What is more soothing than burning a candle in your home, especially when it emanates a fragrance that sets the perfect mood? For nearly a decade, the founders of Esas worked on the world’s largest candle business prior to starting Esas Beauty. We did everything from developing fragrances, analyzing different types of waxes and wicks and performing raw material studies, to optimizing manufacturing and participating in the world’s largest candle conferences. Our days and nights were consumed by candles. Every Monday morning when we came into the office we were asked “did you burn the candle this weekend and what did you think?”.
When we finally left to start our own business, we were compelled to make a candle that is better for you, the planet and everyone on it. You see, burning a candle may seems simple enough, but there’s a very an intricate chemistry behind the flame. It is a complex interplay of elements that gives a candle its characteristic smell and appearance. Why does a candle have a specific scent at room temperature but can smell exactly the same when it is burned at 170 degrees Fahrenheit? What are some of the decisions that go into developing a candle? There are the standard waxes that the industry uses: paraffin, soy, coconut. Within those ingredient categories are sub-categories of different extraction methods and purity. Why one over another? The wicks pose another dilemma. There are hundreds to choose from – all special in their own way. Zinc core, threaded, braided, paper core… And what about the candle fragrance oil itself? There are numerous limitations beyond any other product form.
Nevertheless, the comfort of your everyday burning candle masks a toxic secret. Most regular and scented candles are made of paraffin wax, a soft colorless solid derived from petroleum, coal or oil shale. Lighting a paraffin candle therefore emits toxic benzene and toluene, which are known carcinogens, into your surrounding environment¹. In fact, the soot that comes from burning paraffin candles is the same as found in diesel smoke. This soot is the reason why Europe is now banning diesel cars, but we still breath that same soot in our living room because we burn paraffin candles. As far back as 2001 the EPA said that paraffin candles may emit harmful toxins and increase health risks with multiple exposures and yet these candles are still burning in our houses every day.²
When realizing the toxicity of paraffin candles, some candle makers transitioned to using beeswax, soy wax, or palm wax. There are serious problems with all three. With beeswax, you are taking the honey away from the bee. These beneficial insects are not producing the honey for human pleasure. The honey is actually digested nectar that bees need to survive the winter. Taking the honey away from the bees threatens their colony. It’s well known that the bee population is already collapsing due to agriculture and suburban sprawl, so bees wax is not really a sustainable alternative.
Soy is another product we should avoid. Soy is almost exclusively a GMO crop farmed by big industrial cooperatives and its production is bad for the environment. Soy is in everything nowadays from baby food to ice cream and soy farming has led to massive deforestation, land and habitat loss.
The world wildlife fund tells us that “To produce soy, land is being converted from forests, savannahs and grasslands, endangering valuable habitats and species whilst putting at risk traditional, local livelihoods.” Millions of hectares of important habitat like the Amazon rain forest, the Cerrado, the Atlantic forest and other major forests in Brazil or the Northern Great Plains of the U.S. are being ploughed up to make room for soy fields. The Cerrado for example is a forested savannah that covers half of Brazil. Over half of the Cerrado’s 100 million hectares of forests has been lost largely due to livestock and soybean farming. Soy expansion is also increasingly encroaching African Savannahs and Central Asian grasslands.
If all this isn’t bad enough, the big soy farming cooperatives use millions of tons of fertilizer yearly to maximize soy crop production. All the excess fertilizer washes away into the rivers and ultimately the ocean. Fertilizer pollution is the single biggest cause for dead zones and coral bleaching in the ocean and it kills the plankton that is the largest producer of oxygen in the world.
Of all the alternatives, by far the worst is palm wax. This is made from palm oil, which is responsible for the almost complete destruction of the oldest rain forest in the world: the vast jungles of Sumatra and Borneo. Palm oil plantations are the reason why the Orangutan and the white Rino are now on the list of endangered species. Palm oil plantations are the reason why Indonesia has become one of the largest emitters of Co2 in the world. We wrote a previous blog about how destructive the use of palm oil can be here. We really should avoid any product with palm oil in it at all cost.
What is our solution?
We looked long and hard for an organic, clean burning product to replace paraffin. The reason why paraffin is so popular is that it burns so well. It has a stable burn for as long as the candle lasts, and it is solid with room temperature.
We tested numerous waxes – carnauba, candelilla, Japanese berry, apricot; butters – organic mango, shea, cocoa, avocado; and oils – jojoba, grapeseed. It was a costly analysis; the price differential between paraffin or soy versus these premium natural waxes is considerable. For example, the raw material cost of just using apricot wax would be $200 for just one basic candle. In the end, it was worth every penny.
After testing, researching and analyzing we ended up formulating our own unique wax base which is a blend of certified organic grapeseed oil and wild Japanese berry wax. Not only are these both sustainably sourced, organic and all natural, but they have a unique technical capability to burn well because of how they interact with heat. They don’t burn too quickly – imagine olive oil on a hot pan and how it evaporates quickly and changes odor – your candle should not do that. You also don’t want your candle to be too difficult to melt! That results in tunneling and low fragrance emission. You want your candle to have a healthy melt speed and to fragrance the room safely.
We are proud of our Esas candles. Like all our products, these candles have countless hours, months, years of research behind them. We hope you enjoy lighting them as much as we enjoyed making them…at times
² Document Display | NEPIS | US EPA