The Trick to Choosing a Quality Scented Candle (and Avoiding Junk That Gives You Headache)

Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong
I simply can't resist a good candle. Every time I end up at Home Goods, I make a beeline to sniff out something add to my collection. But candle quality varies at every price point, so no matter where you're buying, there's a trick you should know to make sure you're selecting a something top notch.

Many candles are made from a blend of soy and paraffin wax, a petroleum byproduct. While burning something that's mostly soy is A-okay, candles loaded with paraffin tend to emit toxic fumes, which can be damaging to your health. To make sure you're not bringing something harmful into your space, do the touch test.

"Some candles that state they're soy blends contain considerable amounts of paraffin. An easy way to tell is by touching and inspecting the wax," says Jon Bresler, founder and CEO of LAFCO, a fragrance and personal care products company based in New York. "With some limited exceptions for some hard paraffin waxes, generally paraffin candles are soft and have an oily, translucent feel. Soy wax, on the other hand, is hard and opaque. So as a general rule, the more soy in a soy blend candle, the harder the wax will feel."

To test out a candle for yourself, Bresler recommends tapping your finger on the surface of the candle. "If your finger sinks into the wax, that means the candle most likely doesn't have a large amount of soy wax and conversely has a considerable amount of paraffin wax," he explains. But still do your research on the candle company and check out their ingredients, because there are some very rare exceptions where soy candles are softer.

"Many people say that they get a headache when burning candles. Often they think it's the fragrance that's giving them a headache, but the main culprit comes from the petroleum soot emitted from paraffin and from the quality of the fragrance," Bresler says. You're sure to notice a major difference in the way you feel when you light a high-quality candle.

Here are the lighting solutions you need to burn every last bit of your candles. Or, find out how to upcycle your empty candle vessels with this genius hack.

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