Do Essential Oils Really Cause Sunburn? The Truth Behind Photosensitivity

Not All Essential Oils Are Created EqualMost people today realize the damage sun can cause delicate skin; however, many do not know of the phenomenon that can accelerate and even exacerbate this damage, making the need for caution in sunlight even more vital. This phenomenon is called photosensitivity or an abnormal increase in skin sensitivity to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVR). Photosensitivity can be brought on by certain medications, medical conditions and yes, even essential oils.

Essential Oils & Sunburn

Some essential oils are photosensitive meaning they react to radiant energy or light such as natural sunlight, sunlamps, or other sources of UV rays. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of photosensitivity may include a pink or red skin rash with blotchy blisters, scaly patches, or raised spots on areas directly exposed to the sun. Itching and burning may occur and the rash may last for several days. Dark pigmentation on the skin may occur as well. “A phototoxic reaction typically shows up as an exaggerated sunburn, usually occurring within 24 hours of sun exposure” as stated by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Top Essential Oil Culprits

The primary essential oil culprits are typically citrus oils: Angelica, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Wild Orange, and Tangerine.  Bergamot essential oil contains bergaptene, a dominant photosensitizer, that can cause severe reactions. Look for products that contain bergamot essential oil that is bergaptene-free. Caution is required when using skincare products that contain these photosensitizing oils.

Do Essential Oils Really Cause Sunburn? The Truth Behind PhotosensitivityPhotosensitive Essential Oil Tips

As stated by Everything Essential Oil, “when using photosensitizing oil, wait a minimum of six hours before exposing skin to UV rays.  The stronger and more lengthy the UV ray, the longer the wait should be.”  For maximum protection, shield skin with sunscreen and protective clothing.

For more information on sun safety visit our blog, 9 Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer.

Are you looking for a line of certified pure essential oils? Check out our line of essential oil blends!

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9 Responses to “Do Essential Oils Really Cause Sunburn? The Truth Behind Photosensitivity”

  1. Hi Dorian! Have you by chance had the opportunity to visit the dermatologist? Since your hyperpigmentation is around the delicate eye area, I really recommend a visit to the dermatologist. Since this area is very thin and sensitive, you must be very careful what you use. Sorry to not be of much help but it is always better to err on the side of caution. Thanks for checking in! ~ Heather

  2. Hi!! Any luck on getting hyperpigmentation? Im in dire need of help, all my eyes are covered with “malesma” (hyperpigmentation) i look like O mever shower. This make me very sad. Any help would be highly appreciated.

  3. Hello Jamilla!

    Typically, hyperpigmentation is treated with a stronger exfoliant, such as salicylic acid, or a stronger mechanical exfoliation technique such as microdermabrasion. There are natural ways to potentially lighten hyperpigmentation as well, such treating the area with lemon but this type of treatment is not guaranteed to be effective. I hope this information is helpful! Thanks again and have a great day!

    Heather

  4. Hello Jill!

    Definitely keep up using sunscreen. That is very important in regard to hyperpigmentation. I would also contact your dermatologist or your local medical spa for additional treatments. Typically, hyperpigmentation is treated with a stronger exfoliant, such as salicylic acid, or a stronger mechanical exfoliation technique such as microdermabrasion. There are natural ways to potentially lighten hyperpigmentation as well, such treating the area with lemon but this type of treatment is not guaranteed to be effective. I hope this information is helpful! Thanks again and have a great day!

    Heather

  5. Hello Yani!

    I would contact your dermatologist or your local medical spa for suggestions. Typically, hyperpigmentation is treated with a stronger exfoliant, such as salicylic acid, or a stronger mechanical exfoliation technique such as microdermabrasion. There are natural ways to potentially lighten hyperpigmentation as well, such treating the area with lemon but this type of treatment is not guaranteed to be effective. I hope this information is helpful! Thanks again and have a great day!

    Heather

  6. Hi,

    How do you treat already occurred photosensitivity burns and pigmentation?
    I have had it for 4 weeks now and it hasn’t improved on its own.

  7. Jamila I would like to know the same thing. I believe I might be frombergamot, but it might be from a different one as well not sure. I just know it’s there and has been there since Mother’s Day some days it looks okay other days it looks worse. Any sun exposure since then I’ve made sure to cover it thoroughly with a heavy-duty sunscreen. But it is not fading????

  8. I have a dark splotch on my skin due to having used pure Bergamot essential oil prior to being in the sun. How can I encourage this to fade? Frankincense? Helichrysm? Sandalwood?

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  1. Using Essential Oils Safely on Children – Mummy and Child - May 13, 2020

    […] Avoid applying citrus oils before letting your children go out as this may result in skin irritation; caution is needed when you’re using skin-related products that have photosensitizing oils (10). […]

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