You may’ve heard that some essential oils—citrus oils in particular—have phototoxic properties. The rumor mill says you should avoid them altogether. But like many factoids you can find on the ‘net, the concept is both true and false. Let’s get educated.
“Phototoxic” sounds scary, especially if you don’t know what it means. “Photo” means having to do with the sun, while “toxic” means poisonous or harmful. Phototoxicity is the most common type of photosensitivity—an immune system reaction to sunlight. This occurs when you take a medicine or use a topical treatment that causes your skin to react to the sun’s burning ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Symptoms of a phototoxicity reaction are similar to a bad sunburn, including hives and blisters. These symptoms can cause damage to skin cells, and can be severe in some cases.
Does this mean you shouldn’t use citrus essential oils on your face?
Fortunately, NO. You can use citrus essential oils as part of your skincare routine—if you do it safely and approach it as a smart, well-informed consumer. The first step is to learn about phototoxicity and essential oils to help save your skin from unnecessary damage.
Citrus oils have many amazing skin benefits, so it makes sense to use them wisely as part of a healthy skincare regimen.
Phototoxicity and Essential Oils: What You Need to Know
Safety is of the utmost importance when using any type of essential oil on your skin. Some types of citrus essential oils can cause phototoxic reactions when they’re applied the skin without dilution. However, phototoxicity doesn’t occur when safe concentrations of citrus oils are used.
An analysis done by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review determined that citrus oils are safe in the small amounts found in cosmetic products. The International Fragrance Association recommends using citrus oils in concentrations of no more than 4% in products meant for use on your face. (LUXE Botanics uses essential oil concentrations of less than 0.4% in all our skincare products. This is well below the amount known to cause a phototoxic reaction—and more importantly, the astounding skincare benefits outweigh the costs (especially because there are no costs in this case!))
What Are Citrus Oils?
Citrus essential oils are made from the concentrated rinds, or peels, of citrus fruits. In cosmetic applications, citrus oils are usually made by cold-pressing, which is a method of mechanically extracting the oil from the rind. Some common examples of citrus oils include sweet orange, lemon, bergamot, lime, grapefruit, neroli and tangerine. These oils are both pleasant to smell and good for your skin when diluted.
Skin Benefits of Citrus Oils
Citrus oils have several amazing applications for skincare. It would be a shame to miss out on these benefits because of a fear of phototoxicity, especially since their use in our products is completely safe. Here are some of the skin benefits of citrus oils.
Citrus Oils Are Extraordinary Antioxidants
A study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Plants in 2011 found that citrus oils have antioxidant properties when used in skincare. Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals—chemical particles that can damage your skin cells. Damaged skin cells occur naturally as you age, and they can also be caused by the sun, stress, your environment and your diet. When free radicals damage your skin cells, you skin appears aged, stressed and lifeless. The study found that using citrus oils on your skin in safe concentrations helps fight skin damage, and could even make your skin look younger. Citrus oils effectively rejuvenate cells and brighten your skin.
Citrus Oils Are Anti-Inflammatory
Clinical trials have proven that citrus oils are strongly anti-inflammatory. This means these oils reduce inflammation in your skin. Inflammation is an immune system reaction to a perceived problem in your skin cells. Inflammation can cause your skin to look red and irritated. Anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as citrus oils, help soothe skin and combat inflammation.
Citrus Oils Can Help Treat Acne
Acne is a major skin problem for people at all stages of life. Several studies have shown that citrus oils can help treat and prevent acne in test subjects. The reason for this is because citrus oils are toxic to the bacteria that causes acne.
Aromatherapy Benefits of Citrus Oils
Not only can citrus oils help you have younger-looking, clearer skin, they can also help enhance your mental well-being through aromatherapy. Smelling citrus oils as you use your daily skin care products can help you reduce stress and enhance your mood. A 2011 study of elementary school teachers in Taiwan found that smelling bergamot essential oil lead to reduced blood pressure and heart rate. That’s awesome!
Citrus oils hold a host of benefits for your skin and even your mental health. If used correctly, such as in the small, strategic amounts in LUXE Botanics formulations, citrus oils are completely safe to use on skin. They can even help make your skin look young, bright and clear.
We'd love to know how citrus oils have benefited your body and mind. Share your stories with us on Instagram @LuxeBotanics and #NatureToNurture!
The LUXE Botanics Team
the first time i used my sweet orange essential oil, i used too much in my bath, and had a painful reaction all along my legs. I would say to test it on a small patch of skin, and keep aloe vera nearby just in case the first time. Once you know how it affects you, you can decide if you need to dilute it or not! for example, i use only one drop in epsom salts to dilute it, and i haven’t had a reaction since!