Phototoxicity and Essential Oils
Summer time is a perfect time for the uplifting scent of lovely citrus. Citrus and summer just feel made for each other. Except for times when they’re not. Using citrus oils in the summer, without proper care, could cause some unpleasant consequences: Phototoxicity (making your skin super sensitive to the sun and causing easy and bad burns).
It’s not necessary to completely avoid citrus oils all the summer (or on sunny days, or on days when you’re around an UV rays–real or artificial). You just need to understand how they work and use them appropriately.
What is Phototoxicity (Photo Sensitivity)
When UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun (or artificial methods such as a tanning bed) comes in contact with specific substances (in this case, bergaptene which is found in cold pressed citrus essential oils and a few others), it causes chemical and biological reactions that cause skin to be more sensitive. This reaction causes the skin’s pigment to darken similar to a sunburn, possible edema (swelling) or blistering , while potentially becoming itchy or painful. When extreme, it can cause burns or hives. All of these reactions are temporary. (Here’s what it looks like.)
(Some people mistakenly think that these citrus oils can help you tan quicker, but that’s misinformation. They will fry you faster.)
What Oils Cause Phototoxicity
Primarily citrus oils are the culprits. Always check labels before applying an oil to make sure it doesn’t contain a photosensitive warning. This is especially true of oil blends, when you may or may not be aware of the citrus or other sensitive oils contained in the blend. Fortunately, if you’re a doTERRA oil user, you don’t have to second guess which oils have the potential photo sensitivity issue. Every bottle is marked.
Here’s the list of oils to use with caution this summer (when applying to skin and mixing in sunshine): It’s important to note, these oils do not cause problems EXCEPT when used topically on skin that will have exposure to UV rays. They can be safely used internally or on skin that will be covered.
- doTERRA Breathe
- Citrus Bliss
- doTERRA OnGuard
- Slim & Sassy
- Sunny Citrus
- Wild Orange
- dōTERRA Cheer
- dōTERRA Motivate
- dōTERRA Forgive
How to Avoid Photoxicity
When using any essential oils that cause phototoxcity, take great care to avoid applying on areas that will be exposed to UV rays within 12 hours of application. Don’t add it to your tanning lotions or any other product you will be putting on your skin within that 12 hour window.
Use sunscreen and other protective sun blocker of at least 30 SPF.
Avoid outdoors during peak hours (typically 10-3) on sunny days.