Phototoxic Essential oils, what you need to know


Phototoxic Essential oils, what you need to know

Now that the days are finally getting longer and the sun comes out to play a little more, we tend to find ourselves spending a lot more time outside. There’s nothing quite as blissful as enjoying some fresh air and soaking up the sun, is there? 🙂

But as we start to spend more of our days outdoors, there are a few things we need to be mindful of. More so than just taking care to always wear sunscreen when we’re outside, we also need to be mindful of some of the natural products we’re using on our skin when they contain essential oils. Most importantly when those products contain essential oils known to be phototoxic.
Did you know that some essential oils are best to be avoided when you’re about to head outdoors? Now this doesn’t go for all essential oils, some are actually quite useful when you’re enjoying the outdoors, or even after you’ve enjoyed the sun a little too much for one day. But there are some that are better used when you won’t be subjecting yourself to any type of Ultra Violet lights.

What oils should I be careful with in the Summer?

When you research the contraindications for essential oils and some oils mention to ‘avoid use 2 hours before Ultra Violet light exposure’, have you ever wondered why that is, or whether you should heed that little piece of caution?
When an essential oil comes with the caution not to use prior to Ultra Violet light exposure, it’s because that specific oil can cause Phototoxicity or Photosensitivity. Generally this caution comes only with most citrus oils because they contain naturally occuring Furanocoumarins (chemical compounds found to cause photosensitivity, such as Bergapten). These chemical constituents cause a skin reaction when exposed to UV light. Most commonly that reaction will be burning or even blistering, however, long-term damage can result in some instances. It’s important to note that not all citrus oils are considered to be phototoxic though, and how the oil was extracted can play a role in whether they’re phototoxic as well. Some oils that are considered phototoxic are bergamot, bitter orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime oils. However, bergamot FCF (which has had the bergaptene and furanocoumarins removed from the oil) making it safe for use prior to UV exposure. Finally, the essential oils of sweet orange, blood orange, and mandarin are generally not considered to be phototoxic.

Are there any go to Essential oils after too much Sun exposure?

One thing I am often asked, if whether there are any essential oils that are soothing after too much time spent in the Sun. The answer is yes, there are some! Now, while there are a few, the most common one, and perhaps the gentlest of them all is Lavender essential oil, more specifically Lavendula Angustifolia. Among the many uses for Lavender oil, it is hands down the best oil for treating minor burns (when experiencing more than a minor burn, please always seek proper medical attention!). This goes for all types of burns, whether you burnt yourself barbecuing, on steam while cooking, touching a piece of hot metal in the summer or spent a wee bit too much time outdoors. Next time you find yourself mildly burnt, try diluting some Lavender essential oil in a carrier oil of your choice and applying in to the burnt skin and watch how quickly it’s soothed and how much faster it heals up.

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