Avoid These Essential Oils if You Are Going to Be Out In the Sun

6:47 AM Posted by jo

It is time for some essential oil safety information. The summer is around the corner and we will spend a lot of time outside in the sun. Well, it was 105 here in Texas yesterday so I didn't spend a lot of time in the sun, I mean would you when it is 105 degrees with fairly high humidity?  I went for my walk as usual and then I hid from the sun for a few hours. Normally on hot days like this we go to the golf course and go swimming. Even though summers are hot here in Texas we still spend a significant amount of time outdoors, so there are certain essential oils that I avoid or use cautiously during the summer months.

Certain essential oils are considered to be phototoxic

Photosensitization, or phototoxicity, as it is also called, is a skin reaction caused by exposure to sunlight or other ultraviolet light. It can cause increased pigmentation and redness to the skin. Some essential oils absorb more energy from ultraviolet light than the skin does. These oils are photosensitizers and can only cause photosensitization when exposed to the sun or other ultraviolet light. The photosensitizing oils need to be applied to the skin prior to exposure to ultraviolet light in order to produce the phototoxic reaction. Photosensitizing oils should not be exposed to the sun for at least 12 hours after applied to the skin.


Expressed citrus oils are considered to be photosensitizers. The furocoumarin bergaptene, or 5 methoxypsoralen known as 5-MOP, is the phototoxic constituent of citrus oils like bergamot or other citrus oils. The phototoxic effect is neutralized when the furocoumarin content is 0.0075%.

Phototoxic oils

  • bergamot, Citrus aurantium var. bergamia
  • cold pressed lime, Citrus medica
  • cold pressed bitter orange, Citrus aurantium var. amara
  • angelica, Angelica archangelica

Mild photosensitizers
  • Cold pressed grapefruit, Citrus paradisi
  • cold pressed or distilled lemon, Citrus limon, Lippia citridora
  • distilled lime, Citrus medica
  • cold pressed sweet orange, Citrus sinensis
  • cold pressed tangerine, Citrus reticulata blanco

Other oils that may cause phototoxicity
  • cedarwood, Cedrus atlanticum
  • cinnamon bark, Cinnamomum zeylanicum
  • clary sage, Salvia sclarea
  • elecampane, Inula helenium
  • ginger, Zingiber officinalis
  • lovage, Levisticum officinale
  • opoponax, Commiphora erythraea
  • patchouli, Pogostemon patchouli

As you can see, the phototoxic oils themselves are not causing any reaction when applied to the skin without exposure to ultraviolet light.  Make sure that the essential oils are safe for you and that you  dilute the essential oils properly.

Photo credit

Before you leave:

I recommend that you always perform a skin patch test when you try a new oil.

Check out my safety page to make sure you are aware of any contrindications before you use essential oils. Some oils are not suitable when suffering from certain conditions. AlsoRead this Before You Start Using Essential oils. Some oils should not be applied prior to sun exposure so make sure you check this list before spending time in the sun.

Not sure how to apply the oils? Visit these pages to learn how to apply the oils:
If you're new to essential oils you might want to check out my Getting Started Guide. 


Johanna is an aromatherapist and she is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives. 

Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information.

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