Can looking at a candle flame for long periods damage the eyes?

I’m making a bracelet out of bone pipe beads, and using a technique where the bone is scorched in a candle flame to give it an antique look. The only problem is the brightness of the flame is uncomfortable on the eyes. I’m not staring directly into the flame, but I have to keep my eye on the bead above it so it doesn’t burn. I do see the bright after-image of the flame in my field of vision for a few minutes after I do this.

I have a lot of beads to do, so I want to be careful. Is a candle flame bright enough to permanently damage the eyes, if looked at for long periods?

Very doubtful, unless you are extremely close to the flame (and could get physically burned). I can understand it being uncomfortable or tiring, but harmful in the long term? No.


My intuition is that a candle would be too cool to emit any energetic radiation such as UV rays that could damage your retina. But that doesn’t mean that the glare isn’t uncomfortable.

Have you tried sunglasses or tinted goggles? Another possibility that seems somewhat counterintuitive is to brighten the room so that the candle is no longer the most intense illumination in the room. This will hopefully cause your pupils to contract, reducing the glare effect.

I second the suggestion for sunglasses, especially if you’re experiencing any discomfort, difficulty focusing, or any other symptoms (other than the afterimage) after scorching the beads. Actually, if you’re experiencing any discomfort, get an eye doctor’s opinion pronto. Also, take breaks and rest your eyes. I don’t imagine candle flames are particularly dangerous, but eyesight is too important to take chances.

You might also look into other methods of scorching the beads. Would a soldering iron or other electrical heat do the job? Or an alcohol burner flame, which is practically invisible?

Good idea on the sunglasses. And the suggestion of the soldering iron made me remember that I have a woodburning tool that’ll do the job just as well without me seeing spots after. Thanks!