What is Limonene?

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Limonene is a terpene, and is found naturally in the skin of citrus fruits, including orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit.  

Limonene is a colorless, liquid hydrocarbon, and is classified as a cyclic monoterpene with the molecular formula C10H16.

Limonene has 3 isomers:

  1. D-limonene, also known as (R)-limonene, (+)-limonene, is found abundantly in citrus fruits.
  2. L-limonene, also known as (S)-limonene, (−)-limonene, is found in pine needles and cones.
  3. DL-limonene, also called dipentene, is a mixture of D-limonene and L-limonene.

These limonene isomers are found in different amounts and ratios in various plants. The predominant form of limonene is D-limonene, which is present in nearly 98% of all citrus oils (Anandakumar et al, 2021).

D-limonene is the main constituent of cold-pressed essential peel oils from citrus fruits, including sweet orange, bitter orange, grapefruit, mandarin, lemon, lime and bergamot. 

For instance:

Orange essential oil contains ~ 95% limonene.

Mandarin essential oil contains ~75% limonene.

Bergamot essential oil contains 45% limonene.

D-Limonene has a fresh, pleasant citrus aroma. However, the purer the D-limonene is, the less odor it has (Chiralt et al, 2002; Sell et al, 2004; Kvittingen et al, 2021). 

Commercially, D-limonene is isolated from orange peel. The cruder the D-limonene is, the more impurities it contains, and the more it will smell like orange (Kvittingen et al, 2021). 

Our Wild Orange Facial Cleanser contains wild orange essential oil, sweet orange essential oil and bergamot essential oil, which all contain D-limonene.

Learn More:

Is D-Limonene Safe for Your Skin?

Why is Limonene used in Skincare?

Limonene is a Permeation Enhancer and Boosts Skin Absorption of Vitamins


Anandakumar P, Kamaraj S, Vanitha MK. D-limonene: A multifunctional compound with potent therapeutic effects. J Food Biochem. 2021 Jan;45(1):e13566. 

Bråred Christensson, J. B., Forsstrom, P., Wennberg, A. M., Karlberg, A. T., and Matura, M. 2009. Air oxidation increases skin irritation from fragrance terpenes. Contact Dermatitis 60: 32–40.

Chiralt, A.Martínez-Monzó, J.Cháfer, T.Fito, P. Limonene from Citrus. In Functional Foods, Biochemical and Processing AspectsShi, J.Mazza, G.Le Maguer, M., Eds.; CRC PressBoca Raton, FL2002; Vol. 2, pp 169– 187.

Kvittingen L, Sjursnes BJ, Schmid R. Limonene in Citrus: A String of Unchecked Literature Citings? J. Chem. Educ. 2021, 98, 11, 3600–3607.

Sell, C. S. Scent through the Looking GlassChem. Biodiversity 200411899– 1920.

Aroma Essential Oil Safety Essential Oils Limonene Natural Ingredients Terpenes

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