Please Don't Turn Your Used Diptyque Candles Into Beauty Storage

by Jessica L. Yarbrough

Image via @marianna_hewitt

Image via @marianna_hewitt

While wasting time on Instagram Stories, as one does, I came across a “Swipe Up” post that turned me into a literal human weary face emoji (that’s this one): Into The Gloss is telling people to DIY their used Diptyque candles into storage for makeup brushes, Q-tips, eyelash curlers, and more. 

This (admittedly very nice-looking) storage hack for beauty products is one you’ve probably seen on Instagram or Into the Gloss for years now. I’ve done it myself! The trend is nothing new — in fact, it’s very old — and that’s precisely the problem. It’s 2019, and we know better: Most candles, particularly of the Diptyque variety, are filled with toxic chemicals that don’t belong anywhere near your precious little face. Or anywhere near anything that gets anywhere near your precious little face. Like makeup brushes. Or Q-tips. Or, especially, eyelash curlers. 

I’ve written about this issue before for The Zoe Report (hop over on over to read my interviews with cosmetic chemists, dermatologists, and clean beauty experts who all advise against the candle-cum-cosmetic container). But that was almost a year ago, and offered more of a “fair and balanced” take, so as not to alienate the chic #shelfie crowd, of course. I think I’m over being “fair and balanced” when it comes to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors and *actual* diesel fuel in the beauty space, though.

I asked clean candle connoisseur Michael Carbaugh, the founder of Studio Sandoval, to shine some light on the potentially harmful chemicals hiding out in synthetic candles: “Paraffin wax, aldehydes” — as in formaldehyde — “chemically coated wicks, synthetic wicks, toxic soot, synthetic fragrances, and ‘naturally derived’ ingredients that were created in a laboratory with unknown extraction methods,” was his response.

Let’s break that down, shall we?

  • Paraffin wax, when burned, releases many of the same toxins as diesel fuel. This is because it’s a petroleum byproduct. Paraffin also releases known carcinogens benzene and toluene. When inhaled, paraffin wax can irritate your eyes and respiratory system. If it gets near your skin, it can clog pores. 

  • Paraffin candles give off “petro-soot” — AKA, diesel exhaust — which is considered as dangerous as second-hand smoke per California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.

  • A study recently found that scented candles release formaldehyde into the air, thanks to their limonene content. Formaldehyde causes cancer. 

  • Many candles also feature colorants and artificial fragrance, both of which are known to irritate skin (especially when it comes to chronic conditions like eczema and dermatitis).

  • Candles with metal wicks (note: Diptyque does not use metal wicks, yay!) can release lead, an endocrine-disrupting chemical, when burned. EDCs have been linked to breast cancer, shrunken rat testicles, weight gain, fertility issues, period problems, and so, so much more.

  • Candles release particulate matter or particle pollution, which can potentially mess with lung and heart health.

  • Candles emit Volatile Organic Compounds, which have been known to wreak havoc on the central nervous system and have even been linked to cancer.

  • Studies have shown that trace amounts of these chemicals accumulate on the glass or ceramic surrounding the candle.

So, yeah: These don’t belong anywhere near anything that gets anywhere near your precious little face.

To be “fair and balanced,” Into the Gloss did lay out a very thorough cleaning process in its DIY tutorial, including both freezing and boiling the candle jar before use. (Although, to be “fair and balanced,” it did not mention freezing and/or boiling as a method for eliminating potential toxins — only to help get the wax out.) 

Some will say this kind of deep clean is enough to make Diptyque holders safe for use around cosmetics. But there’s actually no proof of that — and in fact, there’s an argument to be made for the opposite. “Although very small amounts of chemical compounds can be released at room temperature, most of the exposure risk occurs when candles burn,” Dr. Jennifer Herrmann, a board-certified dermatologist, once told me in an interview… so, in theory, the hot-hot-hot boiling process could release more chemical compounds into the air and onto the jar? That’s a bit of a reach, sure, but I still stand by the precautionary principle: If there’s no proof that it’s safe, act as if it’s not safe.

If you decide you absolutely cannot live a life devoid of makeup brushes artfully arranged upside down in an old candle jar, there is a better way: Choose natural candles. 

“Our candle base is made of coconut oil, beeswax, and a touch of soy for solidity,” Carbaugh told me. “We use only essential oils to scent our candles. All of these ingredients are safe for the user. Some of our essential oil ingredients are actually aroma-therapeutic, so they are sort of the opposite of the traditional candle ingredients — they do something good for you.” (These are all ingredients found in natural skincare products, too, so there’s that. )

Some of my favorite clean candles include ones from Studio Sandoval, Leland Francis, and Follain. And yes, their non-toxic packaging is just as worthy of your top shelf.