinogens (I’m looking at you, paraffin). Pick the wrong wick? Lead. And the fragrances? Well, that’s pandora’s box. A fun little tidbit I picked up somewhere between OSHA training and working on my MPH is that fragrances are proprietary, so the ingredients don’t have to be disclosed by the manufacturer. Not even on their safety data sheets. Isn’t that convenient? Those synthetic scents can be full of endocrine disruptors or carcinogens and nobody would be any the wiser that their candles were causing infertility. Lead, carcinogens, and mutagens, oh my! I am clearly not meant to understand all the workings of the world, but how people can sell anything that is harmful to the health of an unsuspecting consumer perplexes me on a regular basis.

Maybe this is a complete overreaction, or maybe I was the Invisible Trendsetter long before I even realized it because I said no to this stuff in college – circa 2010ish; much before being environmentally aware was the posh thing to do and certainly before people started fully understanding the ramifications the environment could play on our health. Of course, hippies have always known rivers shouldn’t catch fire, but the rest of humanity has just assumed that anyone worried about chemicals in the environment getting into their bodies is just a crazy person and that level of crazy is most definitely running through the forest naked in the moonlight. I digress. Back then, this meant I had to pass up a lot of things I had loved in my “past life” because that natural-organic movement hadn’t really taken hold yet, and definitely wasn’t accessible on a part-time daycare salary as an undergrad. People said I was crazy/neurotic/ a tree-hugger, you name it. That was okay with me because I’ll be crazy and reduce my cancer risk in the process. That’s crazy I can live with – quite literally. Fast forward to the 2020s. The candle industry has changed a bit and I’ve seen a lot of affordable options at Target or on Etsy. They’re typically made of soy wax, but the wick core is generally still undisclosed and those stinky proprietary scent blends are still lurking around. Of course, this is a nice start, but it certainly isn’t a home run, especially in a house with kids and pets and people who generally just want to be healthy. Needless to say, finding a candle brand I trust not to kill me has been a long one, and I went years without burning candles. As a literal lifelong candle lover, this was painful for me.

It had been about a decade since I had benefited from the ambiance a single candle in a freshly cleaned bathroom brings, when I stumbled into a low point in my life. Postpartum depression and my yearly struggle with seasonal depression began and… woof, I was feeling terrible. I wanted a small flicker of hope or happiness, and then it dawned on me: something that could bring a little ray of light into my life was literally a little ray of light: a glowing candle. I began scouring the interwebs for the cleanest burning candle I could find. My first stop? Etsy. I love Etsy. I might even be the sole driver of their stock, much to my husband’s chagrin. This is the moment I first discovered Orchid + Ash, and let me tell you: they say the brightest flames burn the fastest but I’m a few years into this relationship and it’s still going strong. This brand has brought so much joy into my life just by bringing that flicker of hope back into my home. The candles are bioidentical, meaning derived right from natural ingredients. They are vegan, cruelty-free, sustainable, and hand-poured. Added bonus: the owner is a delight to interact with. But the big takeaway: these candles are completely and totally TOXIN FREE. No synthetic fragrances or paraffin wax, and every single ingredient is verified as non-toxic. You can read more about the Orchid+Ash mission here.

Alright – so the owner is lovely, and the candles won’t kill you. That’s a phenomenal start. But how do they SMELL? I’m so glad you asked because I love almost all the scents. My personal favorites are Bohemian, Hippie Soul, and Joshua Tree; followed by Pacific Coast and Moonstruck. We burned Hearth for the holidays, and it smells exactly like the gigantic fires at Cracker Barrel. My family loved it, but it could easily overpower a space, so a person would either need to absolutely adore that smell or burn it in a more open-concept space. I recently gifted “Moonstruck” to a friend whose dog had just crossed the rainbow bridge. She was upstairs, working in her office, appreciating the candle when her husband came inside from farm work. He was very much looking forward to eating the cake she was baking and she was very amused to slash his hopes and inform him there was no cake – just a candle.

I have experienced a similarly impressive scent throw with these candles. My home is considered “large.” It’s basically an oversized box. My kitchen is in the center of the main floor with a (closed) U-staircase that connects the upper and lower floors. If I burn any of my preferred candles in the kitchen (across from the stairs), I can smell the candle throughout the main space of the first floor, and through the hallways on my second floor. I will often light a candle in the downstairs bath next to the mudroom, so my husband doesn’t have to smell our creatures and shoes when he comes into the house. We have three dogs, and five people in our family, so the fact the scent can fill the bathroom and hallway, enter the mudroom and overpower the smell of pups, sweaty outdoor gear, and the shoes of five people speak volumes.

They say you get what you pay for and that’s certainly true here, but the price point is definitely high. Pre-COVID and pre-inflation, they were $39 each. Now, they’re running $48/each, which makes them fantastic gifts and great for a weekend ritual, but maybe not an everyday burn. They do run specials occasionally. I’ve found these sales occur two weeks to a month before a major holiday or right thereafter. Recently, Orchid + Ash started a candle of the month program for the original $39/candle price. This could be an amazing subscription if you aren’t sensitive and are adventurous with scents, but you would run the risk of bumping into a candle you didn’t absolutely love. I remember once she had a scent – Amber and something – and I had to pass it on to a neighbor because every time I burned it, I would have a migraine within thirty minutes. Scents are so subjective that way, and what is for one person may not be for another. Luckily, said neighbor has a completely opposite scent preference, so I can often pass my candles her way and they won’t get wasted.

Price aside, I adore these candles and recommend them to anyone coming and going. If you’re considering a gift for a special occasion (Valentine’s day, anyone?), this would certainly be appreciated by the candle-lover in your life. Nothing says eternal love like a gift that won’t shave years off the recipient’s life expectancy. So if you’re ready to take the plunge and elevate your weekend routine, I’m able to offer a 15% discount code by using code THEINVISIBLETRENDSETTER.

Our Pick
ORCHID + ASH all-natural candles for the bold soul

Use code THEINVISIBLETRENDSETTER for 15% off your order.

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(1) EcoWatch. (2021, September 30). 84,000 chemicals are on the market and only 1% have been tested for safety. EcoWatch. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from Source Link

(2) Scialla, M. (2016, June 22). It could take centuries for EPA to test all the unregulated chemicals under a new landmark Bill. PBS. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from Source Link.

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