Guide: The Different Types Of Candles

It's easy to go to the store and purchase a candle while only looking at its price tag, appearance, and smell. There are more elements at work than those three though, and for some people what appears to be the most affordable option isn't the best deal. Whether you care about the quality of your candles or not, there are good reasons to understand the key differences between candle wax types. They all offer different qualities and provide varying burn times, scents, and smoke qualities. In this guide will go through each of the major candle types and outline their pros and cons. 

Paraffin Candles

Paraffin candles are the most common candles available today. They're typically sold at a lower price than other candles, and they're the ones stocked in most department stores. Paraffin candles were first developed in 1830 by Karl von Reichenbach, a German chemist, and were the result of an experiment attempting to remove and refine the waxy substances produced when refining petroleum. 

Today, huge quantities of paraffin are produced by oil refining companies as a byproduct when making lubricating oils, and that means paraffin is an affordable material for candle making. Large vats of the white odorless material are shipped off to candle producers, and they get mixed with byproducts (such as stearic acid) and infused with essential oils before being poured into all the different candle shapes we're familiar with today. 


Paraffin wax candles are highly popular today because they're available in countless scents, they're cheap, and they burn well. Paraffin candles are one of the best at holding infused scents as well, so if you're looking for candles with a strong smell, they are a favorite option. 

  • Affordable
  • Accept scents well
  • Easily poured into diverse shapes


Paraffin candles seem like the most obvious option to purchase, but there are real drawbacks to burning paraffin in your home regularly. First and foremost, there is doubt about whether paraffin candles are healthy and safe to burn. Past experiments suggest that paraffin candles may release harmful compounds into the air that diminish air quality within your home. In fact, some experts suggest that paraffin candles may release toluene and benzene, two carcinogens that are also linked to breathing conditions such as asthma. 

Outside of these health concerns, paraffin burns significantly faster than natural candles like soy and beeswax, and you may only enjoy half the burn time with a paraffin option versus a high-quality natural candle. That difference alone makes it clear that paraffin candles aren't as much of a budget option as they first seem. Paraffin candles are also messier and known to melt and drip. If you've ever experienced a waxy mess while burning a candle, chances are good it was caused by paraffin. 

  • Fast burn time
  • Potentially unhealthy
  • Messy drip 


Soy Candles

Soy candles are popular natural alternative to paraffin candles used today. Soy wax has a known history that goes back as far as the 9th century in Japan where it was used by Buddhist monks for ritual massages and bathing. Soy wax was originally mixed with other compounds and hardened around sticks or coated plant fibers to create rudimentary candles, but it wasn't until the early 19th century that soy wax candles were sold in the United States, and they didn't become common until the 1980s as candle wick advancements were made. 

Soy candles are produced from soybeans grown specifically for candle wax production. Once the beans are grown to maturity, they get cleaned up, cracked apart, and their hulls are removed. The beans inside are rolled into flakes and they go through an oil extraction process that leads to the development of a saturated fat oil that is solid at room temperature. This is the material that's used to produce soy candles today. The soy oil is sometimes left pure, but it normally receives different scents, and some companies combine it with other waxes, including paraffin during production. The final product is often considered superior to paraffin candles and is used by environmentally-conscious and health-conscious individuals especially. 


Soy candles are made from a 100% renewable resource, and soybean production can be adjusted to meet increased or decreased candle demands. Soy candles are seen as a more sustainable long-term option versus paraffin. Soy candles generally burn more cleanly than paraffin, they drip less and they last significantly longer. They may cost more than paraffin, but you get more for your money. 

  • Renewable
  • Long-burning
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Minimal drip


Soy candles offer impressive benefits, but they aren't without their own drawbacks. Soy wax doesn't release infused scents as strongly as paraffin, giving them a weaker smell. Soy wax is more expensive to produce than paraffin today, making it a more premium option. Soy wax also suffers from a greater level of variation, which means you have to search for the best quality candles, and you are more likely to purchase low-quality options before finding good soy candles. 

  • More Costly
  • Weaker fragrance release
  • Greater quality variation


Beeswax is one of the oldest forms of wax used by humans, and beeswax candles have a history dating back thousands of years to its use in ancient Egypt. Beeswax is produced naturally by honey bees and is used by the insects to store honey. The hive structure produced by a honey bee is made of wax, and beekeepers naturally gather wax during the honey extraction process from their hives. The wax is then processed to remove impurities before craftsmen convert the beeswax into all-natural candles. The processed wax is used as a lubricant, furniture polish, lip balm, and to make high-quality candles. 

Beeswax also has a rich tradition in Christianity, still frequently used today in Catholic Masses and Orthodox Divine Liturgies. 


Beeswax is one of the longest-lasting natural candles with some of the larger pillar candles lasting upwards of 100 hours. These candles burn clean, produce no smoke, typically don't drip and they put off a nice warm honey smell even when they are unscented. They're a favorite natural candle option and are fully sustainable while being simple to make. 

  • Long-lasting
  • Pleasant honey smell
  • Dripless burning
  • Smokeless
  • Environmentally friendly


Even though beeswax candles are a favorite among candle connoisseurs, they aren't perfect for every use case. The candles are significantly more expensive than paraffin, and typically slightly more expensive than soy. They aren't as easy to obtain as other candles, and with a less standardized production process, it's more common to purchase beeswax candles with inconsistencies. Beeswax candles also come with fewer scent options than soy or paraffin. Many of these issues can be overcome by finding a proven beeswax candle provider, but they are considerations worth remembering. 

  • Costly
  • Fewer scent options
  • More difficult to obtain
  • Inconsistent candle options


Other Candle Types Worth Noting

The three candle types listed above are the most commonly sold today, but they aren't the only options. These alternatives are worth knowing as well, and options like coconut, palm, rapeseed, and unique wax blends are also worth owning for some people. 


Coconut wax candles are rare, but they're known for their extended burn times similar to soy, and for being highly sustainable. Coconut wax is made by pressing oil out of coconut meat and mixing it with other vegetable waxes to create a wax that remains solid at room temperature. They are costly and difficult to find, but make a high-quality candle. 


Palm oil is processed from the fruit of an oil palm tree, and can be hydrogenated into palm wax for use in candles. Palm wax candles have a moderate price among natural candles and a moderate burn time. They last for a similar time to soy candles but hold and disperse scents better than most other natural wax candles. 


Rapeseed wax candles are made from oil that's processed from plant seeds. The seed oil is hydrogenated to make it solid and then formed into candles for burning. Rapeseed candles offer a long clean burn, and they're known for holding different scents well. Rapeseed candles are very similar to palm and give a standardized performance with few standout characteristics. These candles are more difficult to find than the more popular options above. 

Wax Blends 

Finally, it's worth noting that many candles are formed by blending different types of waxes together. By mixing soy and paraffin for instance a longer-lasting candle can be produced than a standard paraffin option, while getting something that holds scents even better. It's impossible to effectively compare wax blends to pure wax candles since so many different blends can be created. Be careful to learn the wax composition of any candles, before you purchase them, so you can avoid getting a blend if you want a specific pure wax option.