The sun is outside shining, the temperatures are warming up, and it’s time to dig out that summertime wardrobe from hibernation! Shorts, tank tops, and flip flops — here we come! But before you go and lather up your skin with all those DIY lotions, creams, lip balms, body oils, and perfumes you’ve had so much fun making, there is something very important we need to discuss: Phototoxicity.
So what IS phototoxicity anyways?
The term ‘phototoxicity’ just means that there are specific essential oils that when you put them on your skin and go out into the sun, can cause pretty significant damage, including severe burning, blistering, and discoloration.
Don’t worry. Even though phototoxicity isn’t something to take lightly, it’s also easy to avoid and keep yourself safe in the sun, I promise.
Phototoxicity, also called photosensitization and phototoxic contact dermatitis, is a UV light induced reaction to a photoactive substance.
Some essential oils are termed ‘phototoxic,’ since they increase the likelihood of a phototoxic reaction. These oils contain certain chemical constituents with a structure that gives them the ability to absorb UV light, store it, and release it in a burst into the skin.
Reactions can occur up to 18 hours after the oil has been applied to the skin and then exposed to UV light. So even if you don’t see a reaction right away, do not assume that a reaction won’t occur later. So be careful!
What phototoxic oils does Plant Therapy carry?
You may notice that these phototoxic oils are all cold-pressed. The distillation method is extremely important, since some of these oils can also be steam distilled. When distilled, the components that cause phototoxicity are not present, so they’re safe to use in the sun.
To avoid phototoxic reactions, cover any area of the skin with a phototoxic oil on it, or just don’t use a phototoxic essential oil topically if you are concerned about sun exposure.
So which oils can you use in the sun, and still get that citrus-y smell you love?
Our website clearly states if an oil is phototoxic, and also provides maximum dilution recommendations to avoid phototoxicity. We also offer many non-phototoxic oils that still have the uplifting, citrusy aromas you love:
Bergamot: The Bergamot we carry is free from the chemical constituent (Bergaptine) that makes it phototoxic.
So even though summertime is the perfect time to discuss phototoxicity, please be aware that UV light is present all year-round. Phototoxic reactions can be painful and permanent, so use extreme caution when using phototoxic oils and being outside!
And as always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Certified Aromatherapists to learn more!
“Aromahead Institute’s Aromatherapy Certification Program” https://www.aromahead.com/courses/online/aromatherapy-certification-program
Phototoxicity. Retrieved from https://westcoastaromatherapy.com/articles/phototoxicity