Candles bring so many good things – relaxation, invigoration, the recall of memory that often comes with scent – but many mainstream brands also come with so-called “nasties”: chemical fragrances (which some find induce headaches) and scent boosters, paraffin wax (made from petroleum), which gives off carcinogens when burned, and wicks with a core of metal.

While the jury is still out on exactly how bad for us these things are, many understandably prefer to avoid them in the pursuit of a healthier, greener, more natural lifestyle.

Fortunately for candle lovers, there are alternatives. All of the brands in this roundup use natural fragrance, such as essential oils, and have pure cotton and/or paper wicks.

While paraffin wax is considered the best for giving a strong scent, there are many different waxes that work well in candles: soy, which burns cleaner and longer than paraffin, but gives a more subtle fragrance; coconut wax, which has a great scent throw and burns slowly; and beeswax, which helps purify the air as it burns and is often blended with other waxes as it has a scent of its own.

Some candles are made from a blend of waxes and will often be labelled with the wax that makes up a majority – for example, a soy wax blend. This is not necessarily a bad thing as this may be done to bring the best of multiple types together, but do be sure to check the full list of ingredients as some brands blend natural waxes with paraffin.

Given all these possibilities, you definitely don’t have to sacrifice quality for healthy credentials; some of our favourite mainstream brands have made the list, and we’ve discovered some new beauties too. As always, burn your candle for at least two hours at a time (and maximum four), until the wax has melted in a pool across the surface, to help it burn down the wax evenly.

We burned each candle for at least two hours, looking for how well the scent dispersed around the room (otherwise known as “throw”) and how long it lasted after they were blown out, taking into consideration that non-paraffin waxes often give off subtler scents.

We also paid close attention to the ingredients to make sure there are no hidden nasties and looked for eco credentials too, such as recycled glass containers.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Eym home: £39, Eym 

We’ve never identified with the aesthetics of a candle quite as much as we do with Eym’s beautifully minimalist packaging. Created by a husband and wife duo with the aim of making the most natural candles possible, Eym candles are made with soy wax, cotton wicks and essential oils. Of the five scents available – all gorgeous – we particularly love home, a welcoming, grounding blend of rose, geranium and chamomile. 

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Jonathan Ward afreet: £40, Jonathan Ward

Hand-poured in his studio in Hackney, Jonathan Ward’s candles feel luxurious from the moment you open the box: the clear glass is ribbed (the containers are actually whisky tumblers) and the label is purple and gold. Afreet is a sweet, dark concoction of blackberry, neroli, black pepper and amber. The wax is a blend of coconut oil, beeswax and organic vegetable wax and the double wick – which ensures a more even burn – is cotton.

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Evermore grove candle: £48, Evermore London

Evermore candles are consciously made through and through: they are crafted from a blend of rapeseed and soy wax, their beautiful black containers are made from recycled glass and their boxes are 100 per cent recyclable. Our pick is grove, a green, forest floor fragrance with notes of eucalyptus, pine, fir and moss.

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Hampton & Astley coral flower & hyacinth luxury candle: £44.99, Hampton & Astley

Luxury homeware brand Hampton & Astley makes all its candles from a non-toxic blend of beeswax, soy and rapeseed wax. We’re not usually big on floral fragrances, but coral flower and hyacinth brings the scent of a fresh bunch of flowers – peonies, roses, hyacinth and jasmine – to your home, and who can complain about that.

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The Very Good Candle Co Indio candle: £19, The Very Good Candle Co

The Very Good Candle Co’s scents, created by a music-loving couple living in Amsterdam, are all inspired by music festivals. The fragrance of Indio is based on Coachella, which is held in Indio, California. It’s a desert heat kind of scent, with fir needle, blood orange, patchouli, bergamot, cedarwood and birch. All their candles are hand-poured into recycled glass jars, and are made with rapeseed wax, essential oils and cotton wicks.

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Helm London cocoa butter: £14.50, Helm London

Cocoa butter candles can be cloyingly sweet, but this, from Helm London, is just right: rich, sweet and warm, it’s the perfect bath-time fragrance. Made from soy wax with a cotton wick and hand-poured in the UK, all Helm’s candles come in very solid-feeling frosted glass containers with a light wood lid. Our favourite part is that you can add the name of whoever the candle is for at checkout and it will be printed on the label.

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Skandinavisk heia candle: £35.75, Osmology

The majority of candles from Danish brand Skandinavisk are made from vegetable wax, but their luxury “Escape” range is made from rapeseed wax, which burns slowly and throws scent really well. Heia is Norwegian for “heathland” and its scent is suitably wild, windswept and slightly floral. We love the embossed opaque white jar, too.

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Kiss The Moon dream candle: £38, Kiss The Moon

The driver at the heart of British countryside brand Kiss The Moon is a good night’s sleep; all its products are formulated to help you wind down and drift off. Its candles are hand-poured in the UK in small batches and are 100 per cent natural, using soy wax, cotton wicks and essential oils. Dream is a mind-clearing, body-relaxing blend of bergamot and lavender.

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The Nomad Society libertine candle: £35, The Nomad Society

The Nomad Society’s candles are hand-poured from soy wax and cotton wicks in the South of France. We’ve yet to find one we don’t like – particularly as they all come in Nomad’s signature dark amber glass jars – and Libertine is a firm favourite: fresh and uplifting with sweet black figs, it’s an ideal choice for home offices and studios.

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Neom tranquillity scented candle: £32, Neom Organics

Neom’s candles are unusual in being a fairly mainstream brand that uses 100 per cent natural wax. Tranquillity is a blend of no less than 19 essential oils, and the result is a potent but not overpowering, relaxing scent, with notes of lavender, basil and jasmine. It’s the perfect bedtime blend.

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The verdict: Non-toxic candles

Eym candles come out top for their well-rounded, distinct and gorgeous scents, and for the most perfect packaging we’ve ever seen. Jonathan Ward comes a close second for its luxury look and clever double wick.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.