. Allergopedia

Dictionary of Allergies .. Bergamot, Citrus Bergamium, Citrus Bergamia

A citrus fruit, which can act as a phototoxic agent. Fragrances are widely used in topical formulations and can cause photoallergic or phototoxic reactions. Oil of bergamot is an extract from the rind of bergamot orange (Citrus aurantium ssp bergamia) that has a pleasant, refreshing scent; until a few years ago it had been widely used as an ingredient in cosmetics but was restricted or banned in most countries because of certain adverse effects. More recently, oil of bergamot preparations have been gaining renewed popularity in aromatherapy. Oil of bergamot possesses photosensitive and melanogenic properties because of the presence of furocoumarins, primarily bergapten (5-methoxypsoralen [5-MOP]).

However, 5-MOP is also potentially phototoxic and photomutagenic. Despite its increasing application, there are only a few recent reports of phototoxic reactions to bergamot aromatherapy oil. Kaddu S,et al (2001) described two patients with localized and disseminated bullous phototoxic skin reactions developing within 48 to 72 hours after exposure to bergamot aromatherapy oil and subsequent ultraviolet exposure. One patient (case 2) had no history of direct contact with aromatherapy oil but developed bullous skin lesions after exposure to aerosolized (evaporated) aromatherapy oil in a sauna and subsequent UVA radiation in a tanning salon. This report highlights the potential health hazard related to the increasing use of psoralen-containing aromatherapy oils.

Placzek M,  et al (2007) evaluated in vitro 43 fragrances, in order to identify their phototoxic effects with a photohaemolysis test using suspensions of human erythrocytes exposed to radiation sources rich in ultraviolet (UV) A or B in the presence of the test compounds. Haemolysis was measured by reading the absorbance values, and photohaemolysis was calculated as a percentage of total haemolysis. Oakmoss caused photohaemolysis of up to 100% with radiation rich in UVA and up to 26% with radiation rich in UVB. Moderate UVA-induced haemolysis (5-11%) was found with benzyl alcohol, bergamot oil, costus root oil, lime oil, orange oil, alpha-amyl cinnamic aldehyde and laurel leaf oil. Moderate UVB-induced haemolysis was induced by hydroxy citronellal, cinnamic alcohol, cinnamic aldehyde, alpha-amyl cinnamic aldehyde and laurel leaf oil. The phototoxic effects depended on the concentration of the compounds and the UV doses administered. The authors concluded that some, but not all, fragrances exert phototoxic effects in vitro. Assessment of the correlation of the clinical effects of these findings could lead to improved protection of the skin from noxious compounds.


1. Kaddu S, Kerl H, Wolf P. Accidental bullous phototoxic reactions to bergamot aromatherapy oil. J Am Acad Dermatol.2001 Sep;45(3):458-61

2. Placzek M, Frömel W, Eberlein B, Gilbertz KP, Przybilla B. Evaluation of phototoxic properties of fragrances. Acta Derm Venereol. 2007;87(4):312-6.

Γκέλης Ν.Δ. - Λεξικό Αλλεργίας - Εκδόσεις ΒΕΛΛΕΡOΦΟΝΤΗΣ - Κόρινθος 2013

Gelis Ν.D. - Dictionary of Allergies - VELLEROFONTIS Publications - Corinth 2013