Let’s Talk About Candles

A head-on shot of about half my candle collection on my bookshelf. Text overlay reads The Best Candles

If you caught my first two gift guides ($30 or Less / Austin-Local) or you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know how I feel about candles. If not, I’ll tell you now: I love them. I love burning candles, I love finding new small makers to support, I love trying every candle I can get my hands on. I think candles are a really simple and delightful way to make yourself and your space feel good, they’re perfect for small rooms, for big rooms, for gifting, there’s no wrong time to light one up really.

I have always loved candles in theory, but the reality for many years was that I just could not stand the headaches that always seemed to arrive mere moments later. Unfortunately, even still, a lot of candles are very cheaply made with crappy wax sources and cheap synthetic fragrances and it’s really no surprise that so many people feel like trash after a few minutes of breathing in petroleum (paraffin wax). I don’t say this to get all fearmongery on you, that’s not where this is going. There’s just way better stuff out there that is actually worth your time and money, and won’t make you feel awful. I did sadly live a candle-less existence for quite a while, before I knew about the better stuff, but then a friend very rudely introduced me to her favorite candles. I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole after that and, as you can probably tell, I have yet to crawl out of it (not that I tried).

One Boy Smells candle and one Keap candle arranged on a wooden table so the labels of both candles are facing the camera.So now, as your resident candle nerd, I’m here to tell you about the best burners out there. I want natural waxes, cotton wicks (wood is very cool too), I want to know how big they are and how long they burn, cost of course, and I also want to know if they’ll fill a room. Our dining area and living area are one big room and if your candles smell nice, but disappear in that space, you did not make it on this list. There’s space for lightness too, I definitely have some favorites that are better for smaller spaces such as a home office, but I want versatility. A bonus point for all the creators with rewards systems, subscription boxes, or other incentives for supporting them. Companies owned by BIPOC, women, and/or LGBTQ+ creatives will always get an added shout out, as well as any with known initiatives toward reducing waste.

All this said, there are some things to know about candle burnin’ before you start shouting at glass jars to take your money faster. 1/ First, you should definitely own a wick trimmer – or at least a pair of scissors you don’t care about. Yes, seriously! You should always trim wicks to roughly 1/4″ before burning candles. This will help them burn more evenly and give off less soot. 2/ Second, you should always burn your candles until the wax melts to the edges of the jar/container, ideally about 1/4″ deep [of melted wax]. This will help your candles last longer and burn more evenly, otherwise you risk tunneling into the wax and being unable to use half your candle! 3/ I’m not sure why, but candles tend to burn best in 3-4 hour increments, and this is information I see across the board from all the best makers, so I try to stick to it too. 4/ Finally, a reminder to keep candles away from pets and children, don’t leave things that are on fire unattended or lit while you aren’t home, and yes, the wax gets hot so try not touch it!

Evil Queen

Several Evil Queen candles arranged on a white scarf on a wooden table. One candle is lit and burning.Evil Queen is a woman-owned candle company based out of Los Angeles. The standard size is a 12oz single-wick candle which retails for $20.00. These candles are rated for a 50-hour burn time and have colorful soy wax with cotton wicks packaged in glass jars with lids. Some scents are available in a larger double-wick option that retails for $28.00 with an 80-hour burn time. Evil Queen offer a rewards program as well as a monthly subscription box. You can get 15% off your first order here.

Evil Queen are truly the candles that started it all for me. Really! A friend of mine is an absolute EQ worshipper so you can blame her for all of my candle nerdery. These super cute candles come in a large range of scents and fill a room with minimal effort to wrap you in cozy or bright or whatever else feeling you choose without tickling my nose or giving me a headache. The digitally drawn labels from owner Ida are super cute too which make EQ perfect for gifting whether it’s a loved one or a coworker or maybe just yourself.

I’ve gotten several friends hooked now too, and if you are an adventurous scent lover with some extra money to spend, I highly recommend the subscription box: a limited-run candle shipped right to your door each month for a little self care or an excellent gift for a friend whose birthday you forgot. Some of my favorite scents include Exhale the Bullshit (core collection) and Big Witch Energy (fall exclusive).

Uncle Ron’s

An assortment of Uncle Ron's candles arranged with a black scarf on a wooden table. A mini candle is lit and burning.

Uncle Ron’s Candle Company (URCC) is based out of my hometown of Philadelphia, PA. Standard candles are 9oz soy wax in clear glass jars with a wooden wick. These are rated for 45+ hours of burn time and retail for $20.00. Some scents are occasionally available in larger sizes. Owner Aaron also offers a $20/month Burn Box subscription via Patreon which gets you three mini candles each month as well as 15% off the entire website for any other purchases.

Now that I’ve been sitting here writing about candles, I’ve realized I found a lot of my favorites through one-off recommendations from friends and family who maybe didn’t even know they were sitting on a gold mine. I found out about Uncle Ron’s through a fellow OG east coaster/deserter and very quickly fell in love with Aaron’s style. I’m a sucker for a wooden wick and fresh labels frequently designed by local artists.

I love the range of scents URCC is constantly pumping out (make sure you follow along on Instagram so you don’t miss anything awesome). While the shop is in endless rotation, a few of my faves that will hopefully be made again are Black Metal Coffee and Juicy Red Apples.

Keap

An assortment of Keap sample size candles spilling out of a small canvas drawstring bag on a wooden table

Keap is a zero-waste candle company based in Brooklyn, NY. Their 7.4oz candles are made from coconut wax with a cotton/paper wick and burn for 45+ hours in reusable clear glass cups. Candles retail for $47.50, with a $10 reduced price if you sign up for a recurring-delivery subscription. Keap also offer a sample set (pictured) of miniatures which also comes with an additional discount for your first subscription delivery.

As your resident expert of all the things I care about, it brings me great joy to tell you that I actually found out about Keap from my mom (0f course the priciest candle on the list was mom’s influence, she classy). I’m not sure how she found local-to-her Keap, but she’s absolutely obsessed and I’ve become a big fan too.

The company’s zero-waste approach is fantastic, they’re 100% plastic-free and even go as far as using wax to adhere labels to the glassware so there’s no adhesive to worry about either. The glassware is gorgeous too, with a thicker bottom and a rounded overall shape which means some fancy cocktails are in my future.

I’m still working my way through the sample set I gifted myself, but love the Wild Figs candle my mom sent me (that’s her favorite) and so far I’m a big big fan of Waves too – I just used my sample kit discount to order the full size.

Opal Wax

Two Opal Wax candles, one with a cork lid, on a wooden table with black and white scarves for texture

Opal Wax is a queer/Indigenous/woman-owned candle shop based out of Kansas City. The standard 9.5oz candle is made from soy wax with a cotton-paper wick and is poured in recycled wine bottles. The candles retail for $28.00 and are rated for 50+ hours of burn time.

I already knew I wanted to write about my candle love when I put some feelers out on social media for new brands to try and somebody shot me a message recommending Opal Wax. Sold in recycled wine bottles with a super cute cork lid, it was pretty heard to resist practically-made-for-me scents like Deep Sea and Earl Grey.

If the recycled wine bottle is somehow not for you, the shop also offers some candles in mugs, tea cups, and votives, but personally I really love the cork lid and the natural glass variation from different wine bottles. Beach Day and Grapefruit + Blood Orange are definitely next on my list to try, or maybe Milk + Honey.

I’m not sure you can go wrong with any of these, and if you keep an eye on the site, you can occasionally find a Seconds Sale too which is a great way to get a slightly discounted price from a still-practically-perfect candle.

228 Grant St.

Four 228 Grant St. candles on a wooden table. Two standard size, one is lit and burning, and two mini tins stacked

228 Grant Street Candle Co. is a Black-owned candle company based out of Baltimore, MD. Their standard-size candles are 9oz soy wax packaged in amber glass jars with cotton wicks and a metal lid. These retail for $21.00 and have a burn time of 60 hours. The shop also offers tins at $11.00 for 25 hours of burn time and large apothecary jars at $32.00 for 16oz and 120 hours of burn.

I came across 228 in a round up of Black-owned small businesses earlier this year. I have no idea how I hadn’t heard of them before because their whole style from labels to packaging to scent combos screams Beka’s Office Vibes. With an array of gorgeous scents in unique combinations like Ginger Lime and Wild Blackberry + Absinthe (two of my faves), these candles are beautiful and would please a lot of people.

If it’s a thing you care about, I’d say these candles have the most stereotypically masculine packaging in my round-up, but they perfectly fit my plants/sunshine/wood and metal life aesthetic.

In addition to their existing collection, the website seems to feature a monthly benefit candle in limited packaging, from which they donate 25% of the proceeds “to provide direct financial support to community activists serving on the front lines of racial justice and community activism”.

Boy Smells

Three Boy Smells candles arranged on black and white scarves on a wooden table

Boy Smells is a queer- and family-owned candle company based in Los Angeles. Their standard size candles retail for $32.00 and are 8.5oz of a coconut wax and beeswax blend with cotton wicks and a burn time of 50 hours. The core collection is packaged in black glass, with colored glass for other releases. Smaller votive-size candles are also available for certain scents.

The first time I ever heard the name Boy Smells was courtesy of beloved (to me) country-pop singer Kacey Musgraves and her collaboration with the brand for Slow Burn, a truly gorgeous candle in both packaging and scent, and my first purchase from Boy Smells.

Boy Smells’ newest release is Park Life, a collaboration with Danish fashion brand Ganni, and is described as “ginger, basil, fig, sage, clove, tonka bean and sandalwood”. While Boy Smells (to me) are known for their very long scent combinations, I’ve yet to come across an unbalanced or otherwise unpleasant candle.

While founders and partners Matthew and David have since discontinued my second purchase and favorite-from-them candle (Mssr. Blanchy), the core collection and frequent new releases means there is probably still something good for everyone. I gifted Ash to my dad for his birthday and thus, the circle is complete. My whole family is officially in love with candles, and after reading all of this, I hope you are too.

Some links are referral links in which I earn store credit in exchange for sharing a coupon with you. A few items in this post were sent to me gratis. This post is not sponsored.

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