Berloque Dermatitis Clinical Presentation

Updated: Mar 04, 2016
  • Author: Ali Alikhan, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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The clinical presentation of berloque dermatitis may be classically divided into 2 phases. The initial acute inflammatory phase consists of erythema, edema, pain, pruritus, and increase in skin temperature around the area of contact with the phototoxic agent. The second stage is hyperpigmentation of the lesion. Patients usually present with small areas of redness or pigmentation of the skin, usually on sun-exposed areas, such as the neck. Pain and, sometimes, pruritus may be felt during the acute erythematous phase before the lesions become hyperpigmented. However, hyperpigmentation is the chief complaint; sometimes patients may not even recall the inflammatory phase. A careful history may reveal use of a perfume or fragrance-containing product on the skin prior to a period of sun exposure, such as sunbathing or a picnic. If untreated, the natural history of the disease also is biphasic; the inflammatory lesions resolve in days to weeks, but the pigmentation may last months or even years.



Erythema, edema, vesiculation, hyperpigmentation, and desquamation are typical phototoxic skin effects. In classic berloque dermatitis, brown hyperpigmentation with or without preceding erythema is seen in a droplike or pendantlike configuration. It usually is distributed over the sides of the neck in adult females, although it may be seen in any part of the body where perfume was applied followed by sun-exposure.

Some less typical presentations of berloque dermatitis are, for example, symmetrical facial pigmentation on a man, caused by aftershave lotion containing bergapten, and an infant who developed pigmentation on her body and arms where her mother applied eau de toilette prior to taking her to the beach.



Bergapten, or 5-methoxypsoralen, is the photoactive component of bergamot oil from the bergamot lime (C bergamia), which is a popular ingredient in perfumes and fragrances. Apart from their obvious existence in cosmetics and toiletries (such as toilet water, aftershave lotions, colognes, sunscreen lotions, moisturizers), perfumes also are found in soap, household cleaners, detergents, air fresheners, and a myriad of other everyday items.

Besides the bergamot lime, bergapten is a naturally occurring component of various other fruits and plants (see the image below). Examples of these are figs (Ficus carica), celery (Apium graveolens), lemon oil, Tromso palm (H laciniatum), Queen Anne's lace (Ammi majus), and giant Russian hogweed (H mantegazzianum). All these are capable of inducing bergapten phototoxicity, although they are not perfume-related and, therefore, classified as phytophotodermatitis rather than berloque dermatitis.

Bergapten-containing plants Bergapten-containing plants