Those with a formal education in the safe use of essential oils are knowledgeable about the ‘phototoxicity‘ of some essential oils, especially those in the Rutaceae plant family.
With the warmer weather and as we are spending more time outside, check to see which essential oils are in your skincare products. Tisserand & Young (2014, Essential Oil Safety, second edition) and the relevant scientific literature discuss these 5 essential oils. Check your skincare product ingredient lists for these essential oils:
Tisserand & Young’s safety protocols refer to expressed fruit peels and not distilled (lime can now be found distilled) or rectified (you can find bergaptene-free bergamot). These safety guidelines also apply to anyone using a tanning bed. Avoid the sun and tanning beds for 12 hours after application of phototoxic essential oils over the recommended safe concentration level.
Maximum dermal use level to avoid phototoxic reactivity (Tisserand & Young, 2014):
• Grapefruit: blend at 4% or less
• Lemon: blend at 2% or less
• Lime: blend at 0.7% or less
• Bitter Orange: blend at 1.25% or less
• Bergamot: blend at 0.5% or less (Butje’s recommendation only)
According to Andrea Butje, sweet orange, tangerine, and green mandarin are not phototoxic. Butje goes on to provide blending concentration levels that according to her, are safe to use. But you need to do your research and know how to blend by calculating concentration levels.
The general safety guideline is avoid sunlight and tanning beds for a minimum of 12 hours after topical application of phototoxic essential oils (Canadian Federation of Aromatherapy). Personally, to stay absolutely safe, I avoid using these essential oils in my skincare products during the summer and am cautious during the colder months.
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