Few things are more enjoyable than a beautiful sunny day. Summer brings long days, short nights, and time spent at the beach. Warm autumn days are a surprise and a delight, and it’s hard to pay attention inside when the sun is shining brightly outside. And so, while we love the sun, it’s important to understand some essential oils do not. 

What is Phototoxicity?

Phototoxicity is chemically-induced skin irritation. It can resemble an exaggerated sunburn and can be caused by a reaction to something you put on your skin or ingest. If chemicals are photoactive, they absorb the energy from the sun and cause toxicity on your skin. Several things can cause this, and many cold-pressed essential oils are on that list. 

Certain essential oils are labeled as phototoxic because they have chemical structures that absorb UV light, store it, and release it onto the skin (toxicity). Some oils stay on the skin up to 18 hours after application and can still cause sun reactions. To avoid phototoxic reactions, users should cover any area of the skin with phototoxic oil on it, or avoid those oils when you know you’ll be out in the sun. 

Not all cold-pressed citrus essential oils are phototoxic, but if you’re concerned or wonder if a particular oil is, do your research instead of risking a reaction.

Common Essential Oils that are Phototoxic (not necessarily a complete list) 

  • Grapefruit (cold pressed) 
  • Mandarin Leaf
  • Rue
  • Cumin
  • Bitter Orange (cold pressed)
  • Bergamot (cold pressed)
  • Fig Leaf
  • Lemon (cold pressed)
  • Lime (cold pressed)