Accidental bullous phototoxic reactions to bergamot aromatherapy oil

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2001 Sep;45(3):458-61. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2001.116226.


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. We describe 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.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Aromatherapy / adverse effects*
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic / diagnosis*
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Phototoxic / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Facial Dermatoses / chemically induced
  • Facial Dermatoses / diagnosis*
  • Facial Dermatoses / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects*
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / chemically induced
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / diagnosis*
  • Skin Diseases, Vesiculobullous / pathology


  • Allergens
  • Plant Oils
  • bergamot oil