Photo-sensitivity of Essential Oils

For the essential oil lovers one of the safety concerns can be the photosensitivity (phototoxicity) of some of the essential oils. It’s not a big deal once you know which oils can be phototoxic and then how to use them safely.

Some essential oils, mainly citrus, have in their chemical composition such compound like furanocoumarins. Furanocoumarins are photosensitizers, which means they can cause irregular pigmentation and a skin burning and even blistering when exposed to the direct UV lights within a short period of time after application. So it makes sense to avoid tanning and prolong exposure to the direct sun light after the application of an oil between 12-18 hours, unless you want to experiment on yourself the power of nature and look like a lobster. The tricky part here is that phototoxic reaction can actually appear on your skin even couple of days after it happened. Just please, read the label, be aware of danger and use the oil smart.

Even though the oils are phototoxic it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy their aroma or benefits. You can absolutely freely use them aromatically, no concerns here. If applied under the cloth there is no concerns. Also when applied in a very little amounts (within safety limits) they also can be safe to use. Personally I used citrus essential oils in a tiny amount in a cream which I applied on my hands and legs and went outside under the sun (no tanning beds) and was absolutely fine. But note, I added them in a small amount which was within limits.

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So it’s time to reveal the list of phototoxic essential oils and along with it the safe amount to be used in a percentage for the total blend. It’s all about the proportions and amount of oils you’re using (even the safest oil can become dangerous if used without respect).

Phototoxic essential oils:

Angelica root (Angelica archangelica) – 0.8 % (4 drops per 30 ml)
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – 0.4 % (2 drops per 30 ml)
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) – 0.4 % (2 drops per 30 ml)
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) – 4 % ( 20-24 drops per 30 ml)
Laurel Leaf (Lauris nobilis) absolute – 2 % (10-12 drops per 30 ml)
Lemon (Citrus limon) – 2 % (10-12 drops per 30 ml)
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) – 0.7 % (3 drops per 30 ml)
Mandarin Leaf (Citrus reticulata) – 0.17 % (1 drop per 30 ml)
Bitter Orange (Citrus aurantium)– 1.25 % (1 drop per 30 ml)
Rue (Ruta graveolens) – 0.15 % (around 1 drop per 30 ml)
Tagete (Tagetes minuta) – 0.01 % (avoid)


NB : Good news! There are non-phototoxic oils as well!

Non-phototoxic citrus essential oils:

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) bergapten-free, distilled Lemon (Citus limon), distilled Lime (Citrus aurantifolia, Citrus medica), Mandarin-Tangerine (Citrus reticulata), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Yuzu (Citrus juno)


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