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FUN in the SUN with essential oils

Sun and photo toxicity of essential oils

We are all excited to venture out to the beach, the lake, the river, the pool, heck after being cooped up in the house and still social distancing–I’d settle for sitting outside with my feet in the kiddie pool!

What about that DIY lotion I’m wearing? Is it safe in the sun? What did I put in it?

Let me find my notes…..

Which oils should I avoid? And how long? Can I use essential oils and still enjoy the sun?

Most essential oils are safe in the sun, but some are photo toxic. 

Well–what does that mean?

It means that if you are in the house, in the winter and use a lotion that has certain oils in it, you have no worries.   On the other hand, if you use that same type of lotion in the summer-let’s say after a shower. You decide to go out and weed the flower beds later—forgetting about the lotion. You could have a reaction to that lotion from being out in the sun.

What kind of reaction?

Redness, burns, itching, blisters, permanent skin discoloration. 

Why does it happen? And what causes it?

Organic compounds called furanocoumarins react with UV-A light by being absorbed into the skin and stored and then released.

Enough about the science….so…

Which oils should I avoid? And how long?


The following essential oils are photo toxic with the maximum dermal level. 

If you are using product with levels over these amounts, it is best to avoid sun exposure for at least 12 to 18 hours after applying, unless you can cover your skin.

Bergamot (Citrus aurantium var. bergamia)max @ .04%2 drops per 30 ml.
Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)max @ 4%24 drops per 30 ml.
Lemon (Citrus limon)max @ 2%12 drops per 30 ml.
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)max @ 0.7%4 drops per 30 ml.
Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium)max @ 1.25%7 drops per 30 ml.
Laurel leaf (Laurus nobilis)max @ 2%12 drops per 30 ml.
Maximum levels for essential oils in skincare products in the sun.

The good news is:

There are citrus oils that are not photo toxic!

Those are:

  • Bergamot (FCF)
  • Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) cold pressed
  • Lemon (Citrus limon) distilled
  • Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) distilled

If you are going to use a lotion that has a citrus oil in it, make sure that you safely dilute that oil. There is no risk in using a product that has not been applied to the body or washed off the skin such as shampoo, soap or body wash.

So pack up your bags, your essential oils, and head to your favorite fun in the sun place!

Don’t forget to sign up for a Free PDF INTRODUCTION TO AROMATHERAPY at the top of the page.

Happy blending,