Can Candles Cause Headaches? (What You Need To Know)

can candles cause headaches

Candles are a great way to improve the ambiance of your home or get in the mood for certain holidays or seasons. Not only do they look great, but they can smell great as well. However, do these candles come without any negative side effects? More specifically, let’s take a look at if candles can cause headaches.

Can candles cause headaches? Candles can cause headaches through the production of smoke and soot or by having a strong fragrance. The National Institute Of Health states that as many as 34.7% of people will suffer side-effects from strongly fragranced products, these side-effects include headaches.

However, it is important to note that these products are not candles alone. Strongly fragranced products include products such as air fresheners, sprays, soaps, lotions, shampoo perfume, and cologne. So while the problem is a possibility, the study may somewhat overstate it in terms of candles. National Institute of Heath Fragranced Consumer Products.

Ways Candles Can Cause Headaches

Here are some of the ways that candles can cause headaches:

  • Paraffin Wax
  • Scented Oils
  • Cored Wicks

Let’s take a closer look at what each one of these means specifically in terms of the potential to cause headaches.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is produced as a petroleum byproduct, which separates it from other types of candle wax that are derived from natural sources such as soybeans, coconuts, palm trees, and beeswax.

Paraffin wax has been proven to produce more smoke and soot, in addition to the production of toxins such as benzene and toluene which have been linked to multiple health issues including cancer.

Scented Oils

Scented oils are what give candles their fragrance. Scented oils include both natural essential oils and man-made fragrance oils.

Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are synthetic sources of fragrance made from aroma chemicals and natural ingredients such as essential oils and resins. They can sometimes cause smoke or soot as they burn in a candle, and can have an effect on people sensitive to strong fragrances or people that have allergies and respiratory problems.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are natural fragrances extracted from plants, flowers, and trees. They are all-natural, however, they can be extremely strong smelling. While they may not contain chemicals or toxins in the same way fragrance oils or paraffin wax does, they can still cause health issues.

Essential oils can trigger allergies, respiratory issues and even cause headaches as one of the strongest sources of fragrance when it comes to fragranced products and candles.

Cored Wicks

A cored wick is a type of wick that has something through the center of it to help it remain rigid so that it can stay straight as the candle burns and the wax melts.

You will often find cored wicks that have cores made out of cotton, paper, zink, or tin.

Cotton and paper cores shouldn’t cause you much trouble, but you may have a reaction to zink or tin. It is not normally possible to know what type of wick is in the candles you are buying unless you have a chance to speak to the candle maker.

Perhaps someone locally or someone you purchase from on Etsy.

If you find that your candle is giving you headaches, try to find out what type of wick is in that candle.

Preventing Headaches While Making Candles

If you are making candles you will be exposed to more fragrance than anyone. It doesn’t bother some people, but some have issues. The good news is that you have a few things you can do to prevent headaches while making candles.

How to prevent getting a headache while making candles? Prevent headaches while making candles by keeping the air circulating through your work area. You can do this by using a ceiling fan, box fan, oscillating fan, or by simply opening a window. However, do not let the fan blow directly on the cooling candles. In addition, you can consider using a mask.

The smell does not bother me, I actually enjoy it. However, I know some people that buy commercial respirators and have exhaust fans. You have to do whatever makes you the most comfortable and do what’s best for your health.

Candles To Help Avoid Headaches

If you love to look at candles but hate getting a headache from them, you can consider unscented candles or one of these below.

Candles That Are Unlikely To Give You A Headache

  • Unscented Beeswax
  • Naturally Scented Beeswax
  • Unscented Blended Soy, Coconut and Beeswax
  • Naturally Scented Blended Soy, Coconut and Beeswax
  • Naturally Scented Soy Candles
  • Naturally Scented Coconut Candles

If you do not want an unscented candle then try one of the scented options, starting at the top of the list and working your way down.

Alternatives To Candles

If you are unable to find a candle that works for you then you are not out of options. The good news is we now have more options than ever when it comes to candle alternatives if you just want to create the perfect ambiance. Let’s take a look at the options.

The Best Alternatives To Candles

  • Salt Lamp
  • Lava Lamp
  • Wine Bottle Lights
  • Illuminated Bowls
  • Fairy Lights

Some of my favorites are salt lamps and wine bottle lights. The best part about them for me is that I can leave them on all night while I am sleeping.

If I have to get up in the middle of the night the soft glow is still there for me to see where I am going.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do candles make my head hurt?

Scented candles can cause headaches through the production of soot or smoke or from having strong fragrances. If your candle makes your head hurt you may be sensitive to that particular type of wax or that specific fragrance. People react differently to certain fragrances and react to some but not others.

Can the smell of candles make you sick?

The smell of some candles can make you sick if you have a sensitivity to that particular fragrance or wax type. There are specific wax types and fragrance types you can choose to avoid having this issue with your candles.

Can scented candles trigger migraines?

Scented candles can trigger migraines if you have a sensitivity to that particular fragrance or wax type. Some people are more sensitive to fragrances than others and some fragrances can cause issues while others will not. This issue can vary from person to person and fragrance to fragrance.

Can certain essential oils cause headaches?

Essential oils can cause headaches for certain people. Essential oils are particularly strong-smelling and can contribute to headaches in people sensitive to those fragrances. They can also trigger allergies and cause respiratory distress for people with respiratory issues.

Are candles good for headaches?

If you are having a headache due to stress, anxiety, or high blood pressure then a candle can be good for helping stop and prevent those headaches. Candles have been proven to relax people and even lower blood pressure. Certain fragrances can even help calm you so that you fall to sleep faster.


In conclusion, candles can cause headaches for those that are sensitive to certain waxes and fragrances. However, candles can also help ease and prevent headaches for those that are suffering from stress, anxiety, or high blood pressure.

If you take the time to try different types of candles made with different waxes and fragrance oils you can find a wax that doesn’t affect your sinuses, allergies or cause you any type of headache issues.

If you do heave headache issues when it comes to using candles, but you love candles anyway then I suggested you try beeswax, coconut wax, or soy wax candle lightly scented with natural fragrances. You should be able to find a candle that’s wax and fragrance combination isn’t too irritating for you.

Carl Adamson

Hi, I'm Carl Adamson, one of the founders here at Candleers. A few years ago I got really into the art and craft of candle making, initially with soy wax container candles. My friends started asking me to make candles for them and pretty soon it turned into a nice side-business. I started this website as a way to document what I've learned over the past few years and hopefully help others in the process. I still love candle making but I'm learning that what I enjoy even more is the business side of things - and for this reason I've started consulting others on how to start and grow their own candle-making businesses and side-hustles.

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