Sun Safe Essential Oils

What is photosensitization? Lea Harris Jacobson is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar's Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. She states that photosensitization (also known as photocontact dermatitis) is, “a reaction to a substance applied to the skin that occurs only in the presence of UV light in the UVA range, and it may be either phototoxic or photo allergenic.” Phototoxic reactions are the most common and are the focus of this post. Photoallergy is typically reserved for non-essential oil chemicals, although Sandalwood and Garlic are potential photoallergens. What are the signs of phototoxicity? Furanocoumarin-containing essential oils react to UV light and can cause an inflammatory reaction in the skin. Visible reactions typically peak up to three days after initial UV exposure. The visible signs can last for weeks, and might be one or more of the following: o severe redness (sunburn) o darkening of skin o edema (swelling) o in some cases, blistering Essential oils containing furanocoumarins Some essential oils which contain furanocoumarins and are to be used with caution are: o Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica) o Bergamot* (Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium) o Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) o Lemon – cold pressed (Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum) o Lime* – cold pressed (Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia) o Mandarin Leaf (Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis) o Orange, Bitter (Citrus x aurantium) o Rue* (Ruta graveolens, Ruta montana) How to avoid photosensitization If you have applied phototoxic essential oils to your skin above safe dilutions (more on safe dilutions below), do not expose your skin to UV light for 12-18 hours. (source) Exposure to UV light can cause a reaction up to 12 hours after application and can “continue to produce phototoxic reactions for 36 hours.” (source) The easiest way to avoid photosensitization is to not apply a furanocoumarin-containing essential oil to the skin at all. Covering up any skin to which phototoxic essential oils have been applied can help to prevent a phototoxic reaction. However, thin fabrics, such as some tee shirts, may not provide adequate protection. Phototoxic essential oils can still be used topically on the skin, even with exposure to UV light, as long as they are safely diluted (keep reading for safe dilution guidelines). Essential oils that are safe to use in the sun Many people write off all citrus essential oils as being phototoxic, but there are several that are safe to use, including steam-distilled versions. Although furanocoumarins are present in cold pressed versions, the molecules are not volatile and remain behind during steam distillation. Sun-safe essential oils include: o Bergamot – steam distilled – bergapten-free/furanocoumarin-free* (Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium) o Lemon -steam distilled (Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum) o Lime – steam distilled (Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia) o Mandarin – cold pressed (Citrus reticulata) o Orange, Sweet – cold pressed (Citrus sinensis, Citrus aurantium var. sinensis) o Tangerine – cold pressed (Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis, Citrus tangerine) o o Safe dilution guidelines for potentially phototoxic essential oils o In order to use phototoxic essential oils without an adverse reaction, they must be safely diluted. o Here is a table outlining safe dilution levels. Heeding these dilution levels will protect you from suffering from a phototoxic reaction.

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What is photosensitization?
Lea Harris Jacobson is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar’s Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. She states that photosensitization (also known as photocontact dermatitis) is, “a reaction to a substance applied to the skin that occurs only in the presence of UV light in the UVA range, and it may be either phototoxic or photo allergenic.”
Phototoxic reactions are the most common and are the focus of this post. Photoallergy is typically reserved for non-essential oil chemicals, although Sandalwood and Garlic are potential photoallergens.

What are the signs of phototoxicity?
Furanocoumarin-containing essential oils react to UV light and can cause an inflammatory reaction in the skin. Visible reactions typically peak up to three days after initial UV exposure.
The visible signs can last for weeks, and might be one or more of the following:
o severe redness (sunburn)
o darkening of skin
o edema (swelling)
o in some cases, blistering

Essential oils containing furanocoumarins
Some essential oils which contain furanocoumarins and are to be used with caution are:
o Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica)
o Bergamot* (Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium)
o Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
o Lemon – cold pressed (Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum)
o Lime* – cold pressed (Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia)
o Mandarin Leaf (Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis)
o Orange, Bitter (Citrus x aurantium)
o Rue* (Ruta graveolens, Ruta montana)

How to avoid photosensitization
If you have applied phototoxic essential oils to your skin above safe dilutions (more on safe dilutions below), do not expose your skin to UV light for 12-18 hours. (source)
Exposure to UV light can cause a reaction up to 12 hours after application and can “continue to produce phototoxic reactions for 36 hours.” (source)
The easiest way to avoid photosensitization is to not apply a furanocoumarin-containing essential oil to the skin at all.
Covering up any skin to which phototoxic essential oils have been applied can help to prevent a phototoxic reaction. However, thin fabrics, such as some tee shirts, may not provide adequate protection.
Phototoxic essential oils can still be used topically on the skin, even with exposure to UV light, as long as they are safely diluted (keep reading for safe dilution guidelines).

Essential oils that are safe to use in the sun
Many people write off all citrus essential oils as being phototoxic, but there are several that are safe to use, including steam-distilled versions. Although furanocoumarins are present in cold pressed versions, the molecules are not volatile and remain behind during steam distillation. Sun-safe essential oils include:
o Bergamot – steam distilled – bergapten-free/furanocoumarin-free* (Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium)
o Lemon -steam distilled (Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum)
o Lime – steam distilled (Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia)
o Mandarin – cold pressed (Citrus reticulata)
o Orange, Sweet – cold pressed (Citrus sinensis, Citrus aurantium var. sinensis)
o Tangerine – cold pressed (Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis, Citrus tangerine)
o
o Safe dilution guidelines for potentially phototoxic essential oils
o In order to use phototoxic essential oils without an adverse reaction, they must be safely diluted.
o Here is a table outlining safe dilution levels. Heeding these dilution levels will protect you from suffering from a phototoxic reaction.

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