When a candle is made from soy wax, a hydrogenated form of soybean oil, it melts at a very low temperature, so low that the resulting oil will be warm but not burn the skin. That oil can then be used for massage.
Soy candles for massage have become very popular in the last few years. There are many mainstream companies making them, and they are made by more adult focused companies as well. You only want the ones without additives that are made for massage. Some have additives that can increase the melting point, making them an unwise choice for massage.
This is very different from the candle play used by practitioners of BDSM. In that case, the wax becomes very hot and dries quickly into a hard wax on the skin. Even those looking for a hot sensation have to make sure they use the right kind of candle, as a candle made out of something like bees wax can produce melted wax so hot that it can cause an actual burn.
We tested several different candles from two different manufacturers. We tried the Hemp Seed 3-in-1 Massage Candle from Earthly Body, and the Shunga Massage Candle. For general reference, the melting point of paraffin wax is between 99° F and 130° F. Beeswax that has been exposed to the sun can have a melting pint of up to 150° F. That is third degree burn territory. I pointed an IR thermometer at both, and the Earthly Body measured 89° F while the Shunga candle was a bit warmer at 98° F. That makes sense, as the melting point is going to change based on the ingredients, which differ widely from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The way you are supposed to use these candles is to light them and let them sit for 20 minutes. We did that. It typically produced a pool of liquid good for a back massage.
Then you are supposed to blow them out and pour out the oil. We did not do that, although that is the safest. We kept it lit to keep the oil warm and make more, even though you have to be very careful when pouring it out so as not to extinguish the flame.
Some versions come with a spoon, and others are just in a tin (especially the smaller samplers). When pouring from a tin, keep in mind that melted wax will dribble down the side and to the bottom, getting this on anything you set the tin down on. You might want to set it on a coaster or the inverted candle lid instead of putting it on bare wood.
Obviously, never ever set the lit candle down on the bed. That is an invitation to disaster and a visit from the fire department, with some very awkward explanations to your insurance company.
As with any candle, they tend to burn down the middle, which means that you might not melt all of the contents. If you have a candle warmer, designed to bring out the scent of candles by melting them without flame, you can certainly use them with this. Enjoy the flame for awhile, blow it out, and put it in the electric candle warmer to continue making more oil. This will melt even the last dregs in the bottom. It is typical that you will burn these down the middle, leaving a lot of wax along the sides. Another solution is to set the candle on a warming tray, melting it enough to spread out the wax. Let it harden and you can use it again as a candle.
There are many options for those interested in trying massage candles. We recommend that you patronize your local couples boutique that has testers so that you can smell the scents and find the one you like best. Not having to ship them eliminates the possibility of meltage and deformation which can sometimes happen when massage candles travel by mail through hot climates.
Here are the two brands that we tried:
Shunga has a Caress by Candlelight Massage Candle in a unique 7 oz. curved yet triangular shaped container. It has soybean oil as a base, combined with coconut oil, sweet almond oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil and vitamin E. The fragrances include Rose Petals, Vanilla Fetish, Exotic Fruits, Sparkling Strawberry Wine, Intoxicating Chocolate, and Exotic Green Tea. The scents are fairly strong. They also have these in smaller 1 oz. tins so you can try several different scents.
Twenty minutes of burn time provided a teaspoon and a half of massage oil. It was not as slick as massage oil, but still slippery enough to provide for a decent massage. It lasted for a long enough to get in at least a good ten minute massage before needing more. As I rubbed it in, it became very slightly white and creamy, making this more like a massage cream than a massage oil. It washed off like a massage oil, meaning you need warm water and soap to get it off.
Earthly Body has a line of hemp seed based massage candles, their 3-In-1 Massage Candles. The scents include High Tide (coconut, lime, and verbena), Wild Surf (apple and floral), Guavalava (guava and blackberry), Skinny Dip (vanilla and cotton candy), Naked in the Woods (white tea and ginger), Nag Champa (East Indian incense), Moroccan Nights (earthy and spicy), Lavender, Tropicale (pina colada), Cucumber Melon, Dreamsicle (tangerine and plum), and a seasonal Meet Me Under the Mistletoe (cinnamon, apple cider, fir), Jingle my Bell (red current, sugared berries) and Baby, It’s Cold Outside (cookies and anjou pear). They also have a Candle Trio set of three of the scents, which includes Skinny Dip, Guavalava, and Dreamsicle.
Twenty minutes of burn time produced the same amount- 1 ½ teaspoons. It felt just a little bit oilier, and also had a slight creaming effect, although maybe just a little less than the Shunga. We had several of these candles, and one of them had a wick that was too short so it burned out after a few minutes. Of course, this is possible with any candle, so it is just something to be aware of, as it can put a damper on things. Having the candle lit where you can see it and notice when it goes out is not a bad idea.
While there were very slight differences between the two, we did not see any basis for declaring that one was better than the other. The differences are pretty subtle- things you would only notice when comparing one against the other, and none particularly meaningful.
We did not test the products below, but they are all intended as massage candles and come from reputable manufacturers.
Lelo has a version they call the Flickering Touch Massage Candle. It is made from soy wax, shea butter and apricot kernel oil. They come in a 5.3 oz container. The scent is light, and comes in Vanilla & Crème De Cacao, Snow Pear & Cedarwood, and Black Pepper & Pomegranate.
Kama Sutra offers their Ignite candles. One of the things we really like about them is the built-in pouring spout. They are made with Coconut Oil, Shea butter and Vitamin E. They come in 6 oz. tins with a clever pour spout in scents that include Strawberry Dreams (strawberries and cream), Island Passion Berry (Passion fruit, papaya, mango, and berry), Mediterranean Almond (cherry blossoms and almond), Tahitian Sandalwood (vanilla and sandalwood), and Coconut Pineapple. They also have a Love Lights Kit that includes smaller sampler versions with Coconut Pineapple, Tahitian Sandalwood, and Island Passion Berry.
Earthly Body offers something we have not seen before- Edible Massage candles. You don’t eat the candles, but the resulting oil is lickable. We have not tried these, so can’t attest to what they taste like. They come in Mint, Grape, Peach, Watermelon, Chocolate, Cherry, and Vanilla. There is a smaller Candle Threesome set, with Grape, Cherry, and Strawberry flavors. They are made from soybean oil, hemp seed oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, tocopherol, jojoba seed oil, and coconut oil.
While massage candles are a fun novelty, I don’t know that they can hold a candle to actual massage oil. For fun, they are great to have. When you want to give a longer and more serious massage, or a full body massage, massage oil is more practical. You don’t always want to be practical, though, and these are great for those occasions.