Over the years, candles have been traditionally made from any number of waxes, fats and oils, many of these derived from animals, insects and plant matter.
In recent years as consumers have become more aware, there has been a distinct turn away from candles that are made from harsher ingredients like paraffin wax (a by product of the petrochemical industry) and more especially candles made from animal fats.
The earliest candles were made of beeswax - and indeed this is something that is coming back into fashion a little more these days.
Centuries ago, beeswax was something only the very rich could afford to use to make their candles with.
Poorer people who had little money, but still needed light would rely on cheaper candles made from tallow (essentially animal fat). As processes for candle making were not as refined as they are now, the smell from these candles would have been strong, pretty much akin to if you were heating oil to make fries, or to deep fry any food.
Candle wicks are almost always made out of cotton which has been tightly braided to make it safe to burn and self combusting. This provides a clean and also environmentally friendly burn.
Some candles are now made with wooden wicks, that provide a gentle and safe flickering effect as the wax from the candle heats and melts.
It's down to personal preference which you choose.
These days the candle making process is a lot more refined and has improved greatly over the last twenty years.
It is true to say that paraffin wax is still the most commonly used agent for making mass market candles. It is used because it is a cheap, plentiful ingredient that won't ever run out. Whilst it has its place and can indeed be useful, especially if you want to use candles but have a very tight budget, it isn't always the best for our health or for the environment.
There are many more moves to make candles more environmentally friendly and kinder to our health. Soy candles are one answer to this. These were invented more then twenty years ago when it was found that a mixture of hydrogenated soy bean and palm oil could combine to create a scented candle that provided a source of light that was smoke free, burned evenly and didn't create a health hazard. Furthermore, when natural fragrance oils are added to the mixture, soy candles can actually provide a relaxing and uplifting aromatherapy experience.