Thanks to greenwashing marketing tactics and the lack of transparency from the fragrance industry, most people don’t think twice when they hear “fragrance oil” or see it on an ingredient list.
The problem with fragrance oil is simple: manufacturers don’t have to tell you what chemicals are used to create a fragrance. Because the components that go into giving a candle or any scented product its unique smell are considered a trade secret, manufacturers do not have to disclose the fragrance ingredients.
But why is that a problem? Aren’t fragrance oils natural? Aren’t they safe? Unfortunately, this is hardly the case.
Are Fragrance Oils Safe?
A candle maker doesn’t have to disclose the ingredients used to give their candle its fragrance. Instead, “fragrance” is simply listed as a single ingredient (if it’s listed at all). In actuality, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), fragrances can contain up to 5,000 separate ingredients. Learning what some of those candle ingredients are is even more troubling.
With synthetic fragrance oil made in a laboratory, many of those additional ingredients are chemicals and petroleum by-products. In fact, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), approximately 95 percent of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrance oils are derived from petroleum.
Among those chemicals are aldehydes, benzene derivatives and toluene - some of the same chemicals found in toilet bowl cleaner, paint thinner, wart remover, and insect repellents.
These ingredients are also included on the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR)’s toxic substances list, with warnings like the following for toluene:
“Breathing toluene vapors in small amounts may cause a mild headache, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. With more serious exposure, toluene may cause sleepiness, stumbling, irregular heartbeat, fainting, or even death.”
The NAS also cites the ingredients as being linked to cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions, and a study published in May of 2019 found that one in three adults claim to have experienced health problems, including migraines and respiratory issues, caused by fragranced products.
The Essential Oils Alternative
Fortunately, an alternative to fragrance oils can be found in essential oils.
While even “natural” fragrance oils are manufactured in a lab, essential oils are truly from nature, defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “a natural oil typically obtained by distillation and having the characteristic fragrance of the plant or other source from which it is extracted.”
These essential oils are generally collected through a distillation process that carefully separates the essential oil from the flowers, needles, twigs, fruit peels, seeds or roots where it is found.
It is a process that requires far greater effort and expense than the manufacturing of synthetic fragrance oils. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), 220 pounds of lavender flowers are required to produce approximately one pound of lavender oil! However, it is a process that is well worth it.
Once collected, the essential oils have none of the toxic properties of the synthetic fragrance oils, and they can be used to create candles that are truly free of harmful fragrance oils.
Fontana’s Non-Toxic Candle Solution
My husband, Eric, and I are committed to living a healthy, non-toxic lifestyle, and before launching Fontana, we thought we were. We ate clean, used non-toxic cleaning supplies, and exercised regularly.
After a day spent working in our home around a burning paraffin candle, we both had headaches. After some initial research, we learned that the paraffin candles we were burning were the opposite of the non-toxic environment we thought we had created.
While searching for non-toxic candles, we became frustrated. Misleading marketing and a lack of transparency made finding a truly non-toxic candle seem impossible. Our solution was ultimately founding Fontana with a simple mission: provide clean burning candles for a beautiful home.
By making candles with a clean base of beeswax and coconut oil we were able to eliminate the petroleum byproducts, stabilizers, and harmful dyes found in paraffin candles. We eliminated the use of fragrance oil, opting instead for essential oils for a light, non-toxic scent. We even went above and beyond, embracing transparency with our customers and ensuring that our candles are MADE SAFE certified.
Searching for fragrance free, non-toxic candles for your home?