Fragrance: Essential Oils and Synthetic Scents
I'm the candle buyer at Whole Foods. Which of your fragrances are 100% pure essential oil?
We use three types of fragrance: 100% pure essential oils, organic certified essential oils, and synthetic fragrance.
- Feng Shui jar candles are 100% essential oils with organic certified essentials designated with an asterisk on the order form. We started to indicate on this new label "No synthetic Scents". As we change other labels, we will make that notice as well.
- All the Chakra candles are 100% essential oils, with no synthetics.
- We have eight Palm votives and Deco jars that are 100% Pure Essential oils: Lavender Mint, Lemon Verbena, Mountain Mist, Lavender Hills, Holiday Spice, Chai Spice, Satsuma and Patchouli. Our idea was to offer pure essential oils at the same price as synthetics to encourage consumers to try them.
- All our other 22 richly scented candles have varied amounts (13%-93%) of essential oils mixed in with synthetic fragrance.
For example, Nag Champa scent is synthetic Musk blended with pure essential oil Patchouli and Bergamot (85% essential oils, 15% synthetics).
We formerly called these fragrances "Nature Identical", but that appeared to be misleading. On our most recent order form we tried "Nature-Identical Synthetic scents blended with Essential Oils" to try to indicate that we use as much essential oil content as possible.
We started out in the gift industry, and many of our original customers want our original richly scented candles, but those can only be achieved with synthetics. Using our line as an example, Indian sandalwood is an endangered plant so we use synthetics with a little Australian sandalwood. Rose, Gardenia, and other exotic florals are too expensive to use in candles.
Fantasy fragrances (like Rain, Musk, Cream, Cookies and Amber) in anyone's candle line are always synthetic. Also, fruits like Mulberry, Mango, Passion Fruit, MacIntosh apple, Strawberry, Pomegranate, Kiwi, and Bartlett Pear are mostly synthetics. We can do citrus blends with pure essential oils.
Besides essential oil scents are there other alternatives to synthetic scents?
We also offer unscented candles for scent sensitive folks, yoga and meditation spaces, and gourmet cooks that don't want competing candle scents with their fine foods and wines.
I'm the candle buyer in our co-op HABA (Health and Beauty) section. There is a lot of confusion about whose candle fragrances are all natural and whose are synthetics?
One our core values is "truth in labeling". We feel our customers want authenticity. Knowing that a product was grown by farmers who don't use synthetic pesticides and herbicides is important to them. Yet there is only a small number of certified organic essential oils, and they are usually quite expensive.
People also want to know what is natural vs. man-made in a laboratory. We manufacture both synthetic and 100% pure essential oil candles and explain on our website and order form what is what. If a candle manufacturer does not claim "100% pure essential oils", the candles most likely contain some synthetic fragrance.
If the label says "100% natural" the candle almost always contains synthetics. If "Rose" or "Gardenia" or other exotic and expensive florals are indicated, the fragrance is most likely synthetic. Fantasy fragrances like "Rain", or "Cookie" are always synthetics. Likewise, non-citrus fruits like "Mango", "Pineapple" and "Guava" are synthetics. If you have questions about a specific brand of candles or a particular scent, please contact Tom Closser, and I'll find out if they are synthetic or made with pure essential oils.
Are synthetic fragrances toxic?
We think that synthetic scents are not necessarily bad. A lot of women wear designer perfumes which are essentially the same as the fragrances used in synthetic candles. What we are offering is an alternative home fragrancing for those consumers who want to reduce or eliminate synthetics in and around their bodies.
What we are more concerned about than synthetic lab produced fragrance is the way large-scale commercial agriculture threatens our planet with GMO's, pesticides, herbicides, and gas-guzzling heavy equipment. Please visit our Candle Info page to learn more about synthetics and pesticides.
Annual row crops, like soy, are decreasing the biodiversity. The equipment is causing soil compaction. ("National Geographic", Sept 08.) Companies such as Archer, Daniels & Midland are not only promoting GMO and toxic chemicals, but is one of the only producers of soy wax. Soy takes 10 times the acreage of palm to produce the same amount of oil.
How do you make your candles smell so authentic?
We use 100% essential oils to scent most of our candles. We blend many of our own scents. To develop our synthetic fragrances we work with the best perfumers in the industry. Our customer base seems to prefer fragrances like our Chai Spice, where the name of the fragrance clearly indicates how it smells, rather than fragrances like "Relaxation", which could be almost anything.
Are all of your candles "all natural"?
No, in some candles we use synthetic fragrance, and if we do, we indicate that clearly on our web site and order forms. However, most of our candles are all natural: unscented or scented with pure essential oils (essential oil votives and jars, all the Chakra and Feng Shui candles).
What is "Triple Scented"?
Often "Triple Scented" is marketese, a misleading statement meant to imply that it has three times more scent than other candles.
The truth of the matter is that wax will only hold so much scent. No matter what the blend, there is a maximum. Too much fragrance oil will not "soak up" in the wax, but rather rise to the top and form "sweat" droplets, making the entire candle surface (not just the wick) flammable. Not a good idea. Adding higher concentrations does not necessarily result in more fragrance being diffused in the room. If you want maximum scent diffusion, try our Aroma Lamps.
How can I tell if I am buying a candle with pure essential oils or with synthetic scents?
Unless the manufacturer practices truth in labeling, this can be a tough one. We often see candles labeled to "contains natural scents", or "fragranced with essential oils". Most often this just means that the candle contains some natural essential oils, but also an undisclosed percentage of synthetic scents. If the label says "100% essential oils", or, even better, "fragranced exclusively with 100% pure essential oils", you have a far better chance of not getting any synthetic fragrance.
Do you have a candle that repels insects?
Citronella candles have a mild repellent effect, but do not offer significantly more protection than other candles scented with lemon fragrances. I'm not fond of the citronella scent, so I burn our "Lemon Verbena" candle outdoors. It was recently discovered that patchouli oil is a far stronger insect repellent than citronella. So our patchouli votives can also be used to keep the bugs away.
Which of your candles are the most fragrant?
In general our jar candles are the most fragrant. More fragrance is emitted from these because of the larger wax pool. Every candle has varying concentrations of scent, depending on what we can afford to do and what concentration creates the strongest hot throw.
Do you put a maximum amount of scent into each candle?
With Palm Wax Candles™, we don't claim we use 'the maximum amount of scent' like other manufacturers claim. For example, we pay $45 a pound for organic certified Bulgarian lavender. Palm oil, because it is a steam distilled essential oil, mixes very well with other pure essential oils.
For a celebrity client we blended as much as 20% Lavender with an organic palm wax blend. But we can't afford to do that for most of our candles. Customers just don't want to pay that much for a candle. Besides, why not diffuse the essential oil directly into the room with an aromatherapy diffuser?
Paraffin and soy wax blends that are chemically distilled require even more synthetic additives to make them contain enough essential oils. They seem to blend better with synthetic scents. The matter of scent concentration is one of those areas where there is a lot of deception. Hardly any manufacturers will reveal what percentage of scent they put in each candle, but they will make claims like such and such: "soy candle is more richly scented or double or triple scented".
It's acceptable that manufacturers have proprietary formulas, as long as they are not trying to imply that they have the most scent. Interestingly, the concentration or amount of scent in a candle does not necessarily determine the richness or quality of the hot throw. Especially with pure essential oils, there comes a point where, no matter how much scent you add, it won't increase the hot throw. Also, some scents blends just smell stronger. Strong is not always better. Most of us have had the experience of standing next to a woman in an elevator who poured on too much perfume. A scented candle can be just as unsavory.
Why are some candles more fragrant than others?
Fragrances blended into different types of candle wax can have a stronger cold throw (not lighted) than hot throw (burning). Most synthetic fragrances in paraffin wax seem to have stronger hot throws, that is, the smell is stronger when the candle is lighted.
We developed a fragrance technology that ensures maximum hot throw with our all vegetable palm wax candles. Ideally, at some point in burning your palm wax candle, a large, wide pool of melted wax will form at the top of the candle. In general (at the same fragrance concentration), the wider and deeper the wax pool the stronger the hot throw will be.
Because taper candles and most pillar candles do not create wide and deep pools of wax, they are not as good a source for fragrance as votives or jar candles. If a particular pillar, votive or jar candle is not as fragrant as another candle, it could also be because not enough scented oil was used in the manufacturing process, or because the fragrance oil was of inferior quality.
Typically, "cheap" candles are not as fragrant, because the fragrance is the most expensive material in the candle, and the candle maker saves cost by using less. For example, inexpensive synthetic perfumes sold at mass market retailers don't throw as well (or last as long) as the more expensive designer perfumes that still contain some pure essential oils.
Why don't candle manufactures add more fragrance?
There is a maximum amount of fragrance that can be added to a candle before it no longer burns cleanly or properly. Each wax blend is different. Having worked with a great number of them, we have found that Palm Wax™ (likely because it is steam distilled just like other essential oils) can hold and throw higher concentrations of 100% pure essential oil fragrance blends. We pour as much as 12% fragrance in some of our candles. For one private label customer, we even managed to go up to 21%! It all really comes down to production costs. Fragrance is the most costly raw ingredient.