Why do I get headaches from candles?
If you’re like me you might find that you develop an instant headache when lighting up some of your favourite 3-wick candles. What gives? Why do I get headaches from candles?
The headache problem is directly tied to the ingredients in your candles. You can absolutely burn candles problem-free but you’ll have to rethink the kinds of candles you’re burning.
The Problem with Paraffin
Most candles made by the biggest manufacturers are made with paraffin wax. Paraffin is a petroleum byproduct that’s cheap and readily available. It produces stronger scent throw (this means more room-filling scent) in candles but comes with many tradeoffs.
From a consumer perspective the most notable benefit of paraffin is burn time - paraffin wax burns at a lower temperature than vegetable-based waxes like soy and so paraffin candles tend to burn quicker.
For scent-sensitive people like us, another more concerning tradeoff is the adverse health effects you can face. Paraffin wax contains certain chemical compounds like toluene and benzene not found in vegetable-based candle wax like soy or coconut.
Toluene vapours are known to cause eye and upper respiratory tract irritation and can lead to dizziness, and headaches among other side effects! Benzene is a known carcinogen and short-term effects of exposure also include those pesky headaches.
These combined with the kinds of fragrance used in candles are leading to your nasty candle headaches.
What about scent? You might think essential oil vs synthetic oil is an obvious choice - but it’s not that simple! While there are certainly synthetic fragrances to avoid, many are a-okay for scent sensitive folks like us.
The main culprit of candle headaches in fragrance oils are phthalates. These are a group of chemical compounds mainly used to make plastics soft and flexible. Phthalates are not one single thing and research continues on the safety of these compounds.
One thing is for sure - some are absolutely known to be problematic. Certain phthalates have been shown to cause cancer in animals, others are known endocrine disruptors (read - messes with your hormonal system). Some have also been linked to the same kinds of coughing, wheezing, dizziness, and headaches you see with Toluene and Benzene.
Mix these all together and you’re in for a candle headache for sure!
“So I guess I can’t burn any candles anymore!” Nonsense. Remember what I said - you just have to rethink what kinds of candles you’re burning.
Trading paraffin-based candles for soy candle alternatives is a great start! Soy wax does not contain harmful compounds like Toluene and Benzene. Beware of anything labelled ‘soy wax blend’ because these are often blended with paraffin, leaving you in the same position!
Soy wax candles tend to burn longer, but don’t have quite as strong of a smell as paraffin wax candles. I might just know where you can find a great candle to try!
If you want to take it one step further and really reduce your risk with candle headaches, be sure to look for phthalate-free candles. We are exposed to so many phthalates in day-to-day life it’s important to choose phthalate-free whenever possible.
If you want to try a great selection of soy candles, take a look at some of our best sellers. We never want you to experience a candle headache again so if you do find you’ve got a problem with something we’ve made, we’ll swap it out no questions asked.