Essential Oils That Are Phototoxic

Essential oils are becoming useful for a lot of people these days because of their limitless healing powers. In fact, many essential oils are included in skincare products. There’s actually an essential oil for just about everything. From treating acne to healing cut and scars. Aside from those, essential oils are also used for relaxation and for treating headaches and body pains. However, no matter how beneficial essential oils can be, it is still very important to note which one of them should be avoided when you are going out under the sun. 

Certain essential oils are phototoxic. It means that these oils can cause your skin to be more prone to sunburns and other forms of skin damage when exposed directly to the sun’s UV rays. Therefore, if you want to create some lotions and spritzers using essential oils, you need to be careful and make sure that they are safe even when exposed to the sun. 

Today, we are going to give you some of the phototoxic essential oils for you to know which you need to avoid using in the sun. 

What Is Photosensitization?

Before we go to the list of phototoxic essential oils, let us know first what is photosensitization. Photosensitization is also known as photo contact dermatitis. It is a reaction to a substance applied to the skin that happens only in the presence of UV light in the UVA range. It may either be phototoxic or photo allergenic. Phototoxic reactions are more common compared to photoallergy. 

What Makes an Essential Oil Photosensitive?

One of the ingredients of essential oils that significantly increase UV sensitivity is furanocoumarins. They are usually included in citrus oils, among the most common essential oils that cause photosensitivity. But other oils also contain compounds or mixes of compounds that have the same effect as furanocoumarins. This means that those oils are not safe to be used under the sun as well. Therefore, to determine the oil’s photosensitivity, checking the label before the application is a must. 

Signs of Phototoxicity

When furanocoumarin-containing essential oils react to UV light, it can cause inflammatory reactions to the skin. These can be visible reactions that usually peak up to three days after the first UV exposure. These visible reactions or signs can last for weeks. Some of them are severe redness or sunburn, darkening of skin, edema or swelling, and in some cases, blistering. 

Phototoxic Essential Oils You Need to Avoid in the Sun

After knowing about photosensitization and the signs of phototoxicity, here is the list of the phototoxic essential oils that you need to avoid using if you are going to spend time outside under the sun. 

  • Angelica Root
  • Bergamot
  • Cold Pressed Lemon
  • Cold Pressed Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Cold Pressed Bitter Orange
  • Mandarin Leaf
  • Rue
  • Cumin
  • Tagetes
  • Fig Leaf Absolute

All of these essential oils contain furanocoumarins, meaning, they are all phototoxic. Therefore, you need to use them with caution to avoid phototoxicity, which may lead to other skin issues. 

Essential Oils that are Safe to Use in the Sun

Citrus essential oils are known to be phototoxic. But some citrus essential oils are safe to use in the sun, including their steam-distilled versions. Here are some of the sun-safe citrus essential oils.

  • Steam Distilled Bergamot
  • Steam Distilled Lemon
  • Steam Distilled Lime
  • Cold Pressed Mandarin
  • Cold Pressed Sweet Orange
  • Cold Pressed Tangerine

Also, to be able to use phototoxic essential oils without an adverse reaction, you need to safely dilute them. 

How Can You Avoid Photosensitization?

Here are some of the best ways you can do to reduce the risk of an adverse reaction when using phototoxic essential oils. 

  • Only use photosensitive essential oils at night. 

If you want you wish to use phototoxic essential oils, only use them at night or when you have no plans on going outside and being exposed to the sun. You can add these oils to your nightly skincare routine, evening lotion, bedtime bath, or massage them to your body for nighttime relaxation. 

  • Cover the area where you applied the phototoxic essential oil.

You can also block UV rays by covering up, helping you reduce the risk of reaction. If you are using a phototoxic essential oil, you can apply it to your back, lower chest, and temples, and simply wear a crewneck t-shirt and a hat. You just need to make sure that the spot where you applied the oil is fully covered. 

  • Follow the instructions that come with the essential oils.

To avoid negative reactions, make sure that you follow the label instructions of the essential oil you are using. Most of the time, undiluted phototoxic oils require 12 hours before sun exposure. Aside from that, you also need to be aware of the amount of oil you use, because that can also affect the concentration of photosensitive compounds. 

How to Treat Phototoxic Reactions

If you are having a reaction from an essential oil after being exposed to the sun, here are some of the things you can do.

  • After Skin Reaction

If you have a skin reaction from a phototoxic essential oil, immediately wash your skin with cold water and soap, and rinse thoroughly. You can also dilute and rinse the skin with vegetable oil to dilute the essential oil that caused the reaction. 

  • After Eye Reaction

If the phototoxic essential oil caused a negative reaction to your eyes, immediately rinse your opened eye for several minutes under running water. After that, apply vegetable oil with a sterile cloth around the eye to dilute any excess essential oil. 

If the skin remains painful or if the reaction covers a large portion of your body, it is best to obtain medical advice immediately. 

We hope the information we shared will help you stay safe when using phototoxic essential oils. Essential oils are indeed very useful, and there are still plenty of oils that are free from phototoxic compounds. Just always remember to read and heed label instructions to avoid skin and health issues when using essential oils.