Phototoxic Essential Oils: How to Prevent Skin Damage

essential oils

There are some people who experience getting sunburn after using certain essential oils. This skin reaction is known as photosensitization, and it happens when the skin reacts to the components of some essential oils. Of course, the key is knowing what essential oils you need to avoid, especially when you will be out in the sun, to prevent skin damage.

If you want to know more about photosensitive essential oils, you are in the right place because, in this post, Anita’s Oil Essentials, your trusted source for your essential oil supplies in Perth tells you all about it:

What Does Essential Oil Photosensitization Mean? 

Essential oil photosensitization, or phototoxicity as some call it, happens when some components of natural essential oils react to UV light exposure. The damage that this causes can be permanent, so you want to be sure that if you’re using essential oils that you know exactly what the components are and whether or not you’re at risk of suffering from such a damaging skin reaction.

What Are the Signs of Essential Oil Photosensitization?

You might start noticing signs of phototoxic reactions up to 18 hours after applying the essential oil topically and getting exposed to UV light. The risk also increases if you blend several different oils.

Some of the signs that you need to look out for include:

  • Excessive sunburn
  • Blisters
  • Serious skin reddening
  • Swelling with marked pigmentation
  • Pigmentation that’s slow to heal

Photosensitive Essential Oils

Now here are the phototoxic oils that you should be careful not to apply when you are exposed to the sun. There may be instances when the oil is correctly diluted so that you won’t get sunburned, but it’s still best to avoid them and apply them only when you’ll be safe indoors. Here are some of the recommended essential oils you may want to avoid outdoors:

  • Angelica Root
  • Bergamot
  • Cumin
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon (expressed) 
  • Lime (expressed)
  • Bitter orange (expressed)
  • Mandarin Leaf

It should also be noted that there are oils like fig leaf absolute that should never be used, be it internally or externally because it is highly phototoxic.

How You Can Avoid Photosensitization

Just because some essential oils can be phototoxic doesn’t mean you should stop using them altogether. Here are some ways you can avoid phototoxicity:

  1. Use phototoxic oils aromatically instead of topically.
  2. Dilute your oils properly.
  3. Use wash-off recipes instead.
  4. Try to stay away from the sun if you use essential oils.
  5. Wear protective clothing and a hat.
  6. Opt for essential oils that are not phototoxic.


Essential oils definitely have benefits, and so many of us depend on them to make us feel better. Still, you have to take extra care, especially when you’re applying them topically. You might want to check with essential books and reference information if the oils you want to apply to your skin won’t cause any harm.

Anita’s Oil Essentials have some of the best essential oil supplies in Perth, including books, booklets, and information sheets that can serve as your guide in determining the safety of the oils you use on your skin. Check out our products today!

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