There are a few essential oils that increase the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet light (the bright light used for tanning, which makes the skin darker).
If you apply these oils and receive sun exposure, you may get a severe sunburn that can be difficult to heal – some people take weeks to heal. A very small number of people are also allergic to these oils.
Bergamot essential oil is one of these oils, as well as lemon, lime and bitter orange, and many other citrus oils that fall into this category. Others like grapefruit, sweet orange and red mandarin are not photosensitive but should be used with care.
Lemon verbena, rue, euphorbia root, cumin and anemone root are another category of essential oils that are photosensitive. The last four essential oils are so underused that it doesn’t matter if you forget them, but bergamot and other more commonly used citrus oils cannot be so casual.
It is best not to use these types of essential oils until you are exposed to bright sunlight and expect to sunbathe or receive UV light.
There have been sunscreens with bergamot essential oil in them, but evidence later showed that this could cause skin cancer and people stopped using it.
Any sunburn can greatly increase the risk of skin cancer, although it usually takes 20 to 30 years to see the results. A hole in the ozone layer also increases the risk of skin cancer for people in temperate regions.
If this type of essential oil is diluted to a concentration of less than 2%, its photosensitivity disappears. Therefore, if using this type of essential oil and receiving sunlight is unavoidable, it is worth diluting the oil to reduce its concentration and avoid damage.