Soy vs Beeswax Candles

Soy vs beeswax candles… What is the better option? With the cold winter season upon us, there is nothing as cozy as a warm fire crackling and candles burning. According to the National Candle Association, retail sales of candle products are estimated at around $3.14 billion annually in the United States alone. (Source: Mintel, 2013). Producing this amount of candles requires over 1 billion pounds of wax.

Candles come in all shapes and sizes. However, the most popular type of candle in the United States are container candles and jar candles. Historically the most important factors when buying candles were scent, color, cost and shape, although the trend is changing. In recent years consumers have become more health orientated and concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy. With the wide range of candles or wax for hobby DIY candle-makers on the market, it is important to know the pros and cons.

History of Candles

Candles are used since thousands of years. At first, purely used as a source of light, over time they also became a tool for producing pleasant scents and a cozy ambiance. Hunter-gatherers made candles from tallow, an animal fat, probably the oldest material to produce light.

The ancient Egyptians were among the first to discover the benefits of beeswax to make candles. Beeswax has a natural scent. However, known for their love of pleasant smells the ancient Egyptians often infused beeswax with various fragrance oils made from natural ingredients. They included infusions of herbs and flowers like anise, cinnamon, myrrh, sage, henna, thyme, rose and iris, and were probably the precursors of scented candles as we know them today.

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese also used beeswax as a source of light. Europeans use beeswax candles since the beginning of Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church only permitted beeswax candles in their churches.

Types of Candles

Most people are unaware of the different types of wax on the market. Traditional paraffin candles and pure beeswax candles are well known. But what about soy candles, palm wax and coconut candles, or, rapeseed wax candles, what is the better choice?

Although paraffin candles are relatively cheap, they are highly unsustainable and a by-product of petroleum, which means they can emit black soot and toxic fumes when burnt. The fumes of the paraffin content contain toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, hexadecane, naphthalene, tetra-decane, tri-decane, and penta-decane that can trigger respiratory problems like asthma attacks. Fortunately, there are other plenty of natural candle alternatives on the market. 
Although at the end of the day choosing candles or candle wax comes down to personal preference, we have examined the differences between soy wax and beeswax.

All about Soy Wax Candles

Given the growing popularity of soy wax candles, it’s important to know a little bit about this type of wax and how it compares to other types of waxes.

Is Soy Wax Natural and Sustainable?

Soy wax is a natural product and a renewable source. Like rapeseed wax, it is a vegetable oil, made from hydrogenated oil that comes from soybean plants that grow in abundance and do not require the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals to grow. The downside is that soybean production has a negative environmental impact. In the Amazon rainforest, large areas of forest are cleared to grow soybeans for various soy products for commercial profit.

Benefits of Soy Wax Candles

Soy wax candles have a long burn time and tend to produce less soot than traditional paraffin candles. This makes them a good option for those who are concerned about indoor air quality.  When soy candles burn, they produce negative ions which help to purify the air and keep it clean. Soy candles produce a cool, white, light, similar to fluorescent light.

Soy wax is a sustainable source of wax and is free of toxic chemicals or fragrances that could be harmful if inhaled over long periods of time. In addition soy wax is widely available in form of ready-made candles or in form of flakes for candle-making.

However, soy wax candles can be slightly more difficult to handle than other types of waxes, as they have a lower melting point than beeswax candles. This means that they can start to melt in warm temperatures or in direct sunlight. Soy wax is available in pure form, or as blends like soy-paraffin blends and soy-coconut blends.

For those who prefer scented candles, soy wax may be a better choice. Soy wax produces a stronger, more consistent long-lasting smell in comparison to beeswax candles that release a natural scent.

Overall, pure soy wax candles are a great option for those looking for an eco-friendly, renewable and biodegradable source of candle wax. Because soy wax is relatively inexpensive, it is a popular choice for DIY candle makers and those who buy candles.

All About Beeswax Candles

Beeswax is a a renewable source and a natural product made from the honeycomb of bees. Candles made from 100% beeswax safe, environmentally friendly because they are biodegradable and and nontoxic. Currently the biggest producer of beeswax is China.

How is Beeswax Made?

Beeswax Photo created by efe_madrid – www.freepik.com

Each year, around 40,000 pounds of beeswax are used to make candles! Put this into perspective when you consider that it takes about 12 hours for a bee to produce 8 wax flakes and around 1,100 scales to produce one a gram of wax. So the next time you light a beeswax candle, think of the work and patience these busy little bees have put into making it!

Beeswax contains many compounds, including fatty acids, esters, ketones, and hydrocarbons. Stearic acid, is the most abundant component of the free fatty acids in beeswax. It makes candles harder and prevents slumping.

At first, beeswax has no color. However, over time it becomes more opaque due to the contamination with pollen and propolis from the workers. It continues to get progressively darker until it has the familiar yellowish-browny color. The color also depends on the purity, region, and types of flowers the bees have gathered. Beeswax is used to build honeycomb cells in which the bees store honey and pollen, and rear their brood. It is also used to caulk small gaps in the hive, and as a water-resistant coating on the outside of the hive.

Pro´s and Con´s of Pure Beeswax Candles

Natural beeswax candles with cotton wicks do not drip and burn cleanly, giving off a warm glow similar to natural sunlight. They emit a distinctive pleasant natural sweet scent when burnt. Because of their higher melting point of around 149° Fahrenheit (65° C), they do not melt as fast as soy or paraffin candles. Beeswax also has a high burn rate, lasting up to 3 times longer than other types of candles. Pure beeswax candles are also said to have a calming effect on the mind and body.

Another benefit of beeswax candles is that they produce negative ions. These are known to relieve stress, boost energy and alertness levels, and reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds in the air. They may also help protect against airborne germs. This happens when the negative ions attach to positively charged ions, which hold other contaminants airborne.

The cons of beeswax is that it is more expensive than other types of candles and it does not hold fragrance oils and colorings well due to its own natural scent and color. To lower the cost of production, beeswax is often mixed with other waxes, such as palm oil. It is important to make sure you buy 100% pure beeswax candles for the highest quality.

Fragrance Oils vs Essential Oils

They might smell the same, however, there is a big difference between fragrance and essential oils. Whereby essential oils are natural oils that are naturally extracted from various parts of a plant without chemical manipulation, fragrance oils are synthetically made oils. Fragrance oils can be synthetic (artificial) or natural, however, both types are processed and modified in a laboratory.

Whereas fragrance oils are simply mimicking a scent, essential oils, like aromatherapy oils have certain healing benefits.  However, not all essential oils are suitable for candle-making, as some of these essential oils can be toxic when inhaled.

Essential oils are more difficult to use in candle-making because they are highly volatile. They have a lower boiling point, and evaporate more quickly when heated. The benefit of fragrance oils is that they retain their scent much longer than essential oils compare with essential oils. In candle-making, mixing essential oils with fragrance oils is often done to create scents that lasts a lot longer.
Both, soy wax candles and beeswax candles are both natural, non-toxic products. A lot of people opt for the cheaper soy wax candles, however, at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference.

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