What are candles made of? The obvious answer is wax, but candles may be made from multiple wax types and contain several additives to scent, color, and preserve the candles.
Wax Is the Main Ingredient
The main ingredient in candles is wax, and several types may be used. The main waxes used to make candles include:
- Paraffin - derived from petroleum
- Soy - made from hydrogenated soybean oil
- Gel - derived from synthetic hydrocarbons or mineral oils
- Palm - made from palm kernel oil
- Beeswax - made from the wax honeybees secret when building a hive
Many of these waxes are used together to create a blended candle.
Wick Is Made From Cotton or Wood
The most common candle wick is made of cotton, although some candles feature wooden wicks. The cotton wicks are braided and the size of the wick is determined by the type of candle and its size.
Additives Assist and Enhance Candle Properties
There are additives that can increase or stabilize scent. Other additives serve to assist the wax properties. There are a few common additives used to enhance candle wax properties or assist the properties in better performance. These additives often have more than one purpose.
You may be surprised to learn that beeswax is added to other types of candle waxes. Adding an amount of beeswax to a candle increases the burn time. Beeswax also is acts as a color-enhancing agent.
Two Types of Microcrystalline Wax
Adding soft microcrystalline wax makes it easier to model wax into various shapes or sculptures. The soft microcrystalline wax enables the candle to adhere to a container, especially the sides. It is also added to paraffin candles to extend the burn time by forcing the candle to burn slower.
This petroleum byproduct softens the wax in container candles, allowing it to adhere to the edges of the container. It also decreases shrinkage.
Stearic acid, a fatty acid from vegetable oil or tallow, modifies the wax so the candle will release from the mold. It is often used with paraffin candles. It also enhances the colors of the dye, producing a more vibrant and intense hue. In addition to these properties, stearic acid can reduce or even stop a fragrance oil leak.
Vybar, which is a polymer, is sometimes used as a substitute for stearic acid. It helps the candle retain its scents. Like stearic acid, it also enhances and intensifies the colors of dye.
A UV stabilizer (UV Inhibitor) is added to a candle to prevent the color from fading when placed in UV light.
Polysorbate 80 is a common stabilizer used in a number of products, including candles. It serves as a stabilizer and emulsifier that is especially helpful in emulsifying fragrance with the candle wax so it is evenly distributed throughout the wax.
Natural and Synthetic Fragrances Add Aroma
Candles are made of synthetic fragrance oils or essential oils for a wide range of scents. Some candle fragrance oils are specific to a type of wax, such as soy or paraffin, so if you're making candles, be sure you understand the use before purchasing fragrance oils. Many scented candles are created using a combination of natural and synthetic aromas.
Natural fragrances are made from essential oils. Essential oils are derived from plants to produce a deeply fragranced natural substance that has many uses outside of candle scenting. Many aromatherapy candles contain essential oils.
Synthetic fragrances are manmade substances that use chemicals to create specific aromas. Some fragrance oils can increase candle soot, so it's very important you keep the candle wick trimmed so it's no longer that 1/4" to reduce any possible candle soot.
What Are Candles Made Of?
Candles are made of wax, cotton or wood, and additives. The type, color, and scent of a candle will determine which ingredients it contains.