I was at a popup recently and a woman walked up to my table to say:
"I can get a perfectly good candle at Target for $12. Why are YOUR candles SO expensive?"
I paused, took a breath, and smiled at her through my mask.
"Hi, I'm Birdie. Thanks for your question. I get asked that a lot. Tell me what you know about your candle from Target."
Her eyes crossed as if I'd asked her to solve an algebra question or a riddle.
"I know that it's cheap and it burns just fine!"
"Did it ever occur to you that Target can sell you a candle at that price and afford to lose money on it because they make up the profit margin for it with other products?" I asked her. She looked annoyed, like I'd spent days concocting an elaborate lie/riddle just to irritate her.
Here is the hard truth, my friends:
Mass-produced candles sold in Big Box Stores are inexpensive because the store loses money on them. Again, for those not paying attention: when you buy a candle at Target, Walmart, World Market, etc, the store loses money on them. This is not a big deal for them! Why? They can afford to do this because you're likely to purchase some overpriced wine, tchotchke, greeting card, gift bag, snack item, etc, etc, etc.
The candle might even be made with decent-sounding ingredients (soy wax, wooden wicks) and smell really nice (Did they test the fragrance on animals? Is there paraben or phthalates in it?)
More than likely, the ingredients suck.
The candle is probably made with paraffin wax, which is a petroleum-derived substance that emits toxic fumes when lit (for those who get headaches from candles, it may not be the fragrances giving you headaches, it might be the, uh, toxic fumes). The candle could be deceptively marketed as a "soy wax blend" and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that's marketing speak. Soy wax blends are unregulated - there isn't a law that says that a wax has to be X% soy and X% paraffin in order to be considered a blend, it could be 99% paraffin and 1% soy and we can call it a "Soy Wax Blend." Sorry if that ruined your day.
Traditional cotton wicks have lead in them. Unless your wick explicitly says that it's lead-free, you're lighting up more chemicals. If it's a wooden wick, find out if it's a sustainably-harvested wick. Ours are.
Do you like animals? Then make sure the fragrances used in your beloved candles are cruelty-free. Ours are. Also, make sure the fragrances are paraben and phthalate-free (ours are) or you're lighting a potential hormone disruptor on fire and breathing it in. Unlike beauty products, candle manufacturers do not often advertise whether their fragrances are tested on animals, so you'll have to ask. Fragrances are often purchased from distributors who don't disclose this information so unless the candlemaker cares about that kind of thing, they're unlikely to know or ask.
The Manufacturing Process
This is a whole bag of worms in itself, but some questions I hope you'll consider when buying products: Are the candles made by hand or a machine? Do they pay their workers a living wage? Is the product profitable? Is it a fair price to begin with or is it priced with future sales or promotions in mind?
I know this was an abundance of information and things to think about, and I'll do my best to keep sharing behind-the-scenes info into our candle making and the candle world, in general, because I think it's really important from a transparency perspective.
Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please drop them below. I do genuinely love having these types of conversations because it helps us make more informed choices about the products we buy and who we support.