Phototoxicity: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe! - Everyday Essentials

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Phototoxicity: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe!

The sun is outside shining, the temperatures are warming up, and it’s time to dig out that summertime wardrobe from hibernation! Shorts, tank tops, and flip flops — here we come! But before you go and lather up your skin with all those DIY lotions, creams, lip balms, body oils, and perfumes you’ve had so much fun making, there is something very important we need to discuss: Phototoxicity.


So what IS phototoxicity anyways?

The term ‘phototoxicity’ just means that there are specific essential oils that when you put them on your skin and go out into the sun, can cause pretty significant damage, including severe burning, blistering, and discoloration. 

Wait, what?

Don’t worry. Even though phototoxicity isn’t something to take lightly, it’s also easy to avoid and keep yourself safe in the sun, I promise.

Phototoxicity, also called photosensitization and phototoxic contact dermatitis, is a UV light induced reaction to a photoactive substance. [1]

Some essential oils are termed ‘phototoxic,’ since they increase the likelihood of a phototoxic reaction. These oils contain certain chemical constituents with a structure that gives them the ability to absorb UV light, store it, and release it in a burst into the skin. [2] 

Reactions can occur up to 18 hours after the oil has been applied to the skin and then exposed to UV light. So even if you don’t see a reaction right away, do not assume that a reaction won’t occur later. So be careful!

Here’s a handy graphic for reference: 

What phototoxic oils does Plant Therapy carry?

You may notice that these phototoxic oils are all cold-pressed. The distillation method is extremely important, since some of these oils can also be steam distilled. When distilled, the components that cause phototoxicity are not present, so they’re safe to use in the sun.

To avoid phototoxic reactions, cover any area of the skin with a phototoxic oil on it, or just don’t use a phototoxic essential oil topically if you are concerned about sun exposure.

So which oils can you use in the sun, and still get that citrus-y smell you love?

Our website clearly states if an oil is phototoxic, and also provides maximum dilution recommendations to avoid phototoxicity. We also offer many non-phototoxic oils that still have the uplifting, citrusy aromas you love:

So even though summertime is the perfect time to discuss phototoxicity, please be aware that UV light is present all year-round. Phototoxic reactions can be painful and permanent, so use extreme caution when using phototoxic oils and being outside!

And as always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Certified Aromatherapists to learn more!



[1] “Aromahead Institute’s Aromatherapy Certification Program”

[2] Phototoxicity. Retrieved from



28 thoughts on “Phototoxicity: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe!”

  • I’m new costumer from india, just started blend of lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and tea tree essential oils with proper dilution, as your guidelines, for hair growth. but I’m facing little itching in scalp. And It’s continuous for oneday only. Now I’m feeling well. Is it a reaction or anything like that. And may I know plz about perfect blending for hair growth
    Thank you

    1. Hello, You would only want to do a 1% dilution on your head. So I would only use Rosemary for 1 week then switch to Tea tree the next week, then the next week switch to different oil. That way you are not getting too many oils on your scalp. Rosemary, Tea Tree, and Peppermint are going to be your best options to help with hair growth. We hope this helps!

  • I have looked everywhere, but most websites mention bitter orange oil as being phototoxic, but none mention if it is still phototoxic if steam distilled, can you help? Are all orange oils safe when steam distilled? Also almost all the natural organic products with Spf have essential oils in that are phototoxic, it is so frustrating, I cannot find something without it in my country. Would it still be safe to use the sunscreen/moisturiser with Spf if the phototoxic oils are at the end of the list of ingredients? Hopefully it will be diluted enough to be sunsafe? I suffer from pigmentation on my face and have a light skin very susceptible to cancer. Thanks for the help!

  • This is awesome! I was freaking out about photo-toxicity with all oils that even slightly resembled citrus…glad it’s not that scarey as long as oils are used properly.

  • There is grapefruit in the Oil Cleanser ehich I have been using in my morning cleaning routine. Is it safe to use? Should I use it only at night, especially in the summer time?

    1. Danie, Grapefruit only has a risk of phototoxicity if it is used at a dilution higher than 4%. It is not used higher than that in our Oil Cleanser so you don’t need to worry about any risks! You Oil Cleanser is perfectly safe to use day or night 🙂

  • Instead of the recommended dilution, I just went straight for the steam distilled lemon. turns out the scent was better than I expected. It smell sweeter than I would have thought.

  • Thank you for this easy-to-reference list! Being that it is summer and that I’m spending more time outside, this has helped me to be more strategic about oils I’m using in my body care.

  • I have been using a mixture of lemongrass and eucalyptus in water misted on my skin for bug deterrence and a fresh scent. Is there any risk of phototoxicity with either of these oils?

    1. No phototoxicity concerns, however, Lemongrass is a skin irritant, so if you’re not using a solubilizer/emulsifier, you would be opening yourself up to more problems later due to undiluted essential oils.

  • I’m so glad Plant Therapy makes this information so easy to find in the product info. Being newer to oils and living in Florida, I’ve avoided any phototoxic reactions because of PT’s dedication to safety education.

    1. Our thoughts exactly, Jaye; We hope everyone stays safe with their oils and education is the key! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      When diluted properly at the recommended 2% Vein Aid is sun safe 🙂 I hope this helps!

    1. If you follow the recommended dilution guidelines for that oil due to phototoxicity concerns, then yes. You can safely use them outside.

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