You might never have heard of bergamot oil, but there's no way you haven't tried Earl Grey tea. And if you enjoy the unique scent of Earl Grey tea, then you can be sure you'll enjoy bergamot oil on your skin.
Plenty of essential oil enthusiasts place bergamot essential oil as their top choice for aromatherapy, as a flavoring in their favorite drink, or as a key ingredient in their skincare blend. (And we love homemade skincare blends as much as we love our Clear Skin Duo Kit).
We know it can be hard to pick a favorite essential oil, but there are many reasons you should include bergamot oil in your daily skincare routine - its uplifting aroma, anti-inflammatory properties, and health benefits, to name a few. You can even blend it with other essential oils to create your own distinctive scent.
So, let's discuss what bergamot oil is, what it's made of, and how it can benefit your skin. However, like with most popular essential oils, there are some things you should know. We'll also cover the side effects to keep in mind before applying bergamot oil to your skin and teach you how to use it safely.
Let's dive in.
Bergamot oil comes from the bergamot tree (Citrus bergamia), which belongs to the Rutaceae or Citrus fruit family. The fragrant citrus fruit of this tree is a cross between a lemon and an orange - it has a small pear-shaped form with yellow color. Bergamot orange trees are found in warm, dry, and sunny climates.
The bergamot orange tree's scent is what gives bergamot its popularity in the perfumery industry. Bergamot has a powerful and unique fragrance, which makes it an important constituent in many perfumes.
In ancient times, the benefits of bergamot essential oils could not be understated. Bergamot fruit juice was used to treat malaria and intestinal worms. However, over the years, its uses have changed. Looking back, people used bergamot oils as an antiseptic, a way to reduce fevers, and even as a flavoring in black tea. It was also used to treat bladder infections and soothe acne, skin rashes, eczema, sores, and sore throats. People used it to reduce obesity, depression, gingivitis, flatulence, loss of appetite, and compulsive behaviors.
As science progressed, we found that bergamot oil might not be effective for all the above-mentioned ailments, but it still possesses powerful antioxidative, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. The bergamot essential oil benefits are endless.
We know that the unique scent of bergamot essential oil is calming for our nerves and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress. The a-pinene and limonene in bergamot oil are refreshing and stimulating to the nervous system.
Let's put bergamot oil under the microscope and see the components which give this oil its characteristic properties.
Bergamot Essential oil is composed of various chemical constituents, including a-pinene, myrcene, limonene, a-bergaptene, b-bisabolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, nerol, neryl acetate, geraniol, geraniol acetate, and a-terpineol.
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, the oil has around forty-six compounds. However, the authors concluded that fifteen compounds account for 98.52% of the oil. This essential oil was characterized by a high content of limonene (59.21%), linalool (9.51%), and linalyl acetate (16.83%).
Limonene has strong antioxidative properties. When applied topically, limonene enhances the penetration of other products, making the skin more sensitive. The highly volatile antioxidant compounds calm the skin. However, it can also make the skin more sensitive and more prone to phototoxicity when exposed to air.
Linalool is a frequent ingredient in many essential oils that have therapeutic properties, including anti-anxiety, sedative, and anti-inflammatory effects.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes linalool on its list of substances considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). If you suffer from pain and inflammation, linalool is a great ingredient to have in your essential oils blend.
Linalyl Acetate helps balance the natural oils in our skin, which means it's a suitable ingredient for both dry and oily skin. It also reduces inflammation and redness and heals rashes.
Bergamot oil is suitable for all skin types. Coming from the citrus fruit family, bergamot essential oil can balance the oils in our skin and prevent future breakouts. This is because it keeps the sebum production balanced. At the same time, when blended with a powerful carrier oil, bergamot can improve skin health by soothing dryness, reducing skin inflammation and redness, and moisturizing.
It's considered safe for sensitive skin. However, if you apply bergamot essential oil to your skin and then expose it to sunlight, this can lead to skin irritation and phototoxicity.
Considering everything we've covered so far, here are some of the most recognized and science-backed benefits of using bergamot oil for the skin.
In 2012 a study published in the Journal Of Essential Oil Research examined the biological properties and cosmetic and medical uses of bergamot essential oil. It was concluded that bergamot oil could reduce inflammation. The authors believe this may be related to the presence of citropten and bergapten in the oil.
The same study above provides evidence that Citrus bergamia extracts have antibacterial properties. They show activity against several Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, as well as fungi and yeasts. It appears that flavonoid extracts of C. bergamia peel possess a strong antimicrobial activity on numerous bacteria and yeasts.
This means that bergamot oil can potentially be used as a topical treatment for dermatophytoses, along with a topical disinfectant.
One of the main concerns regarding the use of bergamot oil is its reaction to sunlight.
Bergamot oil possesses photosensitive and melanogenic properties because of the presence of furocoumarins, primarily bergapten (5-methoxypsoralen [5-MOP]).
With this in mind, you should be careful when using bergamot oil for the skin, especially if you're applying it directly as part of a homemade blend with other essential oils. Look for warnings and usage instructions on products containing bergamot essential oil.
One 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology highlightedthe need for more research and awareness of the potential health hazard related to the increasing use of psoralen-containing aromatherapy oils (such as bergamot oil).
Although bergamot oil is frequently the main ingredient in numerous perfumes, the unique fragrance's properties are quickly destroyed when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
Moreover, the application of perfumes containing bergamot oil on sunlight-exposed skin areas may provoke phototoxic side effects with edema and long-lasting erythema.
As also noted in a study from 1990 published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology, the phototoxic side effects of bergamot essential oil seem to be mainly due to 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP) rather than to other potentially phototoxic molecules in the oil. The results from the study show that applying sunscreen to perfumes containing bergamot oil can reduce the phototoxic properties of the perfumes themselves. Still, more research is needed on this matter.
Don’t be surprised if you find sunscreen products containing bergamot oil. Some sunscreens use it to enhance the tanning induced by ultraviolet radiation. This is only possible because bergamot oil causes a reaction when exposed to sunlight.
The beauty industry has found a way to use that reaction to our benefit.
Like most essential oils, using bergamot essential oil directly on the skin is much different from using a product with bergamot oil in its ingredients list. One can be dangerous, while the other is beneficial.
Before hitting the market, skincare products undergo various dermatological tests and must pass safety standards.
However, let us note that not all products are equally effective and safe. The quality of the product itself is crucial, and the discussed benefits, potential efficacy, and characteristics of bergamot oil-based products only apply to products that follow strict governmental standards and FDA approved ingredients, and reliable labeling.
The takeaway? Be aware of the product warnings and instructions for using bergamot oil.
Bergamot essential oil can cause problems for some people. Linalool (an ingredient in the oil) breaks down and becomes oxidized after contact with oxygen. This means that the ingredient becomes an irritant, which can easily trigger an allergic reaction in people with more sensitive skin.
We always recommend to do a patch test before applying anything to the skin directly, and in this case, it's especially important. Do this on thin skin like the inner elbow.
However, the good thing is you won't need to look for a specific area of your skin for an effective patch test to identify an allergic reaction. (Read our article on how to do a patch test for more details). Simply apply a small amount of the product or oil directly to the skin behind your ear and rub it in. You'll need to wait a couple of hours to see whether your skin will react. However, you should wait a few days before concluding it's safe. If nothing happens, you can implement this ingredient in your skincare routine safely.
There are many ways you can use bergamot essential oil for the skin. However, to be completely safe, we advise starting with skincare products containing small quantities of bergamot oil. Like with all essential oils, we recommend using a carrier oil before applying it directly to the skin, especially if you're using it for acne or as an aromatherapy treatment.
Let your skin get used to the ingredient before you apply it directly to the skin. Remember that there will be a higher quantity of oil in homemade remedies, which means you'll be exposed to a higher chance of phototoxicity.
Nonetheless, here are the most popular uses of bergamot oil for the skin.
If you're a fan of aromatherapy, then you'll already be familiar with bergamot oil, as it's a popular aromatherapy treatment. If you're not, maybe it's time that you get to know it better. Bergamot aromatherapy oil has a powerful and refreshing scent, as well as a soothing and calming effect on the nervous system.
The easiest way to use it is by adding a few drops of bergamot essential oil to your favorite massage oil or lotion for the next time you treat yourself to a massage.
You can also add a few drops of bergamot oil to citrus-scented homemade candles, air fresheners, and vaporizers to reap the benefits of that bergamot essential oil smell. Not to mention, bergamot essential oil blends well with lavender oil for more of a relaxing scent.
Moreover, if you dab this essential oil on a handkerchief, you can take it with you and use it as a soothing scent on the go.
Due to the powerful anti-inflammatory ability of the oil, you can use it as a spot treatment to reduce redness, soothe active acne lesions, and balance the sebum production on your skin, which will prevent further breakouts.
However, if you're struggling with sensitive skin and have another acute condition, please consult with a dermatologist before applying bergamot essential oil to your skin. The last thing you want to do is irritate it even more. There are plenty of other ingredients that are a lot more gentle and still powerful enough to kill bacteria and control acne breakouts.
To use bergamot oil as a spot treatment, mix it with a suitable carrier oil of your choice (such as coconut oil) and apply it in the evening, directly to pimples, cysts, and blackheads. Let it sit on your face for a few hours before you rinse it off with lukewarm water and go to sleep.
You can also leave the oil on overnight but never apply it in the morning before leaving the house. Exposing the skin to sunlight after using bergamot essential oil can cause phototoxicity and burns.
Looking for other skincare products to beat acne? Try Misumi's Retinol Intense Repair PM Creme.
Bergamot oil gained popularity due to its unique and strong citrusy scent. Add it to your favorite body lotion to enhance the pleasant smell left on your skin.
What if you made plans to go out but don't have any perfume left? A lotion enhanced with a few drops of bergamot essential oil can save your night and make you smell even more entrancing. You can also add it to your favorite body wash, or your favorite shampoo, as this essential oil has been known to help with hair health and hair growth.
See? The benefits of bergamot essential oils are endless.
Don't let the arguments confuse you. The fact is that bergamot essential oil can be both beneficial and potentially dangerous for our skin. For this reason, the main purpose of this article is to give you a better understanding of why and when bergamot oil can be good for your skin, and why and when it's not.
We want to teach you how to use bergamot oil in a way that'll ensure you receive all the benefits but protect yourself against the harmful side effects at the same time.