Is Tea Tree Oil Good for Eczema?

Uses, research, and application

If you live with eczema, you might be wondering if there are any at-home treatments that are simple, safe, and effective. Some people with eczema use essential oils as a complementary therapy (in addition to traditional treatments recommended by their doctor) to soothe their symptoms.

Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds that are extracted and distilled from plants. The oils are often used in aromatherapy, inhaled directly or in a mist created by a diffuser. They can also be diluted with a carrier oil for topical use to relieve the symptoms of skin conditions, including the itchy, sometimes painful rash, symptoms of eczema. 

This article will outline why tea tree oil is one of the best essential oils for eczema, and why it may be effective at relieving eczema symptoms.

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Does Tea Tree Oil Help with Eczema?

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree, which is native to Australia. Tea tree oil boasts many benefits for skin health and is a popular ingredient in many over-the-counter (OTC) personal care products, including shampoos, soaps, and facial cleansers. 

Tea tree oil is valued for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal properties. When used as a complementary therapy, tea tree oil might be a safe, effective way to soothe the symptoms of eczema.

Tea tree oil has many properties that may help relieve eczema symptoms, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Antifungal properties
  • Antibacterial properties 
  • Antiseptic properties 
  • Antioxidant properties 

What the Research Says

While research has shown that tea tree oil is an effective remedy for treating and soothing many skin conditions, there are not many studies that specifically evaluate it as a treatment for eczema specifically.

However, one study in 2011 found that tea tree oil is more effective at treating eczema than traditional topical treatments containing zinc oxide or ichthammol.

Avoiding Irritation

Tea tree oil is highly concentrated, and it has the potential to be irritating to the skin—particularly if the oil is not diluted. Be sure to dilute the tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as olive, almond, or sunflower oil before you apply it.

If you have sensitive skin or are concerned that using tea tree oil may cause a rash or skin irritation, first do a patch test. Place the oil on a small area of your skin to see if it causes irritation.

Eczema Symptoms 

Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin on the body that have a rash-like appearance. Eczema patches on the body may blister or peel off, particularly when scratched.

Eczema can appear anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on the insides of elbows and knees, on hands and feet, and around the ankles. 

Common symptoms of eczema include:

  • Itchiness
  • Dry, sensitive skin
  • Inflamed skin
  • Redness and irritation
  • Rough, scaly, leathery patches of skin
  • Swelling 

Tea tree oil’s anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties may help soothe eczema symptoms.

Thanks to its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, tea tree oil may also protect the skin against bacteria and fungi. This protection can be particularly beneficial for people with eczema because scratching the rash can cause the skin to break, making it more vulnerable to infection and injury. 

Tea Tree Oil Dos

If you’d like to try tea tree oil to relieve your eczema symptoms, there are a few things to keep in mind, including:

  • Talk to your doctor: Before trying tea tree oil, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. This is especially important if you are taking medications to manage your eczema or are using OTC or prescription topical treatments. 
  • Look for organic oils with pure formulas: Always read the labels and ingredients lists on the products you are considering. Look for pure tea tree oil. Avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and any oils that come with added ingredients. Whenever possible, purchase tea tree oil that comes in a dark bottle (usually brown) to prevent oxidation and a reduction in the oil’s potency.
  • Dilute the tea tree oil: Only apply tea tree oil to the skin once it has been diluted. For every one to two drops of tea tree oil, use 12 drops of carrier oil, such as sunflower, almond, or olive oils. 
  • Patch test your skin: Before applying tea tree oil to your eczema rash, do a patch test on an unaffected area of your skin to ensure that you do not get a rash or skin irritation. 

Tea Tree Oil Don’ts 

It's important to use tea tree oil carefully because, in its pure form, it is highly potent. When you are using tea tree oil avoid doing the following:

  • Ingesting the oil: Tea tree oil is only meant to be inhaled or applied topically when diluted with a carrier oil. Never eat or drink the oil. It is toxic and may cause serious side effects if swallowed. 
  • Applying the oil directly to the skin: Always dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil to prevent skin irritation or worsening of your eczema symptoms.
  • Buying products from a company that makes bold health claims: Companies that sell tea tree oil and promise that it can “cure” a condition are generally not reputable. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate essential oils as it does medications. This means anyone can sell tea tree oil with limited to no regulation. Only buy products from reputable companies that do not make medical claims or promises and that clearly state the ingredients on the product label. 

Other Essential Oils for Eczema

In addition to tea tree oil, there are a number of other essential oils that might be effective at relieving eczema symptoms, including: 

Each of these essential oils contains its own set of unique properties that may soothe irritated, itchy, dry skin. You may need to try out various oils before finding the ones that work best for you. 

Tea Tree Oil Therapy 

There are several ways to use tea tree oil, including: 

  • Aromatherapy: Place a couple of drops in a steaming bowl of hot water or in a diffuser, creating a mist in the air so you can breathe in the diluted tea tree oil. Tea tree oil’s antibacterial, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties may help protect against harmful free radicals and bacteria. 
  • Bath therapy: Warm baths provide many therapeutic benefits, including relaxation. They may also help soothe irritated skin. If you have multiple eczema patches on your body, try adding a few drops of tea tree oil to your bathwater. 
  • Massage Therapy: Many massage therapists use tea tree oil mixed with a carrier oil on the skin during a massage. The anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil may provide relief for sore muscles and promote the healing of skin injuries. 
  • Topical Use: Most commonly used to relieve eczema symptoms, tea tree oil can be applied topically when mixed with a carrier oil. 

Preparing and Applying Tea Tree Oil

If you plan to try tea tree oil for eczema, use it as directed. Always ensure that you dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil before using it topically. Add one or two drops of tea tree oil to a carrier oil (like almond or olive oil) before applying directly to the skin. 

Tea tree oil can also be diffused in the air for aromatherapy. Add one or two drops of tea tree oil to a steaming bowl of hot water or to a diffuser that disperses the oil into the air.

Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your bathwater to create a tea tree oil–infused bath that may soothe itchy, inflamed skin. It may also help relieve inflammation and any respiratory issues, such as congestion, caused by a cold or the flu.  

You can also experiment with creating your own blend of essential oils, such as tea tree oil mixed with another beneficial essential oil for skin, such as lavender or peppermint oils, and a carrier oil. 

Possible Side Effects

Tea tree oil is generally safe to use. However, if it is applied to the skin undiluted, it can cause skin irritation and inflammation and may worsen an eczema rash. Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction that results when your skin comes into direct contact with an irritant, like certain essential oils.

Use tea tree oil with caution if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It should also be used cautiously on children. 

There are no known risks of drug interactions when using tea tree oil along with other eczema treatments, but it’s always important to speak with your doctor beforehand—particularly if you are using it as a complementary therapy along with other topical or oral medications. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do you apply tea tree oil for eczema?

Dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil before applying it to the skin. For every one or two drops of tea tree oil, use 12 drops of the carrier oil.

Once diluted, apply liberally to the affected area using your fingers or a cotton ball. Watch for any signs of irritation.

If you feel burning, stinging, or irritation, remove the oils using a warm, wet washcloth. 

What essential oils help with eczema?

There are several essential oils that may help with eczema, including borage oil, calendula oil, chamomile oil, geranium oil, peppermint oil, and tea tree oil.

Each oil has different properties that may help soothe the skin and relieve eczema symptoms. 

Do essential oils irritate eczema?

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction—and a type of eczema—that develops when your skin comes into direct contact with an irritant.

Tea tree oil generally does not irritate eczema when applied with a carrier oil, but it can irritate the rash when applied undiluted.

Always test a patch of skin prior to applying it to eczema rashes, and watch for signs of an allergic reaction, such as burning, stinging, or redness and swelling. 

What can I use to dilute tea tree oil?

Carrier oils dilute the potency of tea tree oil and should always be mixed with essential oils when applied to the skin. Almond oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil are all safe carrier oils to use with tea tree oil.

For every one to two drops of tea tree oil, add 12 drops of carrier oil. 

A Word From Verywell 

Tea tree oil is an at-home remedy that may help soothe and relieve eczema symptoms. Everyone’s eczema is different, and it may take some time to find the treatment that works best to relieve your symptoms.

While it can be safe and effective when used correctly, tea tree oil is not a replacement for your prescribed eczema treatments. It is a complementary therapy to be used with your treatment plan and recommended lifestyle modifications, such as eating eczema-friendly foods, avoiding stress, and keeping away from any triggers, such as chemicals.

Always talk to your doctor before trying complementary therapies, including essential oils.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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