Part 4: Are Scented Candles Safe? What About the Dyes?

Are candle wax dyes safe?

While the exact composition of proprietary candle dye formulations may not always be disclosed by manufacturers, some synthetic compounds commonly found in dyes could potentially contribute to the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned. Here are some examples of synthetic compounds that may be used in candle dyes:

  1. Aniline Dyes: These are synthetic dyes derived from aniline, a petrochemical. Aniline dyes can be used in various applications, including candle-making. The combustion of aniline-based dyes may release VOCs.
  2. Coal Tar Dyes: Some synthetic dyes are derived from coal tar, which is a byproduct of the coal distillation process. These dyes may contain aromatic hydrocarbons that can contribute to air pollution when burned.
  3. Azo Dyes: Azo dyes are a class of synthetic dyes that contain nitrogen. While not all azo dyes pose health risks, certain azo compounds can break down into aromatic amines, some of which are considered carcinogenic. It’s important to note that not all azo dyes used in candles necessarily pose health risks when burned.
  4. Phthalocyanine Dyes: Phthalocyanine is a synthetic dye that is often used in candles to produce vibrant and stable colors. However, the combustion of phthalocyanine dyes could potentially release VOCs.
  5. Solvent-Based Dyes: Some candle dyes are solvent-based, and the solvents themselves may contribute to VOC emissions when the candle is burned.

Keep in mind that the specific risks associated with these compounds depend on factors such as the dye concentration, the type of wax used, and the combustion conditions. Additionally, manufacturers may use different formulations, and not all candles containing synthetic dyes will necessarily emit harmful substances at levels of concern.

If you are concerned about the potential health effects of burning candles with synthetic dyes, you may want to consider candles that use natural dyes or those labeled as low-VOC or VOC-free. Additionally, reaching out to manufacturers for information about the composition of their dyes can provide more insight into the safety of their products.

You’ve now reached the end of the four-part blog post on the safety of scented candles.  Whew. Congratulations. Thank you for slogging through all this information.  Considering everything presented in these blog posts, here are my overall recommendations:

  1. Buy candles that are made of one of the safer waxes (soy, palm, soy/palm blend, etc.). Avoid paraffin candles.
  2. Make sure the candles you buy do not have a metal core wick. Avoid zinc or other metal wick cores as well.
  3. If you want to stay in the safest lane, only buy undyed, unscented candles. If you want scent, instead opt for candles made of 100% beeswax; beeswax has its own unique scent while burning which many people appreciate.
  4. If you buy a scented candle, opt for one that uses undyed wax with a scent is VOC-free.  If you want your candle to have color, seek candlemakers that are using dyes and scents that are skin-safe and VOC-free.

Brimstone candles use a braided cotton wick with a paper core that is made of eucalyptus paper. No metal-core wicks are used. Our waxes are blends of natural waxes like soy and palm. Sometimes other natural waxes like apricot are included in the blend. No paraffin wax is used. Our candle dyes are skin-safe and VOC-free and Prop 65* and REACH** compliant. Our candle fragrances are skin-safe and close to 80% of the fragrances we use are VOC-free. The remainder are being transitioned to those that are VOC-free. We are targeting all candle fragrances to be 100% VOC-free in 2024.

Enjoy your candles safely. Cheers!


*In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 65, an initiative to address their growing concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals.  The law requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. This list currently includes more than 900 chemicals.

** If a company manufactures or imports one ton or more per year of a chemical substance in the EEA, (European Economic Area) e.g., EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, they must record this in the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) database.  REACH applies to all chemical substances, both those needed for industrial processes and those used in everyday lives. It thus affects most businesses in the EEA. Non-registered substances must not be marketed or used. Manufacturers must identify and manage the risks associated with the substances they manufacture and market in the EU/EEA.  As a manufacturer or importer registering such substances, they must show the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) how they can be used safely and use a safety data sheet to inform potential users in the supply chain of any risk management measures they may need to take. If a business is a downstream user, their main obligation is to take any risk management measures detailed in the safety data sheets.

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