Listen up essential oil fans: There’s an important thing to remember next time you use those soothing oils. While it’s typical to add a few drops to your wrists or neck before a relaxing yoga session, one woman learned that there’s a specific time essential oils should never be used—right before sun exposure.
In a recent Facebook post reported on by Scary Mommy, a woman named Elise Nguyen revealed that she suffered second- and third-degree burns after using doTERRA essential oils on her wrists and neck prior to a hot yoga class. Once the class was finished, Nguyen went to a tanning bed, not realizing that the combination of essential oils and UV rays would be a bad mix.
“The next day [after tanning], I noticed irritation where I applied the oil,” explained Nguyen. At first, she initially thought it was a reaction to a new laundry detergent, but after a few days had passed, Nguyen developed nasty blisters indicating a chemical burn. “Turns out, there is a teeny tiny caution on the oil that states “stay out of sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after application” or something like that,” Nguyen continued, explaining the real cause of her burns.
According to New York dermatologist, Patricia Wexler, MD, this reaction to essential oils when exposed to sunlight isn’t all that unusual: “Essential oils contain chemicals from flowers, shrubs, trees and roots, that while natural, can absorb light intensely and have phototoxic reactions with the skin,” she says. “The phototoxicity reaction increases with the amount of the oil use.”
But that’s not all, essential oils can also cause reactions on the skin even if they’re not exposed to sunlight, just like other beauty products. “Essential oils can be associated with a blistering rash on the skin due to a hypersensitivity reaction, so it’s suggested to dilute the oil with a carrier like jojoba, coconut or almond oil,” Dr. Wexler warns.
The takeaway? Don’t go out in the sun after applying essential oils, and if you’re trying out a new scent or a brand you’ve never tried before, do a patch test on your inner arm to make sure you’re not allergic to it—you’ll be happy you did.
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