Are Candle Makeup Brush Holders Hurting Your Skin?

by Jessica DeFino
Jenny Wu - Good Bad and Fab

Chances are, you’ve repurposed an aesthetically pleasing candle or two as a container to hold your makeup brushes, eyelash curler, or Q-Tips — or at the very least, you’ve seen the look in action on Instagram. But before you put the finishing touches on that perfect #shelfie setup, you may want to reconsider your DIY makeup brush storage. Even though they look luxe, candle makeup brush holders could actually be hurting your skin.

Many candles, including the ubiquitously chic Diptyque jars, are formulated with ingredients that aren’t meant to be anywhere near your face; including paraffin wax, artificial fragrances, and synthetic dyes. “Paraffin wax candles are considered more toxic than all-natural candles, because they release toxic compounds like acetone, benzene, and toluene — the last two being carcinogens, or cancer causing agents — when burned,” Dr. Jennifer Herrmann, a dermatologist at MFC Dermatology and consultant for DNA Renewal, tells The Zoe Report. (Not-so-fun fact: Paraffin wax also releases many of the same toxins as diesel fuel.) “Fragranced candles also often include other sensitivity-causing chemicals, like formaldehyde and limonene,” she says.

While that’s scary enough in terms of general well-being, let’s focus on how these substances could potentially impact the skin. Studies have shown that toxins are released into the air when a candle burns, and trace elements of wax and chemical compounds can accumulate on the inside of the glass jar. “These can cause allergic and irritant reactions on the skin,” Dr. Herrmann says.

“For me, these things cause my sinuses to close up, my face and ears to flush, and even make me nauseous,” Michael Carbaugh, the founder of the natural interior aromatic line Sandoval, tells The Zoe Report. “I took these as signs many years ago, and made it a mission to create something that wouldn't do this to me or anyone else,” he says, noting that his Sandoval candles are made with non-toxic blend of coconut oil, beeswax, and a touch of soy for solidity and fragranced with natural essential oils.

Not everyone has such extreme reactions to candle emissions, but those with sensitive skin are at a higher risk of experiencing irritation from exposure to a makeup brush or eyelash curler that’s been stored in a repurposed candle jar. “I wouldn’t recommend storing anything that will be used directly on the face in these containers,” Antonia Balfour, the founder of Yin Yang Dermatology, advises TZR readers. “I see a lot of patients who really suffer with highly sensitive skin, swelling of the eyes, and rashes or dermatitis of the face.” Although she notes the risk of a major flare up from a contaminated makeup tool is slim, “To me, it’s not worth taking any chances storing brushes in these containers.”

Pay special attention to tools that are used near the eye area. “There is a danger of irritation for products that will go around the eye,” says Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist and the founder of The Beauty Brains. “The problem chemicals could be both the colorants (some that are OK for candles are not OK for skin exposure) and the fragrance, which can cause the problems irritation or allergic reactions.”

However, most experts agree that if you really want to use a burned out candle as stylish storage, you should be fine as long as you thoroughly clean the glass of any traces of leftover wax and residue. “All wax should be removed from candle jars and all repurposed jars should be cleaned with disinfectant or germicide,” Balfour says.

Another option is to only feature natural, non-toxic candles in your shelfie. Those with coconut oil, beeswax, and soy bases are considered safe (after all, most of those ingredients are in your skincare products, anyway), so long as they’re scented with natural essential oils and not synthetic fragrance, according to Balfour. Additionally, make sure the candle wick is made of cotton or another natural substance — lead wicks (which, thankfully, are pretty rare these days) release hazardous hormone-disrupting chemicals, per the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That said, you should always clean a glass candle jar before reusing it, natural or not.

Ahead, eight gorgeous candles made with natural ingredients to keep your top shelf — and your skin — in top shape.

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