Health

These Painful Photos Show Why You Shouldn't Mix Essential Oils And Sun

"It was my own damn fault. But every yogi that I've talked to has no clue that this could have happened."

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This is Elise Nguyen of Wisconsin, and she has a PSA for anyone who likes essential oils and the sun.

Elise Nguyen

Her Facebook post on the topic has already been shared over 139,000 times since she posted it on April 16.

This is what happened to her neck and wrists after she applied wild orange doTERRA essential oil on the same day she went tanning.

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"I used a little bit of orange doTERRA oil right before [yoga] class to help calm me down," Nguyen told BuzzFeed Health. "And then after the class I honestly didn’t think anything of it and went tanning because I was going to a wedding in Jamaica."

About 24 hours later, she noticed what looked like hives. Her husband returned a new laundry detergent they just bought, thinking that might be the culprit.

But the reaction continued to get worse throughout the day, and by the following day she had blisters. Her friend mentioned that it looked like a chemical burn from oils, and that's when it all clicked.

Nguyen went to her primary care doctor, who confirmed that it was most likely a chemical burn.

This kind of chemical burn can happen when the oil from certain plants gets on your skin and reacts with UV rays — whether from the sun or from a tanning bed.

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It's called phytophotodermatitis, and it's often caused by oils from citrus fruits, though it can also be caused by other plants.

"It doesn't have to be in essential oil formulation," dermatologist Dr. Diane Madfes, associate clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told BuzzFeed Health. "It can just be the regular citrus — lemons, limes, and oranges."

So, yes, it can also be a painful result of enjoying citrus deliciousness outside, which is why it's sometimes referred to as "margarita dermatitis."

And the sweat from the yoga class probably didn't help, said Madfes.

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Normally when you sweat, those salty drops eventually evaporate. "When using essential oils on top, you’re actually making a seal," said Madfes. "That may also be irritating to the skin."

"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 wrote in her Facebook post.

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"I'm not blaming the company, it was my own damn fault. But every yogi that I've talked to has no clue that this could have happened," she wrote.

So if you know you're going to be out in the sun, skip the essential oils (or put them on at night).

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And if the damage is already done and you're noticing a reaction, Madfes suggests dipping a paper towel in a bowl of whole milk with ice cubes, then applying that to the area for 5-10 minutes. "The protein in it is very soothing, and it will take some of the redness out," Madfes said.

Then head to your doctor, dermatologist, or nearest urgent care to have them take a look. They may recommend aspirin for the inflammation, antibiotic ointment, or prescription burn medicine.

Different areas of the body will heal from this at different rates, said Madfes; you can typically expect the face to start healing in about a week, the neck in about 7-10 days, and the arms and legs in about two weeks. The reaction typically leaves behind a darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation), which can last 3-6 months; so make sure to use plenty of sunscreen on the area, said Madfes. And don't freak out — it'll eventually go back to normal.

"I just want people to know," said Nguyen. "I don’t want them to go through this because the pain was awful. It was absolutely horrendous."

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"There were nights where I would lay in bed just trembling because it hurt so bad."

Luckily, Nguyen told us that it's finally starting to heal.

Nguyen told BuzzFeed Health that she never expected the post to get as big as it is.

"I initially posted it so just my friends could see it, and one of my friends said, 'Would you mind putting this as a public post so I can share it with more of my friends?'"

It's now been shared more than 139,000 times.