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  • Writer's pictureKaren Lee

Byredo (Ben Gorham) x IKEA Limited Edition Home Fragrance Collection | Review + Thoughts

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

For someone who is allergic to most fragrances, I have a lot of opinions in the fragrance realm.

Cheap scents and candles have never sat well with me. I just get headachey and nauseous. Middle-school days of Calgon marshmallow body spray was the WORST 🤢.

Even now I find that nearly all cheap ingredients are headache-inducing, even if I'm just walking past a Bath and Body Works.

It all goes back to the quality of ingredients that are used in products. The iffiest part though, is that companies do not legally have to disclose what goes under the umbrella term "fragrance" on a label, because of some BS about "trade secrets". As consumers, we have a right to know if the thing we are putting on/in our bodies is toxic. Sure, the big, bad companies say that everything is safe for use, but we aren't just using that one product. Our toxic load is spread across everything we use on our bodies.

I thought I was allergic to all personal fragrance/home fragrance products until my brief stint in the world of luxury niche fragrances during grad school. Turns out if the ingredients are high-quality, and/or naturally derived, I don't have as much of a problem. However, a day of sniffing lots of fragrances is almost guaranteed to end with me curled in the fetal position in bed. VOCs, man.

Now, I'm still no perfume expert, nor do I have a great nose that can name all the notes within a fragrance, but what I did take away from that experience was the ability to tell whether or not something is expensive. Kind of like how I got really good at reading clouds because I learned to recognize and associate a certain kind of cloud with getting drenched in rain. I have a pretty good sense of what will and won't give me a headache. Also what $250 smells like.

So, through this semester of grad school, via my market research, I became familiar with Byredo. And of course, I fell in love. I always associated perfumes with that cloying cloud of aldehydes at the entrance of department stores, which Byredo is so not.

Every time I walk by a Byredo display I have to give my favorites a whiff.

When Ouai did a collab with Byredo, I snatched up that dry shampoo so fast because I reasoned that I was saving over $200 on owning and getting to wear Byredo. (Even if I can only wear it sometimes and sparingly).

As soon as I heard there was a Byredo x IKEA collab, well technically, the founder of Byredo x IKEA, I knew I NEEDED those candles in my life. The potential for being able to score something that smells expensive for a fraction of the price? Too. Tempting.

So I mozied on over to the IKEA two towns over because my local one had sold out. There were only 3 scents left and only in the smallest and largest sizes. They had Tobacco and Honey, Fig and Cypress, and Cotton Flower and Apple Blossom. I liked the former two, but the Cotton Flower/Apple Blossom scent was too powdery and sweet for my liking.

My first impression was that these are some pretty solid candles. The fragrances aren't anything fancy, but it's not bad. Comparable to the Voluspa candles that are my affordable everyday candles. Or so I thought.

I may have been over-enthusiastic when I bought two small size ($5), and one of the four wick size ($25) in each of the scents...

Turns out sniffing a candle through a mask in an IKEA doesn't paint a clear picture. As soon as I brought them into the house, it hit me. That cheap waxy scent. You know, the unifying note that makes candle aisles in Target, Walmart, Michaels, Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, all smell the same.

The culprit? Parrafin. A petroleum byproduct that is mostly safe in most circumstances. However, studies have found that paraffin-based candles (the most common kind because of their low cost. It's a byproduct of gasoline production, so maybe it's good that we are repurposing it into candles instead of just chucking it? Idk.) emit toxic chemicals like toluene, benzene, and acetone. And people will defend paraffin wax usage saying that quality paraffin wax used in candles is food grade and FDA approved.

Whether or not paraffin is a health concern you should be worried about depends on your personal preference and risk tolerance for such things. Personally, I'm on the more risk-averse side of things due to medical history, so that's my preference. (Also, why I decided to educate myself more about ingredients in beauty products).

And so, without having made a conscious decision to not purchase paraffin-based candles, I have avoided doing so my whole life because they've just always made my head hurt. (Just listening to my body).

So when I got a whiff of the candles sitting in my big blue IKEA bag, I was hesitant. Were these going to give me a headache? The materials say that it is a paraffin/vegetable wax blend, so it being not completely paraffin wax might make the situation okay? Oftentimes soy-wax blends are perfectly tolerable for me (when the blend is at least 51% soy).

I lit the Tobacco and Honey one up first. It burned bright and then... became a baby flame. Whenever you light a candle you want the whole surface to melt otherwise it will start tunnelling. This candle started tunnelling as soon as it melted a pool about 1" in diameter. Now, I'm not a candle science expert, but for a candle that is only 2" in diameter, a single wick should be more than sufficient to make the whole thing burn evenly. That being said, it did burn cleanly - No plumes of black smoke at any time, and when I extinguished it there was a wisp of white smoke.

This was the tunnelling baby flame situation. The Fig and Cypress burns a "regular" flame instead of this baby flame, but still has the tunnelling issue.

About 2-2.5 hours of continuous burn time

For a candle with such a strong cold throw, it's burning throw is lackluster. For scents that are supposedly composed with base, middle, and top notes, only the top notes are coming through for me, plus that generic cheap wax smell.

I was hoping to be wowed, but I'm not even in like, much less in love.

I'm suddenly reminded of that time I spent $100+ on the Philip Lim x Target collection. It was exciting to get my hands on items that were so highly sought after but, once I got them, they fell flat. It didn't feel like scoring a deal on a designer item. It felt more like a waste of money. The cost per wear ended up being more than my actual designer items. Plus, these items weren't made to last. The sweater ended up with lumpy looking pills within the first couple of wears.

I've found that in most instances it's worth shelling out a bit more for something of higher quality. Clothes and shoes are some of those things for me. I've learned my lesson with cheap cashmere too. If it cost you $150, it cost the retailer something like $30 to produce. There's no margin for them to source better materials or labor. You're getting the poo poo discard fibres. AKA, the shortest hairs and most prone to pill and guaranteed to look like poo poo all too soon.

So, what's my takeaway from this?

Only participate in designer collabs when there's a good return policy in place.

Luckily I can easily return all the extras I bought thanks to IKEA's 365 day return policy, and proximity to a store. If I couldn't easily return all this stuff, I'd really be wishing I shelled out the $85 for an actual Byredo candle. The ROH (return on happiness) would be much higher.

Other candles I love a heck of a whole lot more for only a smidge more

For winter:

- Spiced Honey by Illume via Anthropologie ("Ginger, lemon, and vanilla bring a touch of spice to smooth notes of honey and coconut milk - complete with a hint of acacia wood and musk.") $20

- Fir and Firewood by Capri Blue via Anthropologie ("A fruity, green aroma of apple, clove, fir, pine needle, white birch, cedar, vetiver, and musk") $32

- Blond Tabac by Voluspa ("Notes of warm perique tobacco and vanilla husk layered with sandalwood") $30 (paraffin wax free)

For not winter:

This past summer I rotated between Vancouver Candle Co's Novo (Lemongrass, Jasmine, Mandarin) and Vita (Fig, Vetiver, Cedar). I have to say, I'm not much of a summer candle person, but I'm a sucker for green scents. $45 (paraffin wax free)


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