If you know me, you know I love a cozy at-home situation. Dim lights, a warm bevvie in my favorite mug, soft music playing and preferably a soup simmering away in the crock pot. And for a lot of years, that scenario included allll the scented candles lit all around the house— especially in the fall & winter months.
Something about these cooler months just make those big scents so much more appealing, right? Apple spice this, pumpkin latte that, cedar and fir and cocoa scented candles used to be such a thing for me. That is, until I noticed the way they were making me feel anytime I lit them.
Maybe you can relate… these candles seem so luxurious and romantic when you see them in the aisles of your favorite big-box stores, so you bring them home, light them and then realize an hour later you have a dull headache or your nose is plugged or you can’t stop sneezing (among other issues). Or, maybe none of that, but you know breathing in synthetic fragrance isn’t great for your lungs, cells and hormones…. but still sad to give up the ambiance and *feels* of the season.
When I noticed the way so many of these candles actually made me feel a few years ago, I knew I couldn’t pretend it was okay. And over the years as I’ve cleaned up my personal care, cleaning and home products, I knew it was time to shift my approach to conventional scented candles, too. This took me a few years, by the way. It’s a emotional process sometimes too… until you can find swaps you love just as much. Which, hello— is why I’m sharing them with you today.
There are so many more options than just nothing 🙂
Many traditional scented candles release harmful chemicals and toxins when you burn them, including formaldehyde and benzine which are potentially cancer causing (source). Eek, nooo thank you. The droplets and particles they release into the air as they burn can enter your lungs and eventually lead to heart and lung problems.
On top of that, many products (including candles) that list “fragrance” as an ingredient don’t actually specify (and aren’t required to) what’s in the fragrance. A lot of times, these fragrances are made of more harmful chemicals that we really don’t want to be breathing in and consuming.
But as someone who loves to make my home feel cozy (and smell nice!), I’ve had to get creative with finding alternatives to conventional scented candles. Here are my 5 favorite swaps instead of regular scented candles!
5 alternatives to conventional scented candles
01. Beeswax tea lights:
Using unscented true beeswax tea lights in beautiful glass vessels (like Glassybaby) has the same mood and ambiance as your favorite scented candles, without all the toxins. These ones are my favorites, but warning they sell out every fall, so grab a box or two for the seasons ahead. Another great brand to look for is Big Dipper Wax Works (and local to seattle too!), who makes naturally scented candles too that smell like the spa.
02. Diffusing essential oils or using an essential oil room spray:
High quality essential oils are made with natural ingredients, so you can feel good about releasing them into the air you breathe. Instead of leaving you feeling headachy like some candles can, essential oils have actually been shown to increase energy, improve your mood and help with things like nausea or fatigue, among other benefits.
Using essential oils with a diffuser (love this one!) or a non-toxic essential-oil based room spray is my favorite way to make my home smell nice without the harmful candles. I looooove this Warm Citrus Spice and Crisp Smoky Woods room spray, made with all natural ingredients and essential oils. Instead of trying to make your own layered scents, both are perfectly curated & perfectly blended that invoke coziness, hygge and that special *feeling* a scented candle can bring.
If sprays aren’t your thing, they also have essential oils for a diffuser too for both of these scent blend options. There are also options for clean scented soaps too, if neither the oils or sprays are your vibe. Save 15% on any of these clean scent products with code ‘simplyrealhealth’ at checkout!
Extra tip: If you’re looking for some essential oils to make your own blends and combinations (or for other teas, supplies, etc), I love this online shop. Their sourcing is incredible.
03. Burning Palo Santo sticks:
Burning Palo Santo sticks (or diffusing an essential oil) is such a hygge move. This scent is everything… it’s a whole vibe. It’s woodsy, calming and so soothing, like a pine forest. And known to clear out any negative or stagnant energy in your space… an added bonus! I love this as a fun option in the colder months especially. There is also a Palo Santo room spray if that’s more your thing (it is for me).
03.5 Natural incense. This company makes synthethic fragrance free incense sticks if the woodsy vibe is more your style. Think pinon, sweetgrass, etc.
04. DIY simmer spices:
You can also make your own DIY simmer spices. All you need is a few cinnamon sticks, cloves and/or star anise from the bulk spice section, and either an orange (for the peel only) or an apple, sliced up. Adding a sprig of rosemary is optional, too. Cover all ingredients in a pot with water and let simmer on your stove for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and smell the amazing-ness throughout your home. It’s a whole experience and sooo lovely.
05. Naturally fragranced candles:
Not ALL fragranced candles are created equally (aka, with ick ingredients), and some actually are made with natural scents, essential oils and clean wax. Check out a more naturally fragranced candle, like my personal fav L’avant. They’ve got a fun holiday fir one that comes out seasonally if you can catch it. Snag yourself some amazing dish soap while you’re at it, too. We love this woman-run local Seattle business! The key is avoiding candles made with paraffin wax (aim for beeswax, coconut wax or soy instead) and look at what the fragrance is made of (we want essential/natural oils).
What are your favorite natural alternatives to scented candles? Share them below so we can all get more ideas!
Check out ALL my favorite non-toxic skincare and home scent products!
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