What Should You Not Use Tea Tree Oil On?

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that comes from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant, native to Australia. It has been used for centuries by indigenous Australians for its medicinal properties. Today, tea tree oil is commonly used as a topical antiseptic and antifungal treatment.[1][2]

Tea tree oil contains various compounds like terpinen-4-ol that give it antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. When applied topically, tea tree oil may help fight infections and reduce skin inflammation. It’s also used as a natural remedy for dandruff, acne, athlete’s foot, and other conditions.[1] However, it’s important to dilute tea tree oil before applying it to the skin, as undiluted application can cause irritation. It should also be used with caution in certain situations like pregnancy.


It’s important to avoid using tea tree oil on sensitive skin or open wounds. Tea tree oil can cause skin irritation, redness, itching, stinging and burning, especially for those with sensitive skin (1). The Mayo Clinic advises not using tea tree oil if you have eczema, as it may worsen skin irritation (2).

One study found that 5% tea tree oil can trigger allergic skin reactions in some people. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states undiluted tea tree oil may cause skin irritation in up to 10% of folks (3).

Before using tea tree oil on your skin, do a patch test – apply a small amount to your forearm and wait 24 hours to see if any irritation develops. Always dilute with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil before applying to skin. Avoid getting tea tree oil near eyes, nose or other mucous membranes, as well as wounds or damaged skin. See a doctor if skin irritation persists after using tea tree oil.


Tea tree oil should never be applied directly into the eyes, as it can cause severe irritation, inflammation, and pain [1]. Even when properly diluted, tea tree oil has the potential to burn the eyes. Some people use diluted tea tree oil on the eyelids or eyelashes, but this should be done with extreme caution.

Studies have explored using tea tree oil for conditions like blepharitis and dry eyes, but the oil must be properly diluted first. One study diluted tea tree oil to a 5% solution for treating blepharitis [2]. Putting undiluted or high concentration tea tree oil directly in the eyes can damage the cornea and conjunctiva.

If tea tree oil accidentally gets into the eye, flush immediately with cool water and seek medical attention if irritation persists. Overall, tea tree oil should never be administered directly to the eyes unless prescribed and diluted by an eye doctor.


Tea tree oil can be very toxic to cats and small animals like hamsters or guinea pigs if ingested, even in small amounts. According to Pet Poison Helpline, tea tree oil contains terpenes and phenols that can damage cats’ red blood cells if consumed, leading to anemia. Signs of tea tree oil poisoning in pets include muscle tremors, weakness, uncoordination, depression, hypothermia, stupor and potentially death.

While some minor external use may be safe in pets, it’s best to avoid using tea tree oil products directly on cats and small animals. Even skin products like tea tree shampoos can be toxic if licked. According to the ASPCA, some essential oils like tea tree are simply too risky to use on pets.

For dogs, tea tree oil is also toxic if ingested. However, the effects seem to depend on the amount. Small ingestions may cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, while larger ingestions could lead to serious effects like depression, weakness, tremors or seizures. Always contact your vet immediately if you suspect your dog ingested tea tree oil. It’s safest to keep all tea tree products out of reach of pets.

tea tree oil can be toxic if ingested by pets like cats and dogs, causing symptoms like tremors, vomiting, and potentially death.



Tea tree oil is not recommended for use on children under 5 years old. According to the Poison Control Center, ingestion of tea tree oil can be toxic to young children and has caused serious side effects including confusion and coma (1). Children’s skin is much more permeable than adult skin, so they are at higher risk of developing irritation, rashes, or allergic reactions when tea tree oil is applied topically (2). For these reasons, tea tree oil should be kept out of reach of children and not used on their skin or added to their baths without first consulting a doctor. There are gentler essential oil alternatives that can be diluted appropriately and used for children over 2 years old under adult supervision.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

Tea tree oil should generally be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. According to studies, tea tree oil can potentially disrupt hormones and impact the placenta when used during pregnancy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9323951/). Most experts advise avoiding all forms of tea tree oil during the first trimester and not ingesting it at any point during pregnancy, though topical use may be okay in limited amounts in later trimesters. However, more research is still needed on safety. It’s best to exercise caution and consult your doctor before using while pregnant or nursing.


Some individuals may be allergic to components of tea tree oil and experience allergic contact dermatitis – a type of skin inflammation that results in an itchy, red rash after using the oil (Rubel, 1998). If you have a known allergy or skin sensitivity to tea tree oil, you should avoid using it as it may trigger a negative reaction.

Signs of an allergic reaction can include redness, itching, swelling, blisters, and skin peeling where the oil was applied (Healthline, 2019). The reaction may develop immediately after use or several hours/days later. Discontinue use if any irritation occurs.

Tea tree oil contains many naturally-occurring chemical components, but terpinen-4-ol is often identified as the primary allergenic compound in tea tree oil that causes skin reactions in sensitive individuals (Rubel, 1998). Speak to your doctor if you experience an allergic reaction to determine the cause.

Home Uses

While tea tree oil can be an effective home cleaning product, it’s important to exercise caution when using it around the house. Tea tree oil can damage certain materials, so it’s best to avoid using it on plastics, painted surfaces, and varnished wood finishes. The oil can eat away at plastic materials, causing them to warp or degrade over time with repeated exposure. It may also strip paint and varnish right off surfaces. Instead, stick to using tea tree oil cleaners on non-porous surfaces like tiles, glass, and stainless steel. Test on a small inconspicuous area first before applying liberally. And be sure to dilute tea tree oil properly in a carrier oil or cleaning solution. Using tea tree oil undiluted increases the risks of damage.

Drug Interactions

Tea tree oil can interact with certain medications and lead to side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-tea-tree-oil/art-20364246), tea tree oil often interacts with drugs used to treat bacterial or fungal skin infections. However, there has been little research on tea tree oil drug interactions. One case study found that combining tea tree oil with the antifungal medication fluconazole led to rash and itching in a toddler. It’s best to consult your doctor before using tea tree oil if you take any medications, especially antibiotics or antifungals.

When to See a Doctor

If you or someone ingests large amounts of tea tree oil, seek medical attention immediately. According to the Poison Control Center, tea tree oil ingestion can be toxic and life-threatening (“Tea Tree Oil Remedy and Poison”). Poison Control advises calling emergency services right away in the event of ingestion.

Seek medical care if you experience a severe skin reaction after using tea tree oil topically. Signs can include redness, swelling, blistering, or peeling (“Tea Tree Oil Remedy and Poison”). Discontinue use and contact your doctor if irritation occurs.

Visit an allergist if you suspect an allergic reaction to tea tree oil. Symptoms may include hives, itching, rash, swelling, and trouble breathing (“Did you know Tea Tree Oil can cause life threats?”). An allergist can diagnose tea tree oil allergy through patch testing and advise treatment.

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