Luxe Botanics

A botanic skincare line scientifically formulated to allow nature to nurture your skin.

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Are Citrus Oils Safe for My Skin?

You may’ve heard that some essential oils—citrus oils in particular—have phototoxic properties. The rumor mill says you should avoid them altogether. But like many factoids you can find on the ‘net, the concept is both true and false. Let’s get educated.


“Phototoxic” sounds scary, especially if you don’t know what it means. “Photo” means having to do with the sun, while “toxic” means poisonous or harmful. Phototoxicity is the most common type of photosensitivity—an immune system reaction to sunlight.[1] This occurs when you take a medicine or use a topical treatment that causes your skin to react to the sun’s burning ultraviolet (UV) rays.


Symptoms of a phototoxicity reaction are similar to a bad sunburn, including hives and blisters. These symptoms can cause damage to skin cells, and can be severe in some cases.[2]


Does this mean you shouldn’t use citrus essential oils on your face?


Fortunately, NO. You can use citrus essential oils as part of your skincare routine—if you do it safely and approach it as a smart, well-informed consumer. The first step is to learn about phototoxicity and essential oils to help save your skin from unnecessary damage.


Citrus oils have many amazing skin benefits, so it makes sense to use them wisely as part of a healthy skincare regimen.


Phototoxicity and Essential Oils: What You Need to Know

Safety is of the utmost importance when using any type of essential oil on your skin. Some types of citrus essential oils can cause phototoxic reactions when they’re applied the skin without dilution. However, phototoxicity doesn’t occur when safe concentrations of citrus oils are used.


An analysis done by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review determined that citrus oils are safe in the small amounts found in cosmetic products.[3] The International Fragrance Association recommends using citrus oils in concentrations of no more than 4% in products meant for use on your face.[4] (Luxe Botanics uses essential oil concentrations of less than 0.4% in all our skincare products. This is well below the amount known to cause a phototoxic reaction—and more importantly, the astounding skincare benefits outweigh the costs (especially because there are no costs in this case!))


f9886ab0a770c83c88f33c3b026b65c8What Are Citrus Oils?

Citrus essential oils are made from the concentrated rinds, or peels, of citrus fruits. In cosmetic applications, citrus oils are usually made by cold-pressing, which is a method of mechanically extracting the oil from the rind. Some common examples of citrus oils include sweet orange, lemon, bergamot, lime, grapefruit, neroli and tangerine. These oils are both pleasant to smell and good for your skin when diluted.


Skin Benefits of Citrus Oils

Citrus oils have several amazing applications for skincare. It would be a shame to miss out on these benefits because of a fear of phototoxicity, especially since their use in our products is completely safe. Here are some of the skin benefits of citrus oils.


Citrus Oils Are Extraordinary Antioxidants

A study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Plants in 2011 found that citrus oils have antioxidant properties when used in skincare.[5] Antioxidants are substances that fight free radicals—chemical particles that can damage your skin cells. Damaged skin cells occur naturally as you age, and they can also be caused by the sun, stress, your environment and your diet.[6] When free radicals damage your skin cells, you skin appears aged, stressed and lifeless. The study found that using citrus oils on your skin in safe concentrations helps fight skin damage, and could even make your skin look younger. Citrus oils effectively rejuvenate cells and brighten your skin.


Citrus Oils Are Anti-Inflammatory

Clinical trials have proven that citrus oils are strongly anti-inflammatory.[7] This means these oils reduce inflammation in your skin. Inflammation is an immune system reaction to a perceived problem in your skin cells. Inflammation can cause your skin to look red and irritated. Anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as citrus oils, help soothe skin and combat inflammation.


Citrus Oils Can Help Treat Acne

Acne is a major skin problem for people at all stages of life. Several studies have shown that citrus oils can help treat and prevent acne in test subjects.[8] The reason for this is because citrus oils are toxic to the bacteria that causes acne.[9]


Aromatherapy Benefits of Citrus Oils

Not only can citrus oils help you have younger-looking, clearer skin, they can also help enhance your mental well-being through aromatherapy. Smelling citrus oils as you use your daily skin care products can help you reduce stress and enhance your mood. A 2011 study of elementary school teachers in Taiwan found that smelling bergamot essential oil lead to reduced blood pressure and heart rate.[10] That’s awesome!


Citrus oils hold a host of benefits for your skin and even your mental health. If used correctly, such as in the small, strategic amounts in Luxe Botanics formulations, citrus oils are completely safe to use on skin. They can even help make your skin look young, bright and clear.


We’d love to know how citrus oils have benefited your body and mind. Share your stories with us on instagram or twitter @LuxeBotanics and #NatureToNuture!


The Luxe Botanics Team













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Eyes wide shut – A review of skincare ingredients


I recently went on a reconnaissance mission… I decided to go to my local beauty store to investigate some of the products available. As I walked into the store I felt at ease and at home, surrounded by familiar brands. I browsed the shelves for a half hour or so, picking up the bottles, reading them, putting them gently back. But as I read the ingredients lists I slowly realised – the quality of the skincare brands I had come to know and use over many years, was not as high as I originally thought it was.


After spending months researching products and ingredients for our Luxe Botanics skincare range, coupled with 20+ years of experience with various skincare products and my scientific post graduate training, I believe I have a broad understanding of the ingredients used in skincare. And what truly upsets me is that a wonderful formulation can be utterly ruined by the inclusion of even just one undesirable ingredient.


Here’s a list of ingredients to avoid. I know its long, but I encourage you to read it all, take it in, digest it, and then go rummaging through your bathroom cabinets…



Parabens are usually used as preservatives in cosmetics and beauty products. They are things like: methylparaben; propylparaben; benzylparaben and butylparaben. Just look for anything in your skincare that ends with the word –paraben. Parabens are so ubiquitous in our beauty, skincare, haircare, body care, cosmetics, deodorants, toothpastes, and even in our food and drinks that in a recent study by the Environmental Working Group; all 28 participants tested positive for methylparaben and propylparaben. [i] Parabens have been blamed for allergies and skin sensitivity and they also act on the estrogen pathways potentially having effects on the reproductive system. [ii]



These are one of the most toxic and can be found in so many things in your bathroom and around your home that it may surprise you: beauty products such as nail varnish, hair spray, most things with a synthetic fragrance (many beauty products); cleaning and kitchen products with a synthetic fragrance; air fresheners; and plastics around the home such as kitchen bowls, food wraps, children’s toys, and most vinyl. They are used to soften plastic and also help beauty formulations to moisturise and be absorbed into the skin. Phthalates are regulated as pollutants but only some are banned by some states of the USA and the European Union. [iii] Phthalates have been shown to affect the reproductive system in both men and women, and have also been linked to allergies and asthma. [iv] Look out for: dibutyl phthalate, also called DBP; diethyl phthalates, also called DEP; and butyl ester. Phthalates have made headlines in recent years, leading to LÓreal discontinuing its use in products sold in the European Union.[v]


Cosmetic fragrances/ parfum

Cosmetic fragrances are a synthetic blend of compounds to make something smell like something natural. However, in many cases there are phthalates and/or other undesirable synthetic ingredients included in this fragrance mix.[vi] Often these are associated with dermatitis, allergies, and respiratory distress. [vii] Most regulatory agencies allow cosmetic and beauty companies to simply state “fragrance” or “parfum” on their ingredients list when such a synthetic mix is use, often because this is considered a proprietary or confidential formulation.[viii] [ix] [x] [xi]



Most of the time you will see this referred to on labels as SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) or ALS (ammonium lauryl sulfate). Sulphates are responsible for that foam you get in your facewash, body wash, shampoo, bubble bath, hand wash, and many other things around the house. [xii] It’s been known to irritate the skin and eyes – so next time you get shampoo in your eyes and it hurts, read the ingredients list. There are also concerns around organ toxicity. [xiii] Some companies claim SLS is natural as it comes from coconuts, and this part is true, but the potential side effects on your skin and overall health prove that even something natural can be harmful if manufactured incorrectly. [xiv]



Commonly found in detergents, antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, face wash and deodorant, triclosan has been linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and it may also disrupt thyroid function. Look out for things like “keeps [you/ food] fresh for longer” or “odour fighting/ eliminating”.[xv]  The American Medical Association has recommended against using triclosan as it may lead to antibiotic resistance. [xvi] In 2013 the FDA released a statement requiring manufacturers of antibacterial products to prove that they were safe and more effective than plain soap and water in an effort to protect consumers from unsafe products. [xvii] The industry has been slow to respond, however some companies like Avon have begun to phase triclosan out of their products.[xviii]



DEA (diethanolamine) is commonly used to help our beauty products feel creamy – so is generally found in moisturisers and sunscreens. Similar compounds such as cocomide DEA (from coconut oil) and lauramide DEA (from lauric acid) are found in cleansers and shampoos. It has been blamed for skin and eye irritations and allergies, and high doses have been implicated in certain cancers.[xix] Other common DEAs to look out for are linoleamide DEA (from linoleic acid) and Oleamide DEA (from oleic acid).[xx]



If you remember your biology dissection classes you will know what this is and what it does to living tissue. Formaldehyde is another common preservative and antiseptic – but often under a different name. This is because there are many ingredients that, once absorbed, release the formaldehyde compound slowly over time. Good examples are: Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidzaolidinyl urea, quarternium-15 and hydroxymethylglycinate. [xxi] It is a known human carcinogen that has a suggested link to certain cancers.[xxii]



These are perhaps the most ubiquitous and yet unknown of all the undesirable ingredients in our homes. It’s quite hard to fathom just how many ingredients come from a petrochemical base. Petrochemicals in your products often breakdown into a chemical called 1,4-dioxane, which has toxic effects on the kidneys, neurologic system, and the respiratory system.[xxiii] One study from the Environmental Working Group suggested this compound could be found in 22% of cosmetic products. [xxiv] Look out for: Oxybenzone, phenoxyethanol, benzene, toluene, paraffin wax, mineral oil, polyethylene glycol (PEG), butyl- anything (butylparaben, butylene glycol, butyl alcohol), ethanol and ethyl- anything (ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, EDTA), propyl- anything (propylene glycol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol), and methyl- anything (methyl alcohol, methylparaben, methylcellulose).[xxv]



To all you ladies out there trying to achieve an even skin tone and perhaps a lighter complexion – look out for hydroquinone in your products! This is literally bleach. It’s also found in hair dyes and fragrances.[xxvi] It’s been shown to have very strong links to organ toxicity, cancers and alters immune function.[xxvii]  Other names include anything benzene or benzediol or hydroxyphenol.


I hope that this list makes it easy to understand what to look for in your favourite products.  Note that it is by no means an exhaustive list but I’ve tried to include the most common ones. However, I also urge you to weight the risks and benefits of each and to decide for yourself if you wish to continue using products that contain some of these ingredients. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great place to start your research. Here’s a simplified version of their information which you may find easier to absorb:


As always, research for yourself and make your own decisions for you and your family.

The Luxe Botanics Team


All references are below for you if you want to (or can stomach!) to read more: