Essential Oils and Phototoxicity…

Essential Oils and Photoxicity

Photo Credit: Gray Malin-Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club

Photosensitivity is a reaction to the sun from a substance applied to the skin.  Typically and in this post’s case, that substance is essential oils.  Since many of us here love essential oils and use them in our daily life, I thought it was high time to address this concern. So let’s dive in and learn all about photosensitive essential oils.

I’m all about sun benefits and skin safety lately, this seemed like the perfect time to share which essential oils can cause your skin to react in the sun and how to protect your skin from phototoxicity.  

My extent of knowledge on phototoxicity is that you should avoid citrus essential oils during the summer months if you’re going to be exposing your skin to prolonged amounts of UV rays. I knew there was more to it and also a way to use citrus oils safely during the summer months so as usual, it was time to hit the research and then share with you!  

You guys know by now I don’t claim to know anything more then anyone else.  I just research what pertains to my health then share it with you hoping it pertains to your health!  

I came across THIS POST and felt it was super informative, accurate and well written so I definitely want to give it credit for the majority of the information I am sharing.  

So photosensitivity, also known as phototoxcicity occurs when certain essential oils cause and inflammatory reaction in the skin.  The essential oils that cause photosensitivity contain furanocoumarin.  

Signs of Phototoxicity:

  • Sunburn
  • Sun Spots
  • Swelling
  • Blistering

These symptoms typically peak up to 3 days after being exposed.  Exposure to UV light can cause a reaction up to 12 hours after application, and can continue to produce phototoxic reactions for 36 hours.

Common Photosensitive Essential Oils:

  • Angelica Root 
  • Bergamot
  • Grapefruit 
  • Lemon – cold pressed 
  • Lime – cold pressed 
  • Bitter Orange
  • Rue

Possibly photosensitive Essential Oils

  • Clementine
  • Combava Fruit Oil
  • Skimmia Oil
  • Angelica Root Absolute
  • Angelica Root CO2 extract
  • Celery Leaf Oil
  • Celery Seed Absolute
  • Cumin Seed Absolute
  • Cumin Seed CO2 extract
  • Khella Oil
  • Lovage Leaf Oil
  • Parsnip Oil


How to Avoid Phototoxicity:

If you have applied undiluted furanocoumarin containing essential oils, you should avoid the sun for 12-18 hours.

The easiest way to ensure you do not have a reaction is to avoid essential oils that contain furanocoumarin during the times you are in the sun.  However, if these oils are properly diluted, there is very little to no risk.  

For the most part, clothing will protect the skin.  

How to Properly Dilute Essential Oils for Safety in UV Light:

  • Angelica Root-4 drops per 1 ounce
  • Bergamot-2 drops per 1 ounce
  • Grapefruit-24 drops per 1 ounce
  • Cold Pressed Lemon-12 drops per 1 ounce
  • Cold Pressed lime-4 drops per 1 ounce
  • Bitter Orange-7 drops per 1 ounce
  • Rue-.5 drops per 1 ounce

Essential oils that are safe to use in the sun:

  • Bergamot – steam distilled – bergapten-free/furanocoumarin-free
  • Lemon -steam distilled
  • Lime – steam distilled
  • Mandarin – cold pressed 
  • Sweet Orange– cold pressed
  • Tangerine – cold pressed

I hope this has cleared up any fear or confusion when it comes to essential oils and photosensitivity.  Honestly, I believe many people aren’t affected by this issue but I wouldn’t want to test it and damage my skin.  

If you do blister, burn or get darkened skin from phototoxicity, remember, the skin will heal and repair.    

It was helpful for me to find exactly which types of citrus oils are dangerous as well as to find how many drops per ounce are safe.  There are so many benefits to using citrus essential oils but I have avoided them in all my DIYs for this exact reason.  Now we know all about photosensitive essential oils!!  


  • 5 Essential Oils to Never be Without
  • Essential Oils 101
  • DIY Healing Salve (neosporin)
  • Essential Oils for Allergies
  • Skin Benefits of Geranium Essential Oil
  • DIY Thieves Blend
  • Essential Oils and Pregnancy

xx, Jenni


Photosensitive Essential Oils

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