Before You DIY: Are your Essential Oils Phototoxic?

As we approach the summer season and the weather warms up we naturally gravitate outdoors and into the sunshine.  We have been pretty well trained to slap on the sunscreen when we are in the sunshine, especially during the heat of the day.  I have been using a safer sunscreen for years now to avoid unsafe chemicals used in many commercial sunscreens. This last year I have been making more of my own body products and the next one on the list will be homemade sunscreen.  I have recently come across some important information regarding homemade (and even commerical) body products and essential oils.

We are wrong to assume that all essential oils are safe no matter what.  Many are widely available, however, and if used for the wrong purpose or at the wrong time could create potentially dangerous situations.

Phototoxicity, or photosensitization, is a reaction that occurs when an agent (in our case essential oil) reacts to the UV in sunlight.  This can cause increased skin sensitivity and an elevated risk of sunburn, skin damage and potentially, skin cancer.  The agent can be applied topically or can be ingested.  It is important to stay our of the sun for at least 12 hours after applying or ingesting the agent.

While making homemade lotions, sunscreens, massage oils and lip balms make sure the essential oils you use are not phototoxic.  Make sure any commercial ones you might use aren’t either.

Many citrus essential oils are photosensitive, as well as Angelica and Bergamot.  For a more complete list head to Jo’s Health Corner: Avoid These Essential Oils if You Are Going To Be In The Sun.  Read the labels on your essential oils and make sure your dilute them appropriately before use.

If you are looking for high quality essential oils check out Mountain Rose Herbs.

This post has been linked to Frugal Days Sustainable Ways #28.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this information! I have been using lemon and lime in my homemade body lotions, and I see they are on the list. While this is not a problem in the fall and winter when I am covered, I will switch to a different scent for my summertime lotion.

  2. Julie Anne Lail says:

    I have a friend who is very fair skinned and red headed and she did some research and found that coconut oil by itself is a VeRy good sunblock. She normally burns badly out there but she didn't burn at all the day she used it at the beach and even forgot to reapply.


  1. [...] tsp Rosehip essential oil (optional~ use any for scent, just not citrus bc it is phototoxic) Check out why rosehip oil is so great for the [...]

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