There are some essential oils that are considered phototoxic, which means they can cause skin reactions when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, particularly sunlight. This phototoxicity is also known as photosensitivity. The reaction can range from mild redness and irritation to severe burns, blisters, and discoloration of the skin. This occurs because phototoxic essential oils contain specific compounds called furanocoumarins, which can make the skin more sensitive to UV radiation. In this week’s Quicky we talk about which oils to avoid in the sun and why there is a difference between cold pressed oils and steam distilled oils.
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The phototoxicity of essential oils can vary depending on the method of extraction. Bergamot essential oil is one of the most well-known phototoxic oils. It contains a high level of a compound called bergapten.
Lime essential oil contains compounds like limonene and citral, which can contribute to phototoxicity.
Always dilute phototoxic essential oils with a carrier oil before applying to the skin. A typical dilution ratio is 1-2% essential oil to carrier oil.
Cold-pressing extracts essential oils along with certain compounds, including furanocoumarins (such as bergapten) that contribute to phototoxicity.
Steam distillation does not typically extract the phototoxic compounds found in the peels of citrus fruits.
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