A Complete Guide to Citrus Essential Oils


Citrus essential oils offer some of the most evocative, uplifting and cleansing aromas of all the essential oil family.

Commonly associated with the Mediterranean and warmer climes, these zesty, top note fragrances have a multitude of uses around the home whatever the time of year.

A brief history of citrus fruits

Believed to have originated in the tropical regions of South East Asia, the first known introductions of the citrus family to Europe occurred over 2,000 years ago. Historians believe that by 300 A.D. lemons, oranges and limes were being grown in Italy and from there the citrus fruit family was spread throughout the continent and beyond.

While citrus fruits are best known for their scent, they are also packed with natural health benefits and we now know that the two go hand in hand. Citrus fruits gain their fragrance from high concentrations of limonoids and flavonoids which are known to have strong antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Citrus fruits are also well known for their high levels of vitamin C.

What are citrus essential oils?

Citrus essential oils is the collective name for the group of essential oils that are derived from members of the citrus family. Some of the most commonly used citrus oils include lemon essential oil, sweet orange essential oil and bergamot essential oil. They’ve been used for centuries in aromatherapy, hair and skin care and even household cleaning products and insect repellents.

Find out how to make your own citrus essential oil insect repellent.

Where do citrus essential oils come from?

While most essential oils are derived from steam distillation, citrus essential oils are almost always extracted by cold pressing the fruit rinds. That’s because the majority of the goodness and fragrance actually resides in the skin of the fruit.

Cold pressing, also known as expression, sees the citrus fruits passed through expression machinery that prick the surface of the rind several times over. This helps to release the essential oils within which are then filtered and centrifuged from any water or fruit flesh that is gathered during the process. The result is high quality, pure citrus oils that maintain all of the fragrance and many of the benefits of the original fruit.

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Citrus essential oil uses:

Citrus oil fragrances are often associated with summer, heat and light moods but these powerful essential oils have so many uses that it would be a waste to keep them gathering dust for nine months of the year. In fact, there are many who claim that citrus oils are especially good for improving low moods – good news for anyone who finds the long dark winter a challenging time.

Here’s a handful of our favourite citrus essential oil uses including links to some of our great homemade recipes:


We’ll start with arguably the most transformative use of these wonderful oils. There are several citrus oils that have been long recommended for easing anxiety and reducing irritability. Bergamot and Neroli essential oil have been the basis of studies into reducing stress while others turn to lime, grapefruit and sweet orange for their relaxing and uplifting fragrances. For best results, we recommend using a diffuser to introduce your preferred fragrance to the room. Alternatively, add your favourite citrus oil to one of our brilliant essential oil bath bombs for the ultimate soak.


Citrus oils are used extensively by big companies in all manor of cleaning products. Unfortunately, this is normally alongside strong chemicals and in a single use plastic bottle. Thankfully, it’s easy to make your own cleaning products using some basic natural ingredients and the power of citrus essential oils! Brilliant at killing germs and fighting pathogens, citrus oils can be added to homemade cleaning products for a cheap, natural alternative to the nasty chemicals.

Check out our two part guide to homemade cleaning products.

Health benefits

While we’re not qualified to promote the possible health benefits of citrus essential oils, there is a lot of information available on the internet from reputable sources promoting the impact that the citrus oil range can have on various conditions and ailments. These include respiratory problems, anxiety relief, skin conditions and skin complaints. As always, we strongly recommend due diligence and consulting a GP before going down a road of self-treatment.


Most citrus essential oils offer anti-aging properties and are commonly used in a huge range of skincare creams and lotions. They also feature heavily in the treatment of oily skin, acne, dermatitis and stretch marks. Our gorgeous essential oil body scrubs are a great way to get the benefits of citrus oils on your skin.

Insect repellent

There’s a reason those shop bought bug sprays, candles and incense repellents always whiff of citronella and that’s because citrus oils make great insect deterrents. We’ve put together a really simple, two ingredient recipe for making your own natural insect repellent that will keep those pesky bugs at bay.


By now we all know that germs are everywhere and in the last decade there’s been an explosion in the market for commercial hand sanitiser products. Packed with chemicals and some receiving significant negative attention in recent years, we think it’s best to stick to natural solutions that you can make at home. Check out this nifty homemade hand sanitiser recipe.


Whilst known for their calming effect, citrus oils like sweet orange essential oil and lemon essential oil can also have an energy boosting, uplifting and stimulating effect. Try diffusing a little lemon oil when you’re feeling low and your mood will lift in no time.

Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Our favourite citrus essential oils

The citrus family provides us with some of the most commonly used essential oils including Bergamot, Blood Orange, Lemon, Lime, Neroli, Grapefruit and Sweet Orange. All of these wonderful oils share several key properties that are claimed to vitalise the skin, treat insect bites and improve well-being; as well as a range of other health benefits.

Anyone just starting their exploration into citrus essential oils however may want to start out with a handful of products so we’ve drawn up this shortlist of our five favourites:

Sweet orange essential oil

With a list of health benefits as long as your arm, sweet orange essential oil is a must have for anyone dipping their toe in the citrus oil waters. From helping to ease anxiety to inducing a restful nights sleep, there’s no shortage of claims that sweet orange oil has a positive impact on users. Most of all, however, we just love its energising aroma and find it impossible not to feel uplifted by this punchy oil.

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Sweet Orange Essential Oil

If you’re wondering ‘what’s the difference between sweet orange essential oil and orange essential oil?’ – there isn’t one. The word ‘sweet’ is just used to help distinguish it from the rest of the orange oil family.

Bergamot essential oil

Antiseptic and deodorising, bergamot essential oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils and pops up everywhere from pain relief to the flavouring of Earl Grey tea! Commonly cited as a mood lifter and relaxant, bergamot oil has a distinctive fragrance with citrusy base notes and a spicy edge that make it a popular ingredient in perfumes.

We love using bergamot essential oil in our office diffuser to freshen the air and lighten the mood, while it’s also great in massage oils where its skin enriching and relaxing properties instantly ease everyday stresses.

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Bergamot Essential Oil

Petitgrain essential oil

Another oil steam distilled from the mighty orange tree is petitgrain essential oil. While sweet orange oil is extracted from the rind of the fruit, petitgrain comes from the distillation of the fresh leaves and young twigs of the tree. Packed with benefits, its uses extend from being a flavouring agent for food and drink to a great deodorant; neutralising body odour and limiting the growth of bacteria.

We love petitgrain essential oil for its energy boosting qualities and love adding a few drops to shower gel for a luxuriously aromatic steam shower.

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Petitgrain Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil

As mentioned higher up the page, lemons have been used for thousands of years around the globe both in cooking and everyday life for a myriad of different uses. Best known for its antibacterial and cleansing properties, lemon essential oil is made by cold pressing the nutrient rich skin of the fruit and has a distinctly refreshing scent.

Around the web and in textbooks you’ll find recommendations for using lemon oil to treat all manner of things, from nausea to oral hygiene. Whilst we’re happy to leave these recommendations to the professionals, we definitely feel there’s a place in every home for this evocative fragrance.

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Lemon Essential Oil

Grapefruit essential oil

The last of our five favourite citrus oils comes from the almighty grapefruit. Well known for its ability to cleanse the body and naturally high in antioxidants and stress reducing chemicals, the grapefruit also gives us an essential oil that’s claimed uses range from improving hair and skin health to assisting weight loss.

We love grapefruit essential oil for its antibacterial properties around the home and its ability to clear the fog and energise with its fresh uplifting fragrance.

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Grapefruit Essential Oil

Citrus essential oils – Warnings and best practice

As with all essential oils there is no shortage of information online dedicated to the many things citrus essential oils can be used for. Here’s our advice on how to approach using citrus oils with due care and respect.

Health benefits

At Freshskin Beauty we are huge advocates of the many benefits of citrus essential oils. However, we urge you to do your own research and always seek trusted information before using any essential oil to treat your health or medical conditions. Each oil should be respected and used in strict accordance with guidelines set out by the manufacturer. Always consult your GP before using topically or directly on the skin, especially if you are pregnant of suffering from a serious health condition. The same applies to using essential oils on children and young adults.

A diffuser is a safe and wonderful way to enjoy the benefits of citrus essential oils, especially if you’re looking to ease yourself into aromatherapy.

Check for quality

When using citrus oils always check that they are 100% pure essential oils without anything else added. Essential oils with added ingredients are more likely to cause allergic reactions.

All Freshskin Beauty essential oils are sourced directly from the producers and pass the strict quality control set out by the European Safety Guidelines. By cutting out the middlemen we can be sure that nothing but the purest essential oils go into every Freshskin product.

Using citrus oils on your skin

Citrus oils, like all essential oils are highly concentrated and some can be irritating, toxic or cause an allergic reaction. Always do your due diligence before considering using essential oils topically and speak to your doctor or a qualified aromatherapist for professional advice.

The same applies to ingesting essential oils. While there are claims that certain oils will help you lose weight or improve digestive issues, we strongly advise seeking professional advice and doing some proper research before considering the ingestion of any essential oil.

Citrus essential oil phototoxicity

Some essential oils can cause a phototoxic reaction when applied on the skin before going in the sun. Citrus oils especially are well known for causing phototoxic reactions and we recommend playing it safe when using them topically and exposing your skin to UV rays.

Phototoxic reactions can occur up to 24 hours after applying essential oil on the skin, so our top tip is to stick with a diffuser or aroma stick and enjoy the benefits safely without having to worry about the risks of a nasty reaction.

Whichever citrus essential oils you decide to use, there’s no denying their ability to raise spirits with the zesty, evocative fragrances produced by this amazing family of fruits.

We love adding citrus oils to homemade cleaning products, soaps and candles but best of all, you can’t beat the simplicity of adding a few drops of bergamot or sweet orange to the diffuser for an instant mood lifter.