The self care industry is partially responsible for the massive success and growth of the skin care industry in recent years. Products marketed for self care—from face masks to serums and bath products—have consumers buying almost constantly in an attempt to take control of their mental and physical health. Part of this is because, well, healthcare is really expensive in countries like the United States, and unwinding after a long day with a face mask and an aromatherapy candle is a whole lot more affordable than taking a vacation or visiting a therapist. That was sort of a joke, but there is some truth to the fact that consumers are increasingly looking toward products for self care.

Self care

All of this is not to say that skin and body care products are not self care, as aromatherapy products do have some scientific proof behind their long lists of health claims. Studies have shown that aromatherapy—meaning the use of aromatic, natural products in personal and home care products—has a wide variety of benefits from the ability to relax the mind, encourage deeper sleep, improve focus, and even get rid of headaches—depending on which oil you use. However, no essential oils are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as or replacement of medicine, so we don’t suggest using aromatherapy products to treat clinical disorders—whether they be mental or physical.

How candles are considered self care

Aromatherapy candles, specifically, can offer a wide range of benefits based on what essential oils were used in the product. These products are marketed for their health benefits, and consumers often feel better about buying aromatherapy candles over scented candles because the use of the term “aromatherapy” implies that the candles are made with natural fragrances and other ingredients (though often times, they are not.)

Scented candles, while still popular, are being increasingly used to market aromatherapy candles by talking about the downsides to the products. Many scented candles are made with fragrances that can cause irritation or headaches in people that are sensitive to chemicals (this blog post from a connoisseur of natural products talks about how aromatherapy candles are often safer than scented candles). Studies, meanwhile, have shown that scented candles can pose a risk of exposure to toxic chemicals in certain cases.

But the truth is that many of the chemicals and ingredients found in scented candles are also found in aromatherapy candles. Products like paraffin, a wax used in many candles, is a derivative of petroleum and can release carcinogenic chemicals when burned. For pet lovers, essential oils and other fragrances are also known to cause health problems in animals such as liver problems, skin sensitivities, and lethargy (to name a few). Most essential oils are fine for use around pets, but many veterinarians urge pet owners to pay attention to how their pet is responding to the use of essential oil candles, scented candles, and diffusers.

How scented candles and aromatherapy candles are different

Scented candles are created with the intention of releasing fragrance into the air. These can be any candle from cinnamon spice and sugar cookie to the perfumed blends of floral candles you find in places like Bath & Body Works (though the company does offer a line of aromatherapy products, which includes candles). Aromatherapy candles are created with essential oils to provide consumers with some sort of health benefit. Many of the products are made with things like natural beeswax or products that can be melted down and used as massage oils.

For this reason, it kind of defeats the purpose to create aromatherapy candles with ingredients like paraffin wax (the ingredient that releases known carcinogens that we mentioned earlier) and other synthetic ingredients that could be considered dangerous to burn.

Essential oils

 
Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus oil is a popular essential oil in aromatherapy products because it acts as an anti-inflammatory product that can support the respiratory system (making it a popular fragrance for decongestant personal care products like bath bombs and soaps). The scent is also attributed to relaxation, making it a great fragrance in aromatherapy candles for its association with relaxing and unwinding.

Lavender

Like eucalyptus oil, lavender essential oils are often associated with restful sleep and relaxation. Lavender oil is used in aromatherapy to treat mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. While the essential oil may not be a clinical treatment for these common health issues, it does help to relax the mind and let you drift off to sleep.

Orange Blossom

Also called neroli water, orange blossom is a floral essential oil fragrance popular in aromatherapy products like aromatherapy candles because of its ability to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and promote relaxation (again, these are not clinical treatments to these problems as essential oils are not approved by the FDA for medicinal use)

 

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