With summer just around the corner, the sun will be out and the temperatures will be up! Because of this, I want to share two important essential oil safety issues, storage considerations and photo sensitivity.
- Storage: I like to treat my essential oils like food. I try my very best not to leave my essential oils in direct sunlight or on the seat of my car when the temperatures start rising. Just like you wouldn’t leave your lunch in the car, potato salad sitting out at a picnic, or go grocery shopping and then head in to the movies on a hot day, don’t leave your essential oils in a hot car.
Heat can degrade your oils and speed up the process of oxidation which will gradually make them less potent. Some people store their less-used and more-expensive oils in the refrigerator. I don’t go this far to protect my oils inside my home, but I do try to keep them away from windows that get a lot of direct sunlight.
For this same reason I only recommend that you use a cool-mist diffuser with doTERRA essential oils and don’t recommend ever putting doTERRA essential oils on lamp-rings or in flame-based fragrance dispensers. This type of constant high-heat will give you scent but will not give you most of the therapeutic benefits of your doTERRA oils.
This also applies to cooking with your essential oils, try to add your essential oils to your recipes at the end of the cooking period when heat is on low or just simmering; you can also add them right before serving.
- Photo-sensitivity or Photo-toxicity (a sun-induced skin reaction): In the cosmetic and pharmaceutical world, there are more than 100 known substances, when ingested or applied directly to the skin, that cause a reaction known as “chemical photo-sensitivity.” As a general rule, the only essential oils that carry the risk of photo-sensitivity are citrus oils.
According to the Merck Manuals — “Phototoxicity, resembles a sunburn, but the reaction differs from sunburn in that it occurs only after the person has swallowed certain drugs (such as tetracyclines or diuretics) or chemical compounds or has applied them to the skin (such as perfume and coal tar). Some plants (including limes, celery, and parsley) contain compounds called furocoumarins that make some people’s skin more sensitive to the effects of UV light. This reaction is called phytophotodermatitis. All phototoxic reactions appear only on areas of skin that have been exposed to the sun. They usually develop within hours after sun exposure.”
So my advice is to be extra cautious when applying citrus oils, or any blends that contain citrus oils, to the skin and then exposing the skin to direct sunlight in the following 12 to 24 hours. Ingestion of citrus oils and sun exposure does not seem to carry the same risk of photo-sensitivity as topical application.
In order to provide additional safety to those of us who use doTERRA essential oils and products, the company has modified the typical distillation process for several of the citrus oils used in products that are typically applied to areas where sun exposure might occur.
- Bergamot – when cold pressed is very phototoxic — and after application sun should be avoided up to 72 hours. It is always recommended to dilute Bergamot before application. In case you didn’t know, the Bergamot in ClaryCalm has been steam distilled, which modifies the furocoumarin compounds that cause the skin to be more sensitive to UV light. (This is why doTERRA is the BEST!!!)
- Lime and Lemon (when cold pressed)
- Wild Orange
Oils that are not photo-sensitive when steam distilled or in general carry a low risk:
- Bergamot (steam distilled version in ClaryCalm)
- Lemon (steam distilled version in doTERRA skin care products)
- Lime (steam distilled version in doTERRA’s InTune blend and in doTERRA skin care products)
- Mandarin (in Citrus Bliss)