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


  1. This is great information, I really never understood what, exactly, an essential oil was. I do have one question about soy candles, though: I understand that parifin candle smoke is slightly toxic. I thought all smoke would be, so how is soy wax smoke any different?

    Look forward to more posts!


  2. This is awesome. I actually do know a little about this because of a friend that had a shop.
    and Geoff, it will be interesting to see she has to say, but one of the things I know about this, it has more to do with the wicks that are used than the wax.
    This is a great site, cannot wait to explore more.

  3. Soot is a general term that refers to impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of a hydrocarbon.

    What happens is that so many factors contribute to "soot" in candles - such as the type of wax, the wick & size of wick, how much fragrance oil is used, the type of dyes or additives used.

    Just in general terms - paraffin wax - contained chemicals used in the process of refining crude oil to the gasoline state. Paraffin is a by-product from the refining process and contains processing chemicals. Soy wax, is all natural - from hydrogenated soybean oils.

    But, if you have too large of a wick, too much fragrance oil, a lot of dye, the soy candle can produce a lot of soot itself. So, it's a combination of using a great wax - soy wax, with the right size wick, with the right amount of fragrance oil, dyes & additives. That being said, I have made the exact candle in both soy & paraffin - with comparable quality waxes, wicks -
    with the same fragrance oil (amount & type) and dyes, and when I extinquished the candles - the paraffin wax continued to smoke 20 seconds after the soy wax candle was done smoking.

  4. This is valuable information for someone like me. I love candles and oils but know very little about them. I will definitely be back!