Citrus and other Photosensitizing Essential Oils
Citrus Essential Oils are among the best loved of all for their sweet, bright, delicate, yet powerful aromas that can transform your space, improve your health, fight germs and lift your mood, But they can also cause issues in terms of their effects on skin when paired with sunlight. This applies to citrus oils obtained by cold pressed expression of the peel, which are most commonly found and used in Aromatherapy, due to the superior oil they yield in terms of both purity and scent. Citrus oils that are steam distilled are not phototoxic but are also not as common in Aromatherapy.
The fruits in which citrus essential oils reside can only thrive in sunny, tropical climates. The essential oils in the skin of the fruit, help attract the sun to the plants so they can grow and mature into delicious treats so many of us enjoy with breakfast, or dessert, in a drink, or any time at all.
When we apply citrus essential oils, (and a few others as well), to the skin, they attract and amplify the effects of the sun's rays, possibly causing pigmentation to the skin at the site where the oils were applied. The sunlight with which these essential oils react, is both natural sunlight as well as simulated, such as that used in tanning salons.
Bergamot essential oil seems to have the strongest effect in causing photosensitivity to the skin when combined with sunlight, but you can also purchase Bergamot FCF, with the furocoumarin removed, (the substance that causes photosensitivity). Bergamot FCF, (FuroCoumarin Free) does not react negatively with sunlight at all. Some say this is not a true essential oil, as there has been a component removed, but it is such a beautiful oil and this version is one that can then be used safely in sunlight so we leave it up to you to decide for yourself if it is a good buy for your personal essential oil cache. Lemon, Lime and both bitter and sweet Orange essential oils are all known to cause photosensitivity in the skin. Mandarin and Grapefruit cause sun sensitization in skin as well, but arguably, somewhat less than other citrus essential oils. In addition, Angelica root and Tagetes essential oils also cause photosensitivity in the skin.
A few short decades ago, people would invite the sun to tan their skin, using sun tan oil before they'd lay out and sunbathe, but since that time much has been discovered about the harmful effects of the sun's rays and a great deal of time and money spent on protecting our skin from these effects. Knowing this, use of essential oils that cause photosensitivity should be handled with care and caution in mind.
Your skin needs your protection. Don't use essential oils that cause photosensitivity in skin, before heading out into strong sunlight, or days when UV scores are high, with your skin unprotected. Being properly informed, you can make safe choices for yourself without inviting these harmful effects and enjoy all the benefits these wonderful oils have to offer.