One of the few positives from the various states of lockdown has been the increased focus on self-care and also thinking more about our home environment. The home fragrance market: candles, diffusers and vapour diffusers has enjoyed a real surge in demand as we seek ways to relax, to concentrate or even just to make our rooms (we’re spending more time in) simply smell better. Candles have been used in sacred ceremonies for centuries, to bring a peaceful ambiance into a space. But whilst their minimal light and aromas create a serene sanctuary, there are actually other reasons why you should burn candles in your home. They can actually help your mental state and well-being, essential in our third lockdown. (And hopefully final one)
The UK is one of the world’s biggest candle markets. In 2020, the estimated market was 1.9 billon. And, while the beauty industry has faced a steep decline, there has been a large increase in home fragrance. This may be vital to the survival of many beauty retailers during the pandemic, as shoppers bought more home scents such as candles and diffusers. Small independent candle makers were one of the lockdown business success stories.
There has also been a new focus on our sense of smell since the start of the COVID pandemic, as a sense that many of us took for granted and is often ranked as the least important sense. Half of patients with covid-19 may lose sense of smell and guidance rules states that a new change or loss in sense of smell should prompt a period of self-isolation. Losing the sense of smell (anosmia) has been traumatic for many people struck with COVID. The effect of it meant not just missing, the smell of fresh bread or perfume but it left many patients feeling depressed and further isolated. Dr. Sandeep Robert Datta, a neurobiologist, states that while many think of scent as an aesthetic bonus sense, it is an important link between people and the environment around them. Nine in ten patients can expect substantial improvement in their sense of smell within four weeks and using olfactory training been shown to help people improve and regain their sense of smell.
Olfactory training is a self-management strategy that involves a regular programme of using strong odours or essential oils to trigger recovery of the olfactory system. Smell training involves twice- daily sniffing of four essential oils to help the damaged olfactory nerve repair itself.
We don’t just miss the sights and sounds of our favourite places; we also miss the smells. Indeed, some brands have capitalised on this lockdown absence in creating exotic scents that are evocative of distant shores. A good-quality scented candle can remind us of places we have visited and loved. Perhaps we need this more than ever when we’re locked down in our homes and unable to travel. The soothing effect that candles have is based on how the brain processes smells. The smell of scented candles stimulates our limbic system, the part of the brain that is home to our memory and emotions.
If you need a further reason to place a handful of candles around your desk for decorative purposes, you now have the perfect excuse, as surrounding yourself with scented candles while you work can actually increase your focus and help you become more productive. Aromas like mint, lemon, orange and rosemary can invigorate your senses and help give you that extra boost you need whilst working from home.
Lighting a candle can remind you of a happier time and can make you feel better if you are feeling a little down. A Japanese study conducted on 12 participants who were depressed, showed that the smell of lemons helped, boosted their immune function and regulated hormone levels. So much so that their dosage of antidepressants was lowered. There are several essential oils that can help alleviate feelings of uneasiness, uplift your flagging spirits and promote a better, stronger, more positive state of mind. Using essential oils is a natural and proven way to help reduce the symptoms of nervousness and restore positivity, I use Bergamot essential oil (reduces hormone responses to stress) in a burner and find this both uplifting and relaxing. So, the next time you want to instantly lift your mood, try to use a candle or diffuser with citrus or rosemary scents. If you’re choosing candles for your home, then they should be natural where possible. I will write a blog about natural home scents.
The blue light that is admitted from computer screens decreases your magnesium levels, which can make you feel less tired and more anxious. (Contributing to insomnia) To combat this, shutting your light off earlier and lighting a candle can actually help you feel calmer earlier in the evening and reset to your natural sleep rhythms. When you’re not being disrupted by technology, it’s easier to listen to your body and know when to shut down for the night without being distracted. When life starts to feel overwhelming, light a candle, an oil burner or steam diffuser with several drops of essential oil. To help instil a feeling of calmness, lift anxiety and aid sleep, the following used on their own or in combination with each other can be a great help; camomile, lavender, (sedative) frankincense, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli and ylang ylang. (lifts depression)
Once you smell a candle scented by essential oils, you’ll instantly notice the difference compared to a synthetic scented candle. Also, there are concerns with the use of paraffins and other synthetic ingredients. Candles with artificial fragrances and boosters are releasing synthetic compounds into the air. This can sometimes cause skin, eye, and nose irritations for some. (Especially for those with potential allergies) Natural wax candles include: beeswax, rapeseed and soy, all have a very low environmental impacts and footprint, and I would recommend these rather than paraffin wax candles. Breathing too much of any type of smoke can potentially damage your health so ventilate your room by opening a window after extinguishing a candle.
Traditionally, oil burners have been used to diffuse oils, but now there are numerous options like nebulizing diffusers or vapour diffusers. They don’t require any form of internal heat to disperse scented oils around a room. As there’s no flame or hot wax, these can be left on for longer periods, even overnight, some have an automatic cut off after several hours. I add eucalyptus oil at night when I have a cold, to help breathing. These are ideal as a safer replacement for candles.
Vapour diffusers pump out a fragrant water vapor, (steam) these occasionally need to be filled with a small amount of water and a few drops of essential oil. They give off a fragrance at a slower pace. The result is a lighter scent but one that lingers. Vapour diffusers are one of the best and easier ways to use aromatherapy daily. If you are familiar with oils or only just starting to use them you will find that the electric vapour diffusers are really versatile and you are less likely to become over-sensitised to the oils because of a slower inhalation. I use one myself!
Nebulizing diffusers work by forcing a stream of air at high pressure through small tubes or filters that contain essential oil which then sprays fine particles of the essential oil into the air. This fine mist distributes the oil around the room. Nebulizers don’t require water but do use more oil. However, they disperse essential oils much faster and at a higher concentration.
If you have pets some essential oils are toxic to dogs and cats. If you have nebulizer, make sure the oil you’re using is safe for your pet and air out the room before you let enter the room. Avoid using an essential oil diffuser if you have birds as their respiratory tracts are very sensitive. Passive diffusers (bottles with reeds) are generally safer for homes with animals as these are more diluted so safer, it is always best to check with your vet. See the APCC’s toxic and nontoxic plant list for further details.
Both are readily available online at every price point and they make great presents. You do have to use pure essential oils not fragrance oils which can contain mineral oil. (This is actually paraffin oil and best to avoid)
I hope this has given you some insights into the benefits of home scents both for health and wellbeing.