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These Reusable Wax Beads Let Me Turn All of My Good Jars Into Candles

Glass of water + Foton wax pearls + wick = instant candle. Photo: Kitty Guo

It’s often said that whatever you were deprived of as a child, you will overindulge in as an adult — Netflix binges if TV was tightly regulated, Froot Loops if you grew up eating muesli and granola. In my case, the forbidden fruit was anything scented. My mom has a strong sensitivity to fragrance, and even a single spritz of cherry-blossom body spray, applied covertly next to an open window, would send her to bed with a dizzying headache. Ergo, no vanilla perfume, no cucumber hand sanitizer, no ocean-breeze detergent. And absolutely no candles.

The moment I moved out, I bought candles like my life depended on it. I embraced the once-verboten wonderlands of Bath & Body Works and Yankee Candle, lighting up Butterscotch Cinnamon Pie, Apple Cider Donut, and Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes all at once. Later, as my tastes matured, I upgraded to more sophisticated scents from Boy Smells, Apotheke, Flamingo Estate, and Diptyque.

But it’s also often said that as you get older, you become just like your parents, which is how I found myself longing for something that was less scent-forward but would still bestow a homey, cozy glow. Then there was the problem of the empty jars. You really only need so many DIY pen holders, Q-Tip holders, and hair-tie holders before you run out of flotsam to organize.

The algorithm, ever omniscient, sensed my disenchantment and served me an ad for Foton candles. “The safer and smarter option!” the brand proclaimed on Instagram. “Natural and clean-burning! Refillable and refreshable!” Product photos depicted tiny fish-roe-size balls of wax, dubbed “pearls,” poured into an assortment of objects: seashells, ramekins, copper mugs, wooden bowls. There was even an island of pearls floating in a glass of water topped by a lit wick.

The pearls burn cleanly with no whiff of smoke or soot. Photo: Kitty Guo

Seduced by the reuse potential and intrigued by the creative possibilities, I contacted Foton, and the brand sent me a couple of samples. The pearls arrived securely packaged in two tall boxes — one unscented and one scented with Dreamy Dunes, a fresh succulent and cactus-flower fragrance. When I scooped them up and let them run through my fingers, they had the consistency of fine sand. There was a pack of 30 wicks, each about as long as a matchstick, though you can trim them if you’re using a shallower container. For my experimental first foray into this unique type of candle making, I poured the pearls into a plain ceramic jar left over from a previous candle, jabbed a wick into the center, lit it, and sat down to observe.

Here are my lab notes: The candle burned very cleanly, with no whiff of smoke or soot. The Dreamy Dunes pearls gave off a mild floral scent — subtle enough that I had to stick my face close enough to feel the heat of the flame in order to smell anything. The throw was nowhere near Yankee-level strong, but that was exactly what I was hoping for. After about five hours, I snuffed out the wick and let the melted puddle around it cool. By the next morning, the liquified wax had hardened into a crumbly mass. (You can attempt to crush it back into bits for the next burn, but that can get quite messy, so I did what the brand suggests: Discard it and stick in a new wick.) One quick shake of the jar, and I had a newly smooth-surfaced candle, eliminating the tunneling that plagues so many regular candles.

The liquified wax hardened into a crumbly mass. Photo: Kitty Guo

Emboldened by my successful first attempt, I tried something more daring: a regular drinking glass full of water with the pearls floating on top. No problem. The flame merrily flickered on, unbothered by the liquid lurking underneath, though I did extinguish it before it burned down too far — Foton warns that the wick should always have at least two inches of clearance on all sides and shouldn’t reach the bottom of the container.

The pearls can’t completely replace my statusy Apothekes and Diptyques. But they’re a fascinating innovation, and considering their gentle fragrance, environmentally friendly bent, and relatively inexpensive price tag — $35 for 30 ounces of pearls (about the same volume as two hefty three-wick jars) — making them my go-to everyday candle is a no-brainer. I’m bidding farewell to hotboxing myself in a haze of smoke and essential oils — a development I’m sure my mom (and my lungs) will appreciate.

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These Nifty Wax Beads Let Me Turn My Good Jars Into Candles