Technically speaking, wax melts are not the same thing as candles since they don't have a wick. Nonetheless, these small wax blocks, usually highly scented and designed to be melted (hence their name) in an oil burner, have become immensely popular with the general public and consequently with the more traditional candle makers.
Easy to make, the fact that they're never in contact with a flame allows for a great freedom when it comes to decorating them; they can for instance include decorative elements that would be a real fire hazard if used in a wicked candle.
Wax melts have been a tool in the box of candle makers for a long time but their popularity has exploded recently. One could speculate that their success is mainly down to two things: the enthusiasm of customers for natural waxes (soy wax really gave wax melts the boost they needed to come back at the forefront of public interest) and the growing dislike for a candle's open flame, the cause of multiple accidents (even though the latter are mostly caused by an inappropriate use of the candle rather than by the candle itself).
From a creator point of view, wax melts are a godsend. Making the "perfect" candle in a consistent manner, whether it is a pillar candle or a container candle, is no small feat and requires years of experience and hours of testing to find that perfect balance between all of its components, wax, fragrance and most of all wick.
Wax melts, on the other hand, are within the reach of beginners and appearance comes before technique. It is probably for this very reason - or one of the reason at least - that we are faced today with an almost worldwide shortage of soy wax; because of the pandemic and its consequences on employment, an unseen number of people have been taking up a side hustle and the low barriers to entry wax melts require to get started - and above all their popularity - certainly make them an ideal candidate. If you need any convincing, just have a look at candle making Facebook groups.
In theory, all you need to make wax melts is some wax (soy, coco or other), fragrance oils, one or several silicone molds and a few things to make your wax melts visually appealing. Besides the classic candle dye, the absence of a flame makes it possible to use dried herbs, dried flowers or elements of it, spices, glitter, pretty much anything.
The only requirement where wax melts are concerned is that their volume will allow to place them in the cup of a regular oil burner without overflowing. Other than that, you have total freedom when it comes to their shape, presentation and packaging.
This may very well be the second reason why they have become so popular: you can set yourself apart with your wax melt design and your packaging only. And as we all know, it's the packaging that sells the good.
Here are the most popular "shapes" in which wax melts can be found.
The most widespread and possibly the easiest to make, individual wax melts are created in multiple cavity silicone molds that allow for diverse shapes ranging from the simple round pad to the heart shape, pretty much any existing fruit shape and many more.
Depending on the shape you select, they can be displayed in tubes (tablets), cardboard or metal boxes, pouches, paper bags... the possibilities stop only where your imagination does.
Some wax melts are pretty much tiny masterpieces, for instance those that almost perfectly imitate small donuts.
Based on the principle of the chocolate bar, snap bar wax melts have seen their popularity skyrocket lately. They allow the user to (more or less) decide on the quantity of melt material they place on the burner by snapping off one or several pieces from the bar.
They tend to be presented in preformed see-through plastic shells called clamshells in order for the customer to judge their appearance right away. They are made by pouring wax in specially conceived silicone or polycarbonate molds.
A very different type of wax melt, this one. It is made with a special wax that remains soft at room temperature and is usually sold in a tin or a jar with a small wooden spoon on the side. So you just scoop up the quantity you wish to use and place it in your oil burner.
Scoopable wax melt is an audience favorite. I suppose the little "ritual" involved makes it particularly attractive if its popularity is any indication.
As they don't have a wick like a classic candle does, wax melts rely on an external source of heat to release their scent. That's where the oil burner plays its part. They are originally made to hold essential oils for aromatherapy purposes but they can perfectly handle wax melts too, as long as they're not too large and too bulky.
They come in two models: the most conventional is made of ceramic and uses a tealight candle, placed inside its base, as a heat source. Or you could choose an electric model that involves no flame at all and can in most cases be programmed to automatically turn itself off after a set time.
The classic ceramic burner can be found pretty much everywhere and doesn't cost much; you can find them on Aliexpress for less than 2 USD. So creating a starter kit that includes a selection of your wax melts, an oil burner and a couple tealights could be a very good idea.