Candles can light up a room and provide a pleasant scent. But are they truly a beauty and wellness product?

Candles have certainly overtaken perfume and cologne as the favored aromatic. According to NPD Group’s second-quarter report, the fragrance category saw a 37% decline in sales year-over-year, but candles were a bright spot for the category with a sales increase of 13%. And while perfume brands like Jo Malone and Acqua di Parma have long been the main providers of candles (modeled after their own perfume scents) to beauty retailers like Sephora, non-traditional candle brands are starting to take center stage. On Friday, 3-year-old direct-to-consumer candle brand Otherland begins selling its wares on Sephora.com and at 140 Sephora stores. Today, candles seem to have pushed perfume out of the proverbial fragrance nest.

According to a Bank of America survey of 2,500 people on coronavirus spending habits, people spend less on entertainment and travel and more on their home, health, fitness and shopping. Everyone Glossy spoke to for this story pointed out that candles have become more relevant as more people spend time in their homes and are considered “lifestyle” items.  

Ultimately, though, the term lifestyle is meant to denote the specific interests, opinions and behaviors closely associated with an individual, group or culture as a mode of living. Bohemian is a lifestyle, for example, while candles serve various uses, in places from Wicca religious ceremonies all the way to the bathroom. But the popularity of premium candles, and their usage during meditation, manifesting and other tangential wellness and spiritual activities, now ascribe candles as an affluent self-care product.

Abigail Cook Stone, Otherland founder and CEO, called this new candle lifestyle “interiential,” as a portmanteau of “interior” and “experiential.” Homes have become our gyms, our bars and our spas, she said, as people try to cultivate interior wellness.

“With all the uncertainty in the world, people are craving feel-good moments to look forward to. Unboxing candles and taking a whiff of that that first scent makes people happy,” she said.

Otherland isn’t the only brand cashing in on homes transforming into wellness retreats. When Alicia Keys’ skin-care brand Keys Soulcare launched in September, one of its first products to debut was a candle. Beauty influencer Jackie Aina  released a candle in August. Even celebrities like actor Anthony Hopkins (in partnership with nonprofit No Kid Hungry) are hopping on the home fragrance bandwagon, reminiscent of when celebrities focused on their own colognes and perfumes.

Carye Campbell, Sephora vp of merchandising for fragrance, said that Sephora does not view candles as a traditional beauty item, but has worked to bring in more products that bridge the wellness-lifestyle category as part of today’s overall beauty experience. Sephora has sold candles for approximately a decade, she said. Ulta also sells candles.

“Candles are most definitely a lifestyle item, with clients using them to set the mood for both social and solo activities. As we think about the wellness culture, in particular, candles have certainly become part of that as a form of self-care, as there’s something very ritualistic and calming to candle usage,” said Campbell. 

Campbell declined to state how much candles attribute to the fragrance category’s sales or the company’s overall sales growth, but she said the retailer had seen an increase in demand for candles since March. She added that Otherland’s clean ingredients (its products are free from parabens, sulfates and phthalates), attractive packaging and “affordable” price point of $36 made the brand worthwhile to Sephora. Otherland, which also began selling in the home decor section of Nordstrom in February, plans to announce its Sephora partnership through email to an undisclosed number of subscribers, as well as through its social channels like Instagram, where it has approximately 47,000 followers.

But as candles continue to gain popularity among beauty brands and retailers, the notion they are not a beauty product is poised to change. Debi Theis, Henry Rose president, said she considers candles a beauty item precisely because the lines have blurred between the beauty and wellness categories. Henry Rose, the fragrance brand founded by actress Michelle Pfeiffer, expanded into candles on Monday through HenryRose.com. 

“Fragrance in all forms is now part of our holistic [beauty and wellness] routine,” she said. “Lighting a candle can create an ambiance and feeling; it can change your mood or lift your spirits, similar to the way your favorite beauty and wellness products can.”