Things You Should Know before Using Photosensitive Essential Oils In Summer

Things You Should Know before Using Photosensitive Essential Oils In Summer

Essential oils bring great health benefits for you, but the hot sun might not favor such benefits. During the long and hot summer days, you need to be cautious with the essential oils. Some of the essential oils like lemon, bergamot, etc., can cause skin irritation as of their photosensitive composition.

If you want to continue with your essential oils during the summers, regardless of their photosensitive composition, then read this guide till the end. Here we tell you how to use essential oils in the summer safely.

What is Photosensitivity?

Photosensitivity is a process when furocoumarins(FCF) react to ultraviolet rays (mainly on the skin). Furocoumarins are organic chemical substances that exist naturally in certain plants.  For example, Oxypeucedanin and Bergapten are two of the most frequent furocoumarins in citrus fruit plants to ward off bugs.

Upon reaction with UV light, it can lead to different skin problems like:

1. Irritation
2. Blisters
3. Discoloration
4. Inflammation
5. Itchiness
6. Rashes

Certain skincare products come with the warning to avoid applying them under UV light from the sun or other sources. So do not forget to read the labels before using your skin products or essential oils.

List of Photosensitive Essential Oils

Not all essential oils come with a phototoxic element. For example, some cold-pressed essential oils could be phototoxic if used on the body and then subjected to the sun. However, as per Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young book "essential oil safety," some commonly available phototoxic essential oils are:

1. Bergamot (cold-pressed)
2. Lemon (cold-pressed)
3. Lime (cold-pressed)
4. Bitter orange (cold-pressed)
5. Grapefruit (cold-pressed)
6. Cumin
7. Angelica Root Essential Oil
8. Fig Leaf Absolute
9. Mandarin Leaf
10. Opopanax
11. Rue
12. Tagetes

List of Non-Phototoxic Essential Oils

Be mindful that some oils come with the label that says FCF. However, this does not indicate that the oil is phototoxic; instead, it has no Bergaptene/Furanocoumarins.

1. Bergamot FCF and steam distilled
2. Blood/Sweet Orange (Cold Pressed/Steam Distilled)
3. Lemon and lime (Steam Distilled)
4. Mandarin and Satsuma(Cold Pressed/Steam Distilled)
5. Petitgrain
6. Tangelo and Tangerine (Cold Pressed/Steam Distilled)
7. Yuzu Oil (Cold Pressed or Steam Distilled)

We acknowledge that the lists here are not complete; for more detailed information regarding essential oil safety, you can refer to Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young’s, "Essential Oil Safety" (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014)

How to Safely Use the Photosensitive Essential Oils?

So the question is, how can you prevent skin problems while using the essential oils in summers? The answer is simple. Do not get under the sun or any other UV light source, such as a tanning bed, for 12-18 hours.

1. Use Essential Oils in the Evening

If you want to cherish the benefits of phototoxic oils, the best option is to apply such skincare products in the evening. You can add essential oils to your favorite skincare product and get maximum skin benefits while dodging their phototoxic effects.

2. Cover the Application Area

Robert Tisser and Rodney Young's book Essential Oil Safety also provided some valuable knowledge about applying photosensitive oils.

If you are up for using a product that will be rinsed or washed off after applying, it brings no phototoxic harm to you. So, for example, shampoos, soaps, or bathing products that come with phototoxic ingredients bring no maltreatment to you.

Moreover, suppose you apply the phototoxic essential oil topically, it is best to cover the area. Unless the skin on which the essential oil is applied is protected so UV rays cannot contact it there will be no harmful effect on the skin. For example, you can use oil on your chest, back, arms or hair and then put on a full sleeve short and hat to protect it from UV lights.

3. Follow label instructions 

Following the label directions is the best approach to avoid a harmful response of essential oils. Generally, the undiluted photosensitive essential oils need protection from the sun or UV light for at least 12 hours, but others can take up to 48 hours to not deliver harmful effects.

The photosensitive chemicals content is also affected by the quantities you apply. Even if you consider the required amount of time, sunblock can allow you to stay protected in the sunlight. So it is best to apply sunscreen even after the 12-48 hours window passes.

What Should I Do if I Have Skin Reaction After Applying Essential Oils?

After applying essential oil, if you encounter a skin reaction, then you do the following:

1. Cover from UV Exposure

Immediately cover yourself or at least the application area from the UV light. You can cover from UV light with the help of a cloth, or you can seek coverage to a nearby restroom.

2. Rinse

After seeking sun or UV light coverage, rush to the bathroom, where you can rinse the skin with soap and cold water. Thoroughly wash your skin where you applied the oil. Make sure you wash it with cold water.

3. Dilute with Vegetable Oil

Finally, you can dilute and rinse the application area with vegetable oil. This method sounds a bit awkward to you, but it will weaken the essential oil that causes the skin problems.

4. Seek Medical Advice

If your skin irritation persists despite rinsing with water and vegetable oil, then you should see a dermatologist or a medical expert. Also, if you encounter pain or have a large part of the reaction affected area, you should rush to the doctor.


Essential oils are something natural and organic that everybody loves to add to their routine. But in summers, you need to be a little cautious with its use since it can cause skin damage. The best practice is to read the label before applying oil, as it will tell you about safety and precautions. Although, you can enjoy essential oils in summers by protecting yourself from UV light. Remember, the effects of that essential oil can last for 12-48 hours, so you need to be cautious in that application window. We know that you love essential oils. Following our instructions will help you get through the summers without disturbing your essential oil routine.