Saturday, August 22, 2009

What are aromatherapy candles with Essential Oils?

Yesterday, I went to the mall and stopped by the Yankee Candle store to checkout the "Beanswax" line of candles - and to see how they were selling. I walked around the whole store, and stuck way in the back was a couple of shelves of the Beanswax line of Candles. They use to have a display right up front with various sizes of jars and scents. On the shelves, there must have been only 30 smaller jars of the Beanswax line. My take on this is that they aren't selling so well, at least in this particular store, anyway.

Upon looking at them, I noticed another shelf with an Aromatherapy Spa line of candles with essential oils by Yankee Candles. They come in jars (9.5 oz), pillars, votives and tea-lights. They are dyed, with pastel colors, but they don't make any mention if they contain soy wax. Since, it's not stated, I assume that these are dyed paraffin candles with essential oils. There were just a few dozen of these candles, and I assume that they aren't selling as well either. Yankee Candles are known for their trade-marked highly fragrance scents, in their signature jars with paraffin wax. If these are their biggest sellers, anything else will seem minuscule in comparison.

I find this a bit confusing, lets see - they have the Beanswax line of soy candles with fragrance oils, and the Aromatherapy Spa line made with paraffin wax and dyes, with essential oils. Am I missing something here?

Maybe I have high expectations, or different expectations, based on working with soy wax for the past five years. I think a great aromatherapy candle is made with soy wax (or other natural waxes), no dyes, essential oils, cotton wicks and recycled glass (if possible). If I'm going to go "natural" with essential oils, I want the candle to be as "natural" as it possibly can be.

So, how does one go about making an "aromatherapy candle" with "essential oils? And what are essential oils anyway?

Well, basically essential oils are "oils" or "essence" that have been extracted from various species of flowers, fruits, herbs, leaves, seeds, resin, stems and roots and bark of botanicals. Essential oils are pure and natural. They are not made from synthetic materials in a laboratory. Essential oils are extracted from botanical sources by one of four methods:

1. Steam distillation, which uses heat to draw out essential oils; this is the most common method used today.

2. Cold press extraction: This method removes oils from the skins of fruits without the damage from heat.

3. Chemical solvent extraction: This method uses solvents such as alcohol to extract harder to get essential oils.

4. Effleurage method: This method involves odorless fats or oils absorbing the perfume of fresh flowers.

Depending on extraction process, one pound of essential oils can take hundreds of pounds of plant matter. For example, it takes roughly 200 lbs of lavender flowers to produce 1 lb of lavender oil. So, there is the loss of using 200 lbs of lavender flowers for other purposes such as soap additives, teas, and pillows. So, just think about this - when you are buying 1 lb of lavender essential oils, you are actually purchasing 200 lbs of "extracted" lavender flowers!

Essential oils are also known as "volatile or ethereal oils. An essential oil is a concentrated, hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants.

Because of their concentrated nature, essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin in their "undiluted" form. Some can cause severe irritation or provoke an allergic reaction. If you accidentally get essential oils on your hands, you should wash immediately. Most essential oils used for massage oils are blended with carrier oils. Also, some essential oils should never be used in candle making or any other application. Pregnant and nursing women should consult their physician when using any essential oil products.

The term "aromatherapy" is a branch of alternative medicine which claims that the specific "aromas" carried by the essential oils have curative effects. The term "aromatherapy candles" is used loosely in Western societies, because, unlike other cultures, we mainly use aromatherpy candles for "aesthetic" qualities vs. healing qualities. We want the calming, soothing aromas to aid in meditation, bathing, and relaxing activities.

Essential oils that are "pure" will mostly have their botanical name on the jar, and come in dark colored bottles for protection from sunlight. They should be stored in cool, dark places, and out of reach of children and pets. Other essential oils are blended with carrier oils such as jojoba and are considered "diluted". Some candle manufacturers sell "essential oils", but they come in clear plastic containers, and are really synthetically derived, or essential oils blended with alcohol or other solvents.

Because of their concentrated nature, pure essential oils are can be more expensive than fragrance oils and come in smaller bottles - drams(1/8 oz), 1/6 oz., etc. They either have a closed lid or a dropper to distribute the essential oils. Price can range anywhere from $5 - $75 for a fraction of an ounce of pure essential oils.

So, how do you use essential oils in soy candle making? Good question - and there are many answers to that question, depending on who you talk to. When I originally tried to research this subject a year ago, there was very little information out on the Internet, with candle supply companies, or in any e-books I purchased. One year later, there is a wide variety of answers published in articles, candle supply companies and so called candle gurus. Some experts - actually claim that usage is 1 oz/pound (which is similar to using fragrance oils) - which either can be incredibly strong, and incredibly expensive - to 3-20 drops/pound.

I personally believe, that the Essential Oil Soy Candles - should use much less essential oils than fragrance oils - for 2 reasons:

Reason #1 - what am I trying to achieve in making a candle with essential oils? I want a milder, less dominant, natural scent aroma from using essential oils. I don't want an over-powering Pumpkin Spice fragrance oil aroma when I use essential oils. I love making "natural" candles with essential oils, because I want a soothing, relaxing, mild, natural aroma that gives just enough aroma to soothe my senses for a beautiful bubble bath, or meditation, or my yoga or Pilate's exercises. I don't want the aroma "competing" with what I'm trying to achieve - relaxation.

Reason #2 - Essential oils are expensive - and cost should be considered when buying and using "pure" essential oils in soy candle making. First of all, one dram (1/8 oz) of Peppermint or Spearmint on sale was $5, plus shipping. So do you think it's cost effective to use $5 of essential oils in one 8-12 oz. soy candle? I don't think so, beside, it may be too strong. Fragrance oils (synthetics) can be 10 times less expensive when purchased in bulk. I've used blends of essential oils - with 1/6 oz - and made 3 - 12 oz candles - and they were perfectly scented. So, it's the cost/benefit rule you have to apply in determining how much you're willing to pay to achieve your desired outcome.

So, with those two facts explained, using essential oils in soy candles is a matter of style and taste. If you're selling your soy candles - you pass your costs along to the consumer - but hopefully can market and price your candles effectively to sell them. If you're making soy candles for your own enjoyment, then it's a matter of what you're happy with - mild/stronger, and whether the cost is a factor for you.

Please stayed tuned for more articles on Soy Candles - and look for my upcoming DVD - "The Art of Soy Container Candle Making" - soon to be released in September 2009. I also have 2 websites that will be up and running in September - so, I'll definitely keep you updated.

Hope you enjoy this article, and I look forward to your comments. Thanks.

Laureen Falco

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What makes a candle "green"?

Soy candles have been gaining popularity since Michael Richards first developed the technology to use hydrogenated soybean oil for soy wax candles in the 1990's. At first, soy candle home-based businesses sprouted, prompting the larger candle makers to take notice of growing consumer demands for more natural products. When there is money to be made, why not?

In the past few years, the "green" movement has prompted the largest of U.S. candle makers to develop their "natural" lines, including Yankee Candle's "Beanswax" soy candle line. On, you can look up the "Beanswax" candle line that promote their soy candles with "Go Green with Beanswax." The candles are made from 100% natural soy (harvested from American farms - probably Iowa). They contain 100% natural wicks (probably cotton), no artificial colors or dyes, and made with frosted green class made from recycled materials, with a wood lid. The Beanswax line comes in 10 different fragrances: Pinwheels in the Breeze, Beat around the Bushel, Cran Slam, Over the Moon, End of the Line, Make Waves, Spice, Spice, Baby and the Great Pumpkin. Think they are going for some fancy marketing names for their soy line of candles? I had to look at the pictures to even contemplate what the fragrance line would smell like. End of the line - shows a blue towel on a clothesline --oh yeah, a clean scented laundry scent?

What Yankee Candle doesn't mention - is whether the "fragrances" are 100% natural - of which we can assume that they are not. Natural fragrances are made from essential oils, plants, herbs, and natural sources. Fragrance oils can be made from a combination of up to 500 different types of chemicals/natural ingredients. Each fragrance oil comes with a Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS) which only has to disclose the hazardous materials used in the making of the fragrance oil, not the entire blend of the fragrance oils. Manufacturers are not required to disclose their proprietary blends of fragrance oils. You know - the "secret stuff".

With Yankee Candle's line of strongly-scented paraffin candles, it would seem "natural" for Yankee to develop a line of strongly scented soy candle line that is made from fragrance oils. After all, that is what Yankee Candles are famous for - a beautiful, highly scented, long-lasting candle with a trade-marked name.

So what makes a candle "natural" or "green" or "organic" in the labeling, in order to market the product effectively? According to the Natural Ingredient Resource Center (, the NIRC has established "guidelines" that mirror those used by the USDA for organic food, and are inspired by other organizations that are working to establish the term "organic" for cosmetic products. There are currently 3 guidelines to be used in labeling products with natural ingredients:

1. 100% Natural/All Natural
The NIRC guidelines state that products labeled as "100% Natural" or "All Natural" can only contain ingredients that fit the NIRC criteria for natural ingredients.

2. Natural
The NIRC guidelines states that products labeled as "Natural" have to include 95% of the ingredients that fit the NIRC criteria for natural ingredients.

3. Made with Natural Ingredients/Made from Natural Ingredients
Products labeled as "Made with/from Natural Ingredients" must contain at least 70% natural ingredients that meet the NIRC criteria. The remaining 30% may come from ingredients that do not meet the NIRC for natural, however, products that include synthetic fragrances, artificial colors or ingredients from petrochemicals MAY NOT display the NIRC "Seal". All percentages are based on weight.

So, we can conclude from this that Yankee Candle's BeansWax line of soy candles do not have the NIRC seal - because they are using fragrance oils. So, why didn't they use essential oils - and make their candles 100% natural? Probably for several reasons:

1. Essential oils are made from natural source - leaves, flowers, tree needles, etc - and the"essence" or oils will eventually evaporate. Therefore, depending on the particular essential oils, the scent may not be as strong as a fragrance scent - which aides in marketing the line and selling the candles.

2. Essential oils can be more costly than using fragrance oils. Depending on whether the essential oil is 100% pure or blended with a carrier oil can affect the price greatly. Also, there are essential oils that are completely cost prohibited in making candles - such as rose oil (up to $70 for 1/6 oz.)

3. Yankee Candle makes their own proprietary blends of fragrance oils, and probably does this at a lesser cost than most manufacturers - since they are buying the components and blending the fragrance oils themselves.

So, if you're contemplating or already making your own soy candle lines, take the NIRC criteria into consideration in labeling and marketing. I make several lines of candles to satisfy my customers and myself - but I only use 100% soy wax for my candles. I have a fragrance line that is dyed, and a "Green" line - with essential oils, 100% recycled glass, 100% cotton wicks primed in natural waxes, recycled tin for the sustainer bases and of course, 100% soy wax. Depending on the essential oil, the scent is milder than the fragrance oils, but the wicks burn cleaner because they are all natural.

Stay tuned for more blogs on soy candle making in which I will talk about various aspects of making soy candles, burning soy candles, marketing soy candles and the business of setting up a soy candle business.

I have just produced a high quality instructional DVD called "The Art of Soy Container Candle Making" - and we are currently in post-production. The DVD will be available in September 2009 in both standard format and Blu Ray. Please check out my website at for more information on how you can obtain a "free" video of what you can expect to see from the DVD. Thanks & hope to see all of you soon!