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Photo Toxic / Sun Sensitizing Essential Oils

Spring is officially here which means there is no better time to discuss photo toxic essential oils.

Some oils - mainly citrus oils, contain biochemical constituents that can cause a skin reaction under exposure to UV rays. These oils are known as 'photo toxic' meaning they can create a photo sensitive reaction on the skin. These reactions are mainly seen as hyper-pigmentation (dark patches) on the skin and in more severe cases, actual burns. Essentially these oils can make skin very sensitive to UV rays. ⁠

Photo sensitivity is only an issue when applying photo toxic essential oils topically on the skin. It does not apply if you are using these oils for inhalation purposes, in a shower gel or using them at night. If you are applying photo toxic essential oils during summer months or alongside your usual sunbed routine, apply them diluted (always!) and leave a minimum of 12 hours before exposing the skin to UV rays. This will ensure you have given enough time for the body to process the oils.⁠

Photo Toxic Essential Oils

Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Bitter Orange, Grapefruit, Lovage Root, Angelica Root, Cumin, to name a few. ⁠


Research suggests that Sweet Orange and Mandarin essential oils are not photo toxic. My advice would be to air on the side of caution and if you do use these oils topically when exposed to UV rays then use at a very low dilution. ⁠

How to use Photo Toxic Essential Oils In The Summer?

You can continue using these oils during the Summer months⁠. There is no risk of photo sensitivity when diffusing photo toxic essential oils. If you want to use these oils topically then apply once the sun has set. 

If you use an essential oil bug spray be sure to check if it contains any photo toxic oils before applying to bare skin in the sunshine. I saw a case unfold a few years ago with someone who burned their skin due to spraying bug spray which contained Bergamot! Always check labels or check with the person who formulated it. 

I uploaded an video to Instagram on this topic a few weeks ago explaining what photo toxic is and which oils to avoid in direct sunlight. You can watch the video here.

If you have any questions on photo toxic essential oils and how to use them please feel free to contact me. I am only too happy to answer your questions.