Coconut wax is majorly trending right now as the hot new must-have natural product. The message being conveyed is that coconut wax candles are cleaner burning than paraffin and produce a better scent throw than soy. Sounds great, right? We thought so, so this past year we seriously looked into switching to coconut wax. Along the way, we have learned a lot about so called “coconut wax.”
When coconut wax first came out, it was triple the cost of soy wax and was mostly only available from sources on the west coast, requiring exorbitant shipping on top of the cost of the wax. Over the past 12-18 months, more vendors have started offering versions of coconut wax blends nationwide. It is still quite a bit higher in price, but we were excited by all the claims and wanted to try it out.
Unfortunately, our personal conclusion* is that coconut wax is a Trojan Horse, making a lot of claims and promising amazing benefits but is hiding a huge secret.
1. What is Coconut Wax? Coconut wax is produced similarly to soy wax by hydrogenating coconut oil to raise its melting point above that of regular coconut oil, so it remains a solid at higher temperatures. Even so, the pure version of coconut wax (no other additives) is incredibly soft compared to soy wax and has a very low melt point (100-107F), so shipping is extremely challenging, especially in warmer months. It is also significantly more expensive than other natural waxes. For these reasons it is not practical as a candle wax in its pure form yet, especially to be shipped or sold at outdoor venues. Any pure coconut wax we could find was recommended to be blended with a harder wax before using as a candle and there were usually shipping restrictions in summer. Manufacturers are working to create a harder pure coconut wax that stays solid at higher temperature, but currently it appears that most candles on the market labeled as “Coconut Wax Candles” are blends with other waxes to harden them and raise their melt point to a temperature that can be shipped without melting.
2. So what else is in Coconut Wax? Most “Coconut Wax Candles” are blends of soy or paraffin (or both) mixed with the coconut wax. If you are not familiar with the problems with paraffin wax, please click here to read our post about natural waxes and the problems with paraffin. Due to labeling laws, manufacturers don’t have to state the exact composition. As long as it is mostly coconut, they can call it coconut wax. Paraffin will harden the wax with a smaller percentage than the amount of soy needed, so most blends we looked into had some level of paraffin but could still be called “plant-based” or “coconut blend” without disclosing the paraffin component.
3. Doesn’t the candle maker have to tell you if there is paraffin in the wax? No, and to be honest, they might not know. Unfortunately, the candle wax manufacturers are so sneaky about the wording that inexperienced candle makers may believe they are purchasing a pure coconut wax or at least a natural blend when there is actually soy or paraffin in the wax. For example, the very first coconut wax we were going to order used words like “plant-based” coconut wax blend. It didn’t say what it was blended with. We assumed at least soy, maybe palm, but before buying we confirmed if there was any paraffin in it. They said Yes it had paraffin. It was more than 50% plant wax (meaning soy, palm, and/or coconut) so they could call it a “plant-based wax blend” but there was paraffin in it. Obviously, we did not buy that one, but it would be very easy for a candle maker to buy it without ever knowing paraffin was in it if they didn’t ask. We tend to be suspicious, so we asked.
4. Do all coconut wax blends have paraffin? We eventually found three different all-natural coconut wax blends to try, all of which contained soy wax as the main stabilizer, but no paraffin; however, they were difficult to find because paraffin blends were the most common and had such deceptive labeling. It seems manufacturers really like hiding paraffin in coconut wax. We confirmed each one before ordering.
Because it was so hard to find coconut wax without paraffin, we started researching coconut wax candles on the market to see if they disclosed what their wax really was. One of the worst companies passing this sham off is a nationally popular candle maker (begins with a “V”) whose website talks exclusively about their “Proprietary Coconut Blend Wax” but never says that it is pure or even all-natural. So I emailed them to ask if their candles were paraffin-free. Guess what they said. NO. They said they “have” to add some paraffin to stabilize the wax. Wow! I have seen so many social media influencers and eco-minded stores promoting these candles as safe and eco-friendly, all the while having no idea that the candles contain a major carcinogen and pollutant - paraffin! It is appalling to me that the company knows this and is actively misleading shoppers!
Also, another popular coconut candle product available is a coconut-apricot blend. This is being used by a lot of candle makers who do mention the apricot component, but when I searched for sources of coconut-apricot wax, all I can find is ones that also contain paraffin. Again, it usually takes flat out asking the manufacturer. They do not volunteer this information, so the maker may be totally unaware.
5. Is coconut wax organic? In our research, we came across alot of makers claiming their candles were made with organic coconut wax, so I was curious if it was true. Here’s what I found: Pure coconut wax is often truly organic, however, as I talked about earlier, pure coconut wax candles are hard to come by. Soy wax is the most common of the plant blends, but the problem is that I can’t find organic soy wax made anywhere. The reality is that any soy crops grown organically in the world are being used exclusively for food consumption (or possibly high-end skincare products), but not wax production. And of course, many blends have paraffin in them, which is never organic. So if half the wax is organic and half is not, I feel like it is very misleading to imply that it is an organic wax.
So what were your results from coconut wax tests? All three waxes we tried had similar results. First of all, there was an unpleasant smell to the cold wax. It smelled like overly used play-doh. It was much stronger in one than the other two, but it was there to a degree in all three. The odd scent wasn’t as noticeable in the cold candle after the scent was added, but when burning, we were aware of a chemical “sharpness” to the scent that is not present in the soy wax. Each wax was tested with a different scent that we use at home regularly and are very familiar with (Sun Kissed Peach, Sweet Tea, and Stargazer) and it was the same results with all three. It is hard to describe what I mean about the sharpness, but it gave me a headache and was very unpleasant. I think the claims about the stronger scent throw are probably accurate. I felt like I couldn't get away from scent (and that is saying along since I love strong candles.) It was just that chemical element that made it too intense for us to enjoy.
SUMMARY: The claims about pure coconut wax may be true although those claims should not be applied to blended candles, especially if they are blended with paraffin. As with many products today labeled as natural, organic, or eco-friendly, unscrupulous makers and manufacturers word their product descriptions very carefully to mislead consumers. It is not always what they say, but what they DON’T say. You have to read between the lines. The phrase “Made with 100% Natural Organic Coconut Wax” could mean that it is 100% coconut wax OR it could legally mean that the coconut wax component of the blend is 100% natural. See the difference? It’s sneaky. There could be paraffin in a candle with this description. Wording like “Proprietary Coconut Blend Wax” or “Plant-based Coconut Wax” can mean more than one thing. When in doubt, ask the maker.
For the record, our candle wax is all-natural, made from soy wax with botanical additives, and sometimes even a little coconut oil, but never paraffin!
* This is based on our own personal research of what we can buy from manufactures and what is available to us as end-user consumers. We realize that many excellent candle makers are selling coconut wax candles in good faith and believe they have a pure product or are selling an all-natural coconut-soy blend. We would love to be wrong about coconut wax, so if you have product source that you can back to counter our research, please let us know.