Orange is the New Wax: Why 100% Beeswax Candles are the Only Ones You Should be Burning
Candles have become an essential part of creating a sacred home space. They make great gifts, give off a lovely soft light, and enrich a room with pleasant smells.
So many of us don’t think twice when we buy a white scented candle in a pretty jar or a colorful pack of birthday candles. But have you ever wondered what kind of wax you’re burning? Or, for that matter, what’s in the wax you’re burning?
Between the bright colors, strong scents, and single-use vessels, it’s time to question what exactly we’re lighting on fire.
This year I was introduced to beeswax candles, which have risen in popularity as paraffin and even soy waxes are being exposed for their toxic properties.
I interviewed Elizabeth Carter, the founder of Honest Rituals, to find out more about beeswax candles and what makes them so special.
What drew you to candle making and specifically to beeswax?
Growing up, I would visit my grandma in her hippie beach shack in Santa Cruz, California. She’s been living there ever since I was born and can remember. She has no electricity, no wifi. Even to this day I write her letters to keep in touch.
Whenever I came over she would have herbal tea waiting and beeswax candles burning. Her house always smelled like beeswax—sweet, like honey. You know when you associate a scent with an area and memory? My memory association of her was always with beeswax.
She had a honeybee hive in the walls of her house—just in one corner of the house because the bees made their way from her yard into the beach shack. So the hive was a little on the outside and a little on the inside. I would press my ear up against the wall and listen to their hum. It was so soothing going to bed. That was my first introduction to bees and beeswax.
Then one day I was in Ferndale, on the Northern California coastline. I walked into a store and it was all beeswax candles. Every color, every shape. And I thought: I want to make candles.
It wasn’t until I moved down to San Diego that I finally did. I purchased a 35-pound block of beeswax from a bee farmer in Escondido. I thought: Oh gosh, what am I going to do with all this? I saved it for a while and one night my boyfriend and I just decided to make one. We melted the wax in the double boiler. Poured the mold and let it cure for 4 or 5 hours. Pulled it out and thought: This is so perfect!
Why is beeswax better than other types of wax?
I was instinctually drawn to beeswax and grew up with it because of my grandma. I never entertained other kinds of candles because I’m sensitive to smells so could never burn soy or paraffin. They would give me headaches if I smelled them.
But I did ask myself: why am I drawn to this?
I did a lot of research and found out all these beautiful benefits to burning beeswax. And it makes sense, since you’re burning something natural. It’s honeycomb and made through the bees. A natural product that requires no engineering as opposed to soy, for instance, which is the “leftovers” of the soybeans. They usually add in a bit of paraffin to the soy too. Paraffin candles are a petroleum byproduct. So it’s this greasy black sludge at the bottom of the barrel that they dye white and add in all these scents.
Is beeswax sustainable and/or eco-friendly?
You have to make sure the wax is sourced from a honeybee hive that’s responsibly taken care of. It takes about 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax. So you need a bee apiary, not just one hive. And if that bee farmer is harvesting honey, you have to make sure they are leaving enough for the bees to survive the winter. Some will take all the honey and give the bees corn syrup in the winter instead. Which is harmful to the bees and part of the reason they have been dying.
It comes down to being a conscious consumer. You can find very cheap 100% beeswax candles, but you have to ask, how are they treating their bees? They could be mass-producing, moving hives, feeding the bees badly, etc.
I make sure I source wax from happy bees. And I also make my candles in molds rather than using disposable vessels. Then you can light it, burn it, and not have anything to throw away when it’s done.
Does beeswax burn differently than other waxes?
It’s the slowest burning wax. Your candle will last 3-5 times longer than a soy or paraffin candle. When you burn it, the flame is on the same light spectrum as the sun. So it’s therapeutic to look at before bed with all the blue light we’re exposed to through electronics.
I know your candles don’t use any fragrances, not even essential oils. Why is that?
Some essential oils you can use, but others, when you heat them up, it changes the molecular structure and they lose their benefits or become toxic. It also mixes with the wax and creates a different burning time.
I haven’t done research on which essential oils are safe to burn because I personally like burning the natural wax. Once you eliminate the scents, you get to smell that pure honey smell.
Also, beeswax emits negative ions that purify the air. Negative ions bind to all the positive ions coming off your electrical equipment—microwaves, stoves, wifi. So the beeswax helps to clean the air and neutralize your space. It’s another reason why they’re so magical. They’re taking out all the pollutants in the air whereas all the other candles are adding them to your home.
Your company name is Honest Rituals. Do you have a special ritual you do when you light your candles?
I always light my candles with a match as opposed to using a lighter. It seems more traditional and there is intention behind lighting and striking the match.
I like to burn them at night and make some chamomile tea before bed. I focus on the flame and sip my tea and go into a meditative zone. It makes me so sleepy!
And when I’m making the candles, I also burn one. Beeswax candles are one of the oldest forms of light and Egyptians were some of the oldest beekeepers known to man. So it feels like I’m tapping into an ancient tradition that’s been around for thousands of years.
It takes a lot of research to learn how to melt and pour the beeswax candles too. I’m still learning and I think I’ll never stop!
Where can people find your candles?
Either on my website: https://honestrituals.com or on Instagram @honest.rituals. You can DM me for an order. I love how interactive it is to be in conversation with someone through messaging. And I love seeing who buys my candles. I like to follow them and keep up-to-date. It makes it so much more personal.
I love how mindfully Elizabeth treats the candle making process, from sourcing the wax, to hand pouring them, to getting them to her customers. While she ships worldwide, if you are looking for a local beeswax candle, make sure to shop consciously, keeping in mind all of the elements she discussed.
Our world needs more happy bees!
Have you ever tried burning a beeswax candle? What do you think?