Do Candle Colors Trump Fragrance?

There are two sides to every story, as the adage goes, and the old saw apparently applies to why people choose the candles they do. Which comes first, the color or the fragrance? Should a company’s strategy be to draw a line in the sand on the side of one or the other, finding a niche and filling a specific need, or is a more comprehensive solution combining color and fragrance the way to go? Some answers to these questions may surprise you.

Color Over Scent

“Women buy candles first for color. A candle is a decorative accessory,” said Tommy Dionisio, CEO and founder of BleuBay, the Scottsville, Texas, candle maker. This comes from a manufacturer whose specialty is authentic aromatherapy. His mind is made up on color versus fragrance, and his line incorporates both. The color supports the ideas behind authentic aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy products, explained Dioniso, correspond to one of four emotions: relaxing, meditative, uplifting and sensual. Each of these relates to a season of life and a season of the year. This seasonal connection suggests candle colors for the BleuBay collection. Sensuality, for example, corresponds with winter, said Dionisio, therefore suggesting a darker palette. The BleuBay Enchant selection offers warm, sensual aromas and colors including Lilac Ash and Dubonnet Red. Uplifting, the springtime of aromatherapy, finds interpretation in BleuBay’s Revive line with colors that are “more awake and alive,” said Dionisio.

Mood and Decor

The Zinnia Company makes an aromatherapy candle collection with essential oils and a soy wax blend to aid in aroma retention. Its aromatherapy candle collection contains no dyes or pigments. On the flip side, Zinnia offers an unscented collection, paraffin-free pillars made with palm wax, available in five colors designed to coordinate with mood and décor.

The National Candle Association hedges its bet on this debate. At its Web site,, the group states, “Although candle color is the second most important factor (after fragrance) for influencing consumer purchasing decisions, color and fragrance are closely linked.” According to the organization, “Research has shown that consumers expect the color of a scented candle to mirror their psychological perception of the fragrance.” The new hues for each season reflect what’s happening in fashion and home interiors.

A timely example of this strategy is Twenty-Three, a line of soy candles designed to appeal to both design buffs and the eco-chic, released last November by ILLUME Candle of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The line gets its name from the number of stylish fragrance and color combinations it comprises. “We have combined natural ingredients and trend-right design into our newest collection,” said Liz Barrere, vice president of product development and marketing. “The result is a bold fashion statement from Illume.” Fragrances such as Cuban Fusion, Pineapple Cilantro, Pomegranate and Tahitian suggest vivid colors and the candles do not disappoint.

Strategic Choice

Candle makers have a number of options when deciding how to get color into their candles. Generally, candles are colored either with dyes or pigments. According to the NCA, the chief difference between them is that dyes color a candle throughout, while pigments color-coat the outside of a candle.

The choices, according to Dionisio, are either standard pigments or FD&C colors. BleuBay chooses its colorants for their UV stability, so its candles won’t change color if left in the sun. Plant materials are rarely used to color candles because they are not UV stable. An alternative would be to use less stable materials and to add UV protectors, a move BleuBay chooses not to make, stated Dionisio.

In fact, many things found in nature find their way into candle colors including crushed up beetles, which make a soft pink hue, according to Dionisio. Ground up rocks and minerals along with other materials, such as oyster shells, also find their way into candle colorants. The choice is yours. Color over fragrance? Both together? One thing is certain: You can always find just the right colorant for your needs.

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