Despite being natural products, essential oils are powerful. Of course, this is great when it comes to the many wellness benefits oils can provide, but the danger of essential oils can be serious. Did you know that some essential oils cause photosensitivity? This means that your skin will be extra sensitive to the sun. This reaction can be so severe—blisters, rashes and skin discolouration—it’s often called phototoxicity. Here’s the surprising part: reactions may not be visible for 24 hours or more, so people don’t always realize that the culprit is essential oils.
Why does this happen?
Some essential oils absorb UV light more than others and basically create chemical reactions on the skin. Skin becomes so sensitive to the sun that a simple walk outdoors could mean severe burns—even with SPF. The most common photosensitive essential oils are Bergamot, Angelica and many citrus oils, including, lemon, lime, tangerine, grapefruit and orange.
What can I do to prevent this?
• The first thing to do is to check the labels of your essential oils. Most reputable brands will include a warning to avoid sun exposure after use. If you’re not sure, do a quick search, especially with blends that may contain a number of different oils.
• The best thing to do if you’ve applied photosensitive essential oils is to simply avoid sunlight for a minimum of 12 hours. Some oils even need 72 hours. If you really need to go out in the sun, cover up the areas where essential oils were applied.
• Forget about using sunscreen or washing the oils off with soap and water. Essential oils absorb deeply into the skin where sunscreen and water can’t reach.
• While diluting your essential oils before applying is always a good idea, even to prevent minor irritations, we don’t recommend diluting photosensitive oils so you can use them and go out in the sunshine. Even diluted oils can cause phototoxicity.
Don’t let essential oils rub you the wrong way. If you know you’re going to be out in the sun, especially now with summer in full force, ditch the photosensitive essential oils for the time being and opt for oils that won’t harm your skin.