Grapefruit For Skincare

I love the lip-puckering tart freshness of grapefruit in a tossed green salad or in a dessert, but to be perfectly honest, I love it even more as a skin care ingredient.

Let's take a look at what this tangy fruit has to offer with topical use, shall we?

Grapefruit (INCI: Citrus Paradisii)

There are numerous varieties of grapefruit ranging from ruby red to pink to white. 

Regardless of variety, grapefruits all carry the same INCI name. This can make for some confusion when shopping for essential oils or hydrosols.


Furocourmarins is the term used for the phototoxic and genophototoxic components of a plant that are responsible for causing sun sensitization. Grapefruit contains furocourmarins.

There are numerous tests and studies on consumption as well as application of furocoumarin-rich substances and the reactions they cause.

The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP) concluded in 2005 that
‘the data provided so far has not ruled out the photo-toxicity of any furocoumarin.’
and recommended
‘In the absence of any additional new data demonstrating the safety of any of the furocoumarinlike substances, the SCCP reemphasise that total concentrations of furocoumarins exceeding 1 ppm in any finished cosmetic product will be of concern with regard to consumer safety.’
Some plants are more rich in furocoumarins than others, and even though grapefruit is - comparatively - on the milder end of the scale, extra caution must be taken when using it in any product - most particularly in leave-on products.

The Essential Oil - What's In it

One of the main components (up to 95%) of the essential oil is limonene. Other components include linalool, terpinine, pinene, cirtronellol, and myrcene (along with a few more).

Essential oil from white grapefruit has a slightly bitter, tangy scent with a light yellowy color while essential oil from pink grapefruit  offers a sweet/tart scent and has a yellowy/orangy color. I haven't yet seen an essential oil from the ruby red variety available anywhere.

Grapefruit essential oil has been a staple in my stock for years because it not only smells divine, fresh and uplifting, but lends itself to many different uses and blends.

An Oil With No Sun Sensitizing Components 

It is possible to source grapefruit essential oil without any content of furocourmarins - which came to my attention while researching this ingredient.

The furocoumarin-free oil is made from grapefruits grown in Florida. I'm not sure if it is the variety of the fruit or the production process, but I will be ordering this to give it a bit of scrutiny in the lab.

Essential Oil Mixing Tip: Try mixing grapefruit essential oil (from pink grapefruits) with juniper for a surprising and quite pleasant olfactory experience.

The Essential Oil- What's Not In it

There are statements circulating the net that the essential oil is rich in vitamin C, but I can't seem to find any evidence of this anywhere. What I keep running into is descriptions of the vitamin-C-rich fruit under 'more info' at the different suppliers of the essential oil.

This kind of 'product information' could quite easily have lead some to assume the essential oil is also vitamin-C rich.

If you have info on documentation of the oil containing vitamin C, please do leave a comment.


Grapefruit aromatic water is a byproduct of the steam distillation of grapefruit essential oil.

The American producers promise a high concentration of aromatic molecules which should bring the ultimate olfactory experience (and let's face it - we do indeed try everything with our noses first when it comes to cosmetics)


Here is a list of properties attributed to grapefruit essential oil and hydrosol for topical applications and uses
  • battles excessive sweating
  • cleanses 
  • tightens pores
  • soothes itchiness
  • tones the skin
  • soothes itchy scalp
  • cellulite buster
  • antidepressant
  • activates lymphatic system
  • useful for acne treatment

My personal experience would beg to differ with claims of cellulite busting and battling excessive sweating (said the person who went through menopausal sweatiness to the umpteenth degree).

I would however happily sign off on grapefruit oil and hydrosol for soothing itchiness, cleansing, toning, and pore-tightening. The remaining claims I have no experience with and couldn't say one way or the other.

Do Tell

What are your experiences with grapefruit essential oil or hydrosol?


Anastasia Messer, Anna Nieborowski, Christian Strasser, Christiane Lohr, Dieter Schrenk, Major furocourmarins in grapefruit juice 1: Levels and urinary metabolites, 

Phytophotodermatitis, International Dermatology Society, Electronic Texbook of Dermatology

Schlatter J1, Zimmerli B, Dick R, Panizzon R, Schlatter C., Dietary intake and risk assesment of phototoxic fucomarins in humans, PubMed

Scientific Committee on Consumer Products, Opinion on fucoumarins in cosmetic products

Safety Assessment of Citrus-Derived Ingredients as used in Cosmetics, Cosmetics Ingredient Review, Dec 2013

Forbes PD, Urbach F, and Davies RE. Phototoxicity testing of fragrance raw materials. Fd Cosmet Toxicol. 1977;15:55-60.

Giuliana Moreno, Roy H. Pottier, Terence G. Truscott, Springer Science & Business Media, Photosensitization, molecular cellular and medical aspects, June 2013

Grapefruit Oil, Essential Oil with Antioxidant benefits, Mercola