Lessons From Woman’s Scary Reaction to Her Essential Oils

Posted on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 by Rebecca Graham

In an unfortunate Facebook post that’s gone viral this week, Elise Nguyen shared her experience using an essential oil while tanning that resulted in third-degree burns. Nguyen describes applying doTerra essential oil directly from the bottle on to her skin and then heading into a tanning bed. This caused her to have severe burns on her neck and wrists and from the pictures, it looks painful! 


While she doesn’t blame doTerra (and neither do we) for the burns she does say that essential oil users should take precautions when using these powerful oils on the skin. Like many oils that are photosensitive a warning label was on the bottle to avoid “sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after application”, which highlights the importance of reading instructions and best practices before using any type of topical oil product.

The benefits of using essential oils for many health, relaxation and medicinal purposes are vast and with proper care and education you will see why they are known to be some of the world’s most therapeutic compounds.

In light of this unfortunate occurrence we thought it would be beneficial to our customers to reiterate the precautions that should be taken before, while and after using any essential oils.

Read all labels and instructions before applying oil directly on to your skin

Taking an extra few minutes to read the bottle label and any information that the oil comes with can help prevent burns, rashes or scars in the future. Warning labels provide important ingredient information that may be vital to the application process. Good Housekeeping states, “If exposed to sunlight (which gives off UV radiation) after topical application of a photosensitive oil, the skin may become temporarily darkly pigmented, red, or irritated. Exposing photosensitive skin to sunlight can also increase risk for cancer.”

Always do a patch test

Essential oils are powerful and there’s a reason why they have been shown to work for a variety of reason and uses. While essential oils are safe to use, some strains are known to pack more of a powerful punch than others. Birnur Aral, PhD, explains that just because something like an essential oil seems totally natural doesn't mean that it's okay to skim over warnings and instructions. It's important to understand how to use (and not use) a product, no matter what it is.

"Products marketed as essential oils can contain high levels of a single or a mixture of plant oils that can be harsh on sensitive skin." Aral explained. "We consumers tend to think that anything plant-derived is 'natural' and therefore innocuous, which may not always be the case."

As beneficial as many essential oils are, our advice when applying to your skin is to test a small area before using the oil for a full application. Ideally patch testing at least 24 hours in advance can give you a good indication of any potential reactions, as rare as they are.

Warning signs to stop using the oil immediately:

If an oil feels hot or causes any discomfort, add more carrier oil to dilute the potency. Don't try to wash it off with water - that may drive the oils further into your body.

If you have any symptoms like a rash, nausea, headaches, etc., stop applying the oil and try a different one.

If you develop a sensitization to an oil, start varying your usage - many essential oils can often be used for the same issue. So instead of depending on just one oil, use two or three different oils individually, diluting as needed.

Dilute It

This is an important consideration. We recommend using essential oils in diluted form whenever possible. Essential oils in their natural state come from plants and even after being strained into oil, just like plants, the oil can be known to cause reactions. While essential oils are safe to use, applying them in large applications over large areas of the skin, especially if you haven’t tested it on your skin before, may or may not cause reactions.

That’s why were frequently recommend our readers to use oil infusers or dab the oil in a very small area of the skin. When it comes to many essential oils a little goes a long way. Some ways to dilute an essential oil can be to mix it with coconut, grapeseed, vegetable or olive oil.

Photosensitive Oils

Some oils are sensitive to the sun or are photosensitive in general. Good practice suggests not only diluting these oils but to keep away from UV exposure of any kind within 12-24 hours of use (tanning beds included.)

Photosensitive oils include:

  • - Angelica
  • - Bergamot
  • - Cumin
  • - Ginger
  • - Lemon
  • - Lime
  • - Limette
  • - Mandarin
  • - Orange
  • - Yuzu

As the power and benefits of essential oils are becoming more and more we also need to make sure that we are using them in the way they are meant to be used. We wish Ms. Nguyen a fast and speedy recovery from her ordeal.  For any other questions regarding proper use of essential oils, feel free to reach out to us.

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