Essential oils are no different. There are a number of essential oils that have chemical components that, while completely natural, need to be used with caution.
Toxicity in essential oils comes in two forms:
- Phototoxicity - these essential oils become toxic when exposed to direct sunlight. These oils are fine in candles, but shouldn't be used in any sort of application where the essential oil will stay on your skin and be exposed to the sun. Using these oils in soap is o.k. because it is rinsed off, but using them in a balm or a lotion is not recommended because the essential oils stay on your skin.
- Plain Old Toxicity - at certain levels, these essential oils will make you sick, or hurt you in some way - whether in the light or not. Several of them can be used safely in soap making and candle making, but you need to exercise caution and moderation, which usually means using them in low concentrations.
Phototoxic Essential Oils
- angelica root
- bergamot (unless it's specified as "bergaptene-free")
- lime (just the cold expressed oil, not the steam distilled)
- mandarin (possibly)
- orange (unless it's a "folded" orange - luckily, most are)
- anise (star)
- bay laurel
- bay (West Indian)
- camphor (white)
- cedarwood (Virginian)
- cinnamon (leaf)
- clove (bud)
- fennel (sweet)
- pepper (black)
- sage (Spanish)
- thyme (white)
The key here, as with any of the other potentially hazardous chemicals or ingredients we use in our candles and soap making, is to know what you're using...and be careful!
Another note: This list is not comprehensive of every single essential oil that may cause harm. It is for general information and reference only.